He is eager to show me a book tucked away, out of sight. Its winter and I welcome opportunities to be outside if the sun is shining, and it is. So I browse through it. Here is picture of a delicacy from the book.
The ingredients (for 4 people, 2 per person)
For de marinade
One clove of garlic
I teaspoon prawn sambal
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons ginger syrup
6 teaspoons soya sauce
Juice of half a lemon
For the skewer
24 grasshoppers without wings and legs
4 mini corn-cobs in half
½ courgette, without seeds, cut in pieces
8 large mushrooms in half
4 teaspoons oil
8 cherry tomatoes
And then it goes on to describe how you can make the most delicious grasshoppers on skewers.
The salesman in the stall selling nuts that I regularly visit in our local market shows me the book after I picked up one of the ‘hotlix’ products on display. Beautifully packaged crickets. Also on sale are bugs, larvae and various kinds of insects in candy. And he, like the other staff of this stall have the job of marketing these to the best of their ability.
The recipe book is therefore meant to convince their customers.
It brings back memories. I’m in a village called Balupara close to the Bangladesh border on the Indian side, shooting for a film. In a dark corner of the house, something is roasted over a fire. When I take a break from the shooting, I join the company around the fire. I am offered freshly roasted grasshoppers on a skewer, and I eat one.
It tastes vegetarian. Like a French fry – crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.
A couple of days after the visit to the nut stall, I find myself in conversation with a staff member of the ‘vegetarian society’. So I ask him if insects are considered vegetarian or non. He is surprised. Non of course, he says. And milk and cheese, I ask. Vegetarian, he says.
I then ask him if he thinks growing tons of soya beans by clearing the Amazon to provide the protein required for the growing world population is a good idea. He doesn’t think it so.
He doesn’t think the idea would catch on here in the Netherlands.
That seems to go with a conversation that I overheard in the nut stall. A lady picks up a box of larvae and the saleswoman offers to show her a recipe book. ‘Oh no, no, she says. I’m not going to get started on this’.
I think of the fried grasshoppers I ate. Or were they crickets? Maybe they are the ones I call ‘electric crickets’ because they have a way of calling out that sounds straight out of techno but then in chorus. They begin just as day breaks at about four in the morning and go on until sunset – piercing the air continuously because they do it all together so when one is taking a break there are still many others at it.