Photo credit: Six Foods
The Western palate is certainly set in its ways. Eating insects? It’s still a novelty acceptable mainly on the sets of gross-out reality television shows. This is despite the urging of scientists and researchers who say insects are a tantalizingly sustainable and environmentally friendly source of protein.
Although bugs are prevalent in the cuisines of other cultures, such as chapulines (grasshoppers) in Mexico and caterpillars in the Congo, to many Americans, there remains something, well, icky about chowing down on bugs. But three recent Harvard University graduates say they’ve found a way to change hearts and minds: Chirps, a snack chip made from ground-up crickets.
"We realized people aren’t going to eat insects as long as they could see what it was," explained Laura D’Asaro, who with classmates Meryl Natow and Rose Wang founded chip company Six Foods late last year. They found, however, that crickets dried and crushed to a fine powder “didn’t look like insects,” and peoples’ gag reflexes relaxed.
With Geoff Lukas, the chef de cuisine at Sofra Bakery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the trio experimented with various recipes until settling on a snack chip made from crushed crickets, mashed black and pinto beans, and ground rice.
"They taste like tortilla chips with a hint of bean," Rose Wang said, adding that Chirps come in three flavors: barbecue, aged cheddar, and sea salt. Apart from a "slightly nutty flavor" courtesy of the insects, "you might not realize that it’s made with crickets."
There are plenty of reasons to get over the ick factor. A single serving of Chirp chips clock in at 140 calories, seven grams of protein, and six grams of fat, D’Asaro said, which means they have ”half the fat of [traditional] potato chips" and are "healthier than kale chips.”
They make “sense from every perspective,” she said. “Crickets are basically a super food.”
Six Foods is currently raising money on Kickstarter to get the chips manufactured, packaged, and shipped, but several Boston area stores—including Whole Foods—have already expressed interest in them. D’Asaro hopes it’s only a matter of time until insect-based foodstuffs make the jump to mainstream.
Whether or not they will depends mostly on you—and your gag reflex.