Why you should care
Because aren’t you just a bit curious to try a slice of worm pie, or maybe some locust lasagne?
Listen up, foodies: Worm pies, scorpion lollipops and crispy locusts have gone mainstream. You can thank the Pestaurant, a culinary pop-up where the curious can sample these and even more squeal-inducing dishes for free.
Cricket-infused peanut brittle, mealworm-topped brownies, breakfast worm pie …
It’s the idea of Rentokil, the extermination firm that thinks we can make practical use of our unwelcome house guests, if not actually come to love them (or love to eat them). The company has organized annual feasts based on creepy-crawlies in cities across the globe, including Washington, D.C., Sydney and even the world’s culinary capital, Paris.
Eating insects was elevated from developing-world necessity to gastronomic treat by Noma Copenhagen, officially the world’s best restaurant, when chef René Redzepi put ants on the menu at his 2012 pop-up in London’s top hotel, Claridge’s.
This year’s London Pestaurant builds on the British baking craze, inviting contestants in television’s Great British Bake Off show to come up with recipes for a somewhat grislier Bug Off competition. Glenn Cosby created a cricket-infused peanut brittle to decorate chocolate cupcakes, while Holly Bell went for mealworm-topped Black Forest Floor Brownies. But the outright winner was Ruth Clemens’ Early Bird Breakfast Pie, a bacon, sausage and egg delight topped with a new squirmy ingredient for
Don’t fancy any of these? The Pestaurant, which attracted 3,000 Londoners last summer, added these tasty treats to the menu this year: sweet chili pigeon burgers, salt and vinegar crickets, Mexican-spiced mealworms, roasted locusts and — for the less fussy — assorted chocolate-covered mixed bugs.
And never fear: The bugs are not sourced from the pest company’s gigs; all critters are farmed specifically for the table.
So, is it more than just a publicity stunt? Rentokil says that with 2 billion people supplementing their diet with insects, we need to consider the positives of so-called pests. Pound for pound, crickets apparently contain four times as much protein as chicken, yet have less than half the calories of the same weight of beef. Insects, of which some 1,900 species have been declared edible by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, are also rich in essential minerals calcium, zinc and iron.
In other places, mealworms appeared on cucumber slices at the Cape Town, South Africa, Pestaurant. In Brussels, folks preferred crickets, which were served as canapés in a pop-up this year. There were also pigeon wraps in Sydney, locust-filled tacos in Washington and locust lasagne in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Trying them out in the developed world — where a burger is generally available if the bugs don’t hit the spot — has become so successful that Rentokil is operating Pestaurants in 17 countries. That includes Denmark, where the Nordic Food Lab (which owns Noma) has been studying the culinary potential of insects of all kinds.
Next year’s variations on the squeam will be unveiled in the run-up to June 3, when, for the first time, creepy-crawlies will hit the stove on the same day at all Pestaurants across the globe.
Get your fork — and stomach — ready.
Anthea Gerrie is a U.K.-based writer who covers wine, food, travel and design for national and international publications.