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Going buggy for insect delicacies

The Local · 22 Jun 2011, 14:18

Published: 22 Jun 2011 14:18 GMT+02:00

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Thomas Knack has always enjoyed food other Germans find a bit weird.

The 36-year-old Berliner likes American beef jerky and sweet oat bars called flapjacks in Britain.

But he has a special affinity for bugs – beetles, scorpions, grubs and other strange creatures he imports from Thailand and sells through his website and a friend’s wine store in the German capital.

“I’ll admit, they don’t all necessarily taste very good,” he told The Local recently. “But they’re better if you mix them with rice or potatoes.”

Knack said he’s the only person in Germany currently selling insects for human consumption – although not all the creatures he sells are insects. Scorpions, for example, are arachnids like spiders.

But though his fellow countrymen may think he’s odd, he’s just following the recent trend of increasing bug-eating in the Western world.

People in Asia, Africa and South America have been practising entomophagy, the scientific term for eating insects, for thousands of years although it has long been taboo in Europe and North America.

But as scientists have argued that people should eat more bugs because of their high protein and vitamin content – the United Nations has even held a conference on the subject – inhibitions have slowly been eroding.

Today there are bugs for sale in the United States, Britain and elsewhere, though few would argue that they’re top selling items or taking dinner parties by storm.

In Germany there’s just Knack’s operation.

Fighting to sell bugs

Knack, who spends most of his time as a dance choreographer, first started trying to sell insects in Germany in 2008 after becoming intrigued by them during a trip to Asia. But it took him more than a year to convince German bureaucrats that bugs were safe enough to sell here.

On trips to the customs office to pick up his imports from Thailand, he found himself spending hours convincing authorities that he wasn’t crazy.

And at his store he was bombarded by visits from incredulous officials and curious Germans.

“After a while the health inspections became a bit repetitive and a bit much," he said. "And there were always people asking questions. Usually the same ones over and over.”

Last year he closed his shop and decided to sell mostly online.

Today, visitors to www.braidysnack.com (a contract of brain and body snacks) can buy everything from dung beetles to grasshoppers, all packed in vacuum sealed bags and thoroughly cooked beforehand to satisfy German health regulations.

A bit nutty

So what do bugs taste like? Not especially good, but not as bad as you might expect, as this reporter discovered during the bug tasting at Der Weinkeller in Berlin’s Mitte neighbourhood.

The long, stringy bamboo worms, which are actually the larvae of grass moths, had a little bit of a meaty taste – like a little piece of smoked ham. But the grasshoppers tasted a bit like a cross between chicken and nuts.

Story continues below…

And the big, scary-looking dung beetles had an indescribably odd-tasting white filling to be sucked out.

Those three bugs were intriguing for a first sampling, but not enough to place an order for The Local's next Christmas party.

Various types of insects can be bought at Der Weinkeller, Linienstraße 147 in Berlin or online at www.braidysnack.com.

Moises Mendoza



Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:04 June 22, 2011 by delvek
Stick this guy in the corner with the vegens.

Does he not get enough attention without the bug eating?

Hmm, welcome to my store, this tastes terrible and was found crawling on (or in) some dog poo would you like to try?
15:48 June 22, 2011 by freechoice
i am currently hooked on Bizarre Food from Travel Channel.
17:37 June 22, 2011 by german-guardian
Eating insects is a unnatural, and low cultured practice that only used to be done by the violent tribes who even eat themselves. We must preserve our culture and prevent any unnatural things such as this to lower our civilization.

The government should make this illigal
18:37 June 22, 2011 by marimay
It's hard enough to find good food here...
20:12 June 22, 2011 by lenin_mir
the local featured this article very well...in an ashtray:))
01:04 June 23, 2011 by german-guardian
@ marimay, In one of your comments, you said you were chinese. Well the chinese not only eat cats and dogs, but they eat spiders insects. one horrifying thing I read was that they eat snakes when alive. Well if you like that, you know were to get it. Right? China
07:58 June 23, 2011 by marimay
LOL I never said I was Chinese. You're weird.
08:05 June 23, 2011 by german-guardian
@ marimay

I have been following your comments, and you seem to just hate anything associated with Germany. I am just saying if you don't like it, then leave. Also I am sure you are a mongol. Even if your not Chinese, a mongol is a mongol. They are all the same. Any please stop spreading false hate agianst Germany. If you don't like it, then you should certainly get out.
08:09 June 23, 2011 by marimay
You should get a job. I mean, I understand there is naught else to do here..
12:05 June 23, 2011 by Derio
@german-guardian: Can't tell if trolling or just bigot.

> Eating insects is a unnatural

What does that even mean? Is using a computer natural? Are antibiotics natural? Is being racist natural? (actually, it is).

Maybe you meant that we didn't evolve to eat insects? But we did:

"there is some suggestion that the earliest primates were nocturnal, arboreal insectivores.[2] Also, most extant apes are, to a greater or lesser extent, insectivorous.[14][15][16]" (from wikipedia:Entomophagy).

> low cultured practice that only used to be done by the violent tribes who even eat themselves

No it's not. E.g. news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0715_040715_tvinsectfood.html

Maybe you should refresh your knowledge in biology because you sound like you stopped reading at the 19th century. Or you could just measure the bumps on your skull one more time. Is your "Inhabitiveness bump" swollen as always?
14:59 June 23, 2011 by Englishted

Very well written comment ,sadly marimay and yourself have not yet come to understand you are replying to a complete idiot.

german -guardian is a sad pointless twit not worthy of you time and effort ,or mine come to that so I'll end here.
23:36 June 24, 2011 by bloke_from_india
"People in Asia, Africa and South America have been practising entomophagy, the scientific term for eating insects, for thousands of years "

The Local and all others doing this need to stop saying "people from Asia" and trying to refer to Chinese and the like. I am not happy as this inadvertently includes indians who DO NOT EAT INSECTS ;)

Next time be CAREFUL. please... i can only say please as Indians are also not famous for bombing others ;)
01:24 June 25, 2011 by FN Cee
This is common, daily, yummy food in much more of the world than one would usually think ... protein packed, tasty when fried and seasoned with loads of spices ... However, I think one should consider staying with good "wurst" ... and beer.
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