I’ve always found cultural attitudes to food intriguing – why is it that a few miles across the Channel you can sit down to a horse steak and frites with no-one batting an eyelid, yet mention it in Britain and you’d be kicked out of the Country Club? Travel further afield and tastes can get even more exotic – I’ve dined on crocodile and snake in Australia, deep fried baby frogs in Thailand, brain burgers in Iran, and some strange pink energy drink that looked (and tasted) like frogspawn in Pakistan.
So what is it about eating insects that tends to make even the hardiest of us have a little shudder? We’ve all seen Bear Grylls chomping away on rhino beetles, giant larvae and even the occasional poisonous spider; but let’s face it, he doesn’t exactly make it look enjoyable, does he? Enter the good folk at Gathr, who're on a mission to persuade us that eating insects is not only pleasant, but also good for the environment as well. They've launched onto the market with Crobar, an energy bar that contains flour made from 32 plump and juicy crickets.
If you are about to say uggh and move swiftly on, then consider the following:
*Crickets like to live in small spaces so they require little land use
*They're less likely than mammals or birds to pass on diseases like bird flu and mad cow disease
*They can be grown organically
*They contain more healthy fats than meat, have high levels of vitamin B12, are as high in protein as beef and have 3x the level of iron, 5x as much magnesium and 2x as much zinc as beef.
In other words, using cricket flour instead of regular meat to supply our protein needs could save on resources and improve human health.
I'm well aware of the health and environmental benefits of tofu, for example, but would rather eat my own snot than consume something so manifestly disgusting (and yes, I have tried it smoked, stir fried, marinated…). So the question with cricket bars is, of course, what do they taste like?
The fairest way to answer that question was to test it on my unsuspecting family. Energy bars are a staple in our store cupboards – with a husband who thinks 100-mile road cycling sportives are a fun way to spend a weekend and a son who's a downhill mountain biking champ, any shortage of 'bars' is seen as a definite failure on the catering front. (The household favourite is probably Nak’d bars..)
So I chopped up a Crobar Cacao and Cricket Flour and a Peanut and Cricket Flour and we all dug in. The verdict was mixed. My husband felt that Crobar stuck to his mouth a bit, especially the peanut version, while my son felt that texture was very similar to Nak’d bars and satisfyingly chewy.
I thought they were perfectly nice and you wouldn't have a clue you were eating crickets if you hadn't been told - though crickets, do apparently, have a nutty taste when roasted. Flavour wise, three of us liked the peanut version best – thought my daughter, in the way only 13-year-old girls can, said the cacao one was delicious. That was until I revealed the secret ingredient, at which point she fled, looking green and making retching noises…
Good stuff...but the price isn't right
Although the company says in the long term cricket flour could prove cheaper to produce than meat protein, at the moment it's imported from a cricket farm in Canada, making the bars rather on the expensive side at a pricey £2.29 for a 40g bar. And in these cash-straitened times this may well prove another barrier in the campaign to get us all snacking on Jiminy Cricket.
Crobars are available from selected Nutri Centre and Gathr