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Sunday, January 16, 2022

What fish can do, insects do better

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My inbox was flooded with over one hundred and seventy-two mails last week, for mentioning edible insects as an option for animal protein.  I really appreciate your concerns.  Some of you have accepted to attempt insect consumption.  I must let the FAO know about this.

But seriously, I have come to realize that insects are not as inferior as we think ooo.  What beef, chicken, pork, and fish can do, worms, wasps, dragon flies, crickets, bees etc. can do and do better; Insects are healthy, nutritious alternatives to the conventional staples we know.

Some of you shared your experiences in respect of edible insects with me.  With your permission, I am publishing three narrations. Abaka Aidoo, your experience is first:

“Ablah, I was visiting Berlin for the first time.  My hostesses were excited to have me as their guests; ready to retaliate the kindness I had shown them whilst they were in Ghana two years before.

“Ablah, my hostesses, all three of them wanted to outdo each other in treats.  So after one had sent me out for lunch in one of the top restaurants in town, another announced another outing three days after.  This time, dinner at a more plush restaurant.

“We started with the usual drinks after which we had some soup.  The soup was very tasty, and had something like chicken chunks in it.  Without asking any question, I scooped out every little drop from my bowl, and waited for our main order, which had been placed in German by my hostess.  You won’t believe it.  In spite of the drink and soup I had had, I was still hungry (I had virtually starved myself the whole day because I had been told of how nice that restaurant’s meals were; I didn’t want to spoil my appetite at all).

“A few feet away from where we sat, I could smell the pleasant aroma of our food when the waiter was bringing it.  Juices started welling up in my mouth almost immediately.  Two large plates of different dishes were delivered to our table amidst smiles by the waiter. ‘I will show you people krakye powers today; I shall eat, and you shall pay’, I thought.

“I had been told those orders had been prepared like jollof rice so I would really enjoy it.  My wife had prepared delicious jollof rice for them during their visit, and they enjoyed it very much.  They assured me this type was even nicer than my wife’s.  My hopes were raised.

“Abaka, take the lead.  Serve yourself first, then we will follow”, one person said.  Picking the large spoon which had been placed by the side of the rice-based meal, I scooped three heaps onto my plate, poured by its side a certain unfamiliar sauce which sat in the middle of the table, and began to eat.  I enjoyed the first munch so I took another.  Then another and another.  The rice, mixed with vegetables was really tasty.

“ I had been taught not to talk whilst eating so I was quiet all the while till a close scrutiny on my plate disclosed something wormy.  “Mewu”, I screamed and pushed back myself back while seated. Everyone around and near our table was startled.   “What is the matter?” Came like a chorus from my hostess and the others. 

Then I asked, “what is this?”  I asked quickly.  “Waxworm Taco in mealworm fried rice” my hostess responded.  “Wax what?” I asked in haste.  Before she could respond, I had started throwing up.  Mind you, I am not the kind of person who throws up easily, but I guess my imagination went straight to the worms one sees especially by the sides of certain gutters in Accra and then “gbuaaaaa”, everything came out”.

“ Ablah, I will never forget that thwarting occurrence because my hostess and her friends couldn’t forgive themselves for not telling me about the composition of the order before it landed in my mouth. They thought I would enjoy the expensive meal.  Agh!   It was later that they told me they had actually ordered chocolate covered grasshoppers for dessert.

“ They apologised and apologised and explained that those meals were their favourite and thought I would love that too.  Ever since, anytime I go to any restaurant, whether in Ghana or outside, I make sure I ask what went into the cooking before I start eating”.  Oh, poor Abaka!

Sheila Amankwah also wrote:  “Madam, I had to visit Bangkok, Thailand on an official errand.  A friend invited me to an eatery whilst there, and I fell in love with fried bugs.  I ate them not less than four times during my six week assignment in that city.  They’re low in calories, high in protein and extremely nutritious.

“Fried insects are available all over Bangkok. One of the places you’ll always find them is on Khao San Road. Known as the place for ‘hippies’, Thai insect sellers sell bagfuls of fried insects every night. Fried insects with a cold drink is a must have.

“Madam Ablah, the most popular fried insects in Bangkok are bamboo worms, crickets and grasshoppers. Others include scorpions and water beetles, weevils and ants. Crickets and grasshoppers are crispy, whereas bamboo worms are slightly crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside. Grasshopper legs and cricket wings stick in your teeth and scorpions are harder to eat with all that shell. 

“The insects are not expensive.  For a bag of common bamboo worms or crickets, most vendors sell them for 25 baht (about Gh¢1.50) a bag; they are cheap. I think Ghanaians should try out some of these interesting cuisine and stop all these beef, fish, pork and chicken diet.”

Ken Amarh also wrote:  “Ablah, I once ate fried bees and worms in China, whilst seated across my business partner.  I started to imagine how the once slimy creatures and the group of happy bees of once upon a time were going to land in my African stomach.  Thoughts of the proteins made my tummy begin to make recoiling moves.   I didn’t want to disappoint him so I took the opportunity to clinch on to the exploration. 

“It was a real risk I took because my stomach is a very sensitive one.  I ate the fried worms, and I ate the bees. I chewed with a smile on my face, giving him the look of approval. Thinking I was enjoying the meal, he placed an order for an extra plate each of the fried worms and the bees, to ensure I had had more than enough.  Not knowing how to place an embargo on the order, I painfully munched the worms and bees, hoping to God I wouldn’t die from the cultural freak. I survived. 

“That night, my dreams were basaaaaa; obviously about worms and bees.  This particular “chance” I took with my business partner was one of the most disgusting and ugly chances with a 90% likelihood of a terrible outcome I’ve ever taken in my life. Thank heavens I can share the experience today.

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