I wrote a book!

EDIBLE: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet

EDIBLE - Final Cover - Hi-Res (1)

amazon.com/Edible-Adventure-Eating-Insects-Planet/dp/0544114353

Enter to win a free copy on Goodreads.com! <– click here

This book has taken a third of my life to write: it includes nearly 13 years of study, travel, following my curiosity, and researching weird stuff most people never even think to think about. Not to mention all the crazy stuff I ate.

I’ve been bitten and stung by all kinds of bugs, in all kinds of places, to make this book. I tasted over 35 different species, including those that are venomous, squishy, slimy, and even alive. I had 48 hours in beautiful Phuket, and spent most of them in the mosquito-ridden forest so I could eat giant palm larvae (I literally had 45 minutes at the beach). I got very ill in gorgeous places. I puked repeatedly in a 5 star hotel. ALL FOR YOU.

Eating insects is the Next Big Thing. Nations around the world are waking up to this idea, to the potential it has to change the way we eat and relate to our environment. Millions are being spent to discover just how far we can run with something that we’ve overlooked till now. This book will get you up to date on why, how, and where to eat bugs. It’s an adventure totally unlike anything you’ve seen or heard, a new dimension in science, nutrition, travel, culture and cuisine.

Eat bugs, save the world.

Here are some reviews of my book, written by real people (not lizards):

“Regardless of readers’ culinary proclivities, [Daniella] Martin’s lively book poses timely questions while offering tasty solutions.” Kirkus Reviews

“In this chatty, informative, and eminently readable manifesto–cum–food travelogue, Martin takes the reader along as she talks to chefs who cook with insects, muses about vegetarianism and veganism (and why being a vegan ultimately won’t work), collects corn earworms from a community farm, rhapsodizes on the flavor of sautéed waxworms, and, in general, turns us on to eating bugs.” Booklist

“It’s not easy for most Americans to see this, but insects are going to be a far bigger part of our menus in the next 25 years. Daniella Martin’s Edibleis a fun, articulate look at the world of entomophagy, and the arguments for adding insects to our diet.” —Josh Schonwald, author of The Taste ofTomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food

“Daniella Martin’s contagious ‘entosiasm’ for eating insects makes you rush to join the insect-eating movement that people in the Western world left aside by mistake in the past.” —Marcel Dicke, professor of entomology at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and author ofThe Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet

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My Chilean Rose-Haired Tarantula and Tailless Whip-scorpion Molted in the Same Week!

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Say hello to my leetle friend

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his is my tailless whip scorpion, Freddy. He’s a big sweetie, unless you’re an insect. In that case, he’s your worst nightmare.

P.S. I actually don’t know if Freddy is a boy or a girl (I figure the name Freddy can go both ways). If anyone can tell me what he/she is, I’d love to know! For now, I’m not imposing binary gender expectations on him/her. 😉

Beetlemania!

Beetlemania
This fabulous new infographic is by Adam Frost and Paulo Estriga for the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/picture/2013/sep/13/eating-insects-infographic-flies-entomophagy#zoomed-picture

My book is available for pre-order!

Book Cover
My book, “Edible: An Adventure in the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet,” is available for pre-order on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.com/Edible

(Dig the fancy vanity URL, y’all.)

It’s an easy-to-read primer on entomophagy: the history, science, and culture behind this fascinating tradition. It’s also a travelogue of my journey around the US and to Europe and Asia to meet some of the biggest proponents – and consumers – of edible insects on the planet. There are also delicious recipes, a how-to guide for raising insects, and an updated list of edible bugs.

If you’re interested in entomophagy, I believe I’ve done a pretty good job of explaining the subject in a way that’s both entertaining and informative. I also ate, and described my experience of eating, some pretty wild species, so there’s that, too.

The book officially comes out in February 2014. I can’t wait!

My Facebook Page Gets All The Attention

Hey folks, just an FYI – I do WAYYY more posting on my FB page, www.facebook.com/GirlMeetsBug than I do on my blog. I post a few times a day there, on average.

I have no excuse for this, except that I get the instant gratification of immediate feedback, and posting just a photo is totally legit. Ok, that’s a couple of excuses.

Anyway, c’mon over and see what I’m up to – lots of opportunity for discussions, commentary, etc. And I keep you up to date with breaking bug news, jokes, and cool pictures. Like this one of me eating Oo-suzumebachi, or Japanese Giant Hornet, and The Oatmeal saying I give him nightmares.

Oatmeal Nighmares

Guest Post: Oatmealworm Cookies

Today’s post is by Kim C., a pesca-vegetarian who wrote in to say she’d tweaked a family recipe – with mealworms! Read on for the whole story, and recipe.

oatmealworm

    I grew up in the Midwest where just being vegetarian was considered pretty adventurous. So you can imagine the reaction I got after 15 years of being vegetarian/pescatarian when I described the bug-eating party that I was hosting.

    The party was inspired by a TEDTalk given by Marcel Dicke a few years back called “Why Not Eat Insects?” I couldn’t think of a reason why my friends and I shouldn’t at least try it out.

    “What does that make you?” my mom asked, totally confused.

    I understand; I mean it’s not like there are a whole lot of “entomophagous pescatarians” running around out there. But sometimes you just have to shrug and go with it, especially when going with it leads to discovering a surprisingly delicious chocolate cookie recipe.

    Our party provided a variety of edible insect options, including: chocolate-covered crickets, salted queen ants, scorpion lollies, mealworm trail mix, and even a dehydrated giant water scorpion. But the favorite had to be these no-bake mealworm drop cookies. These rich and comforting cookies have a peanut butter & chocolate smoothness with a Rice Krispie-like crunch. It is a super-easy holiday recipe that my family has enjoyed for years (well, we’ve enjoyed it sans bugs). This version has been mealworm-ified a bit.

Oatmealworm Cookies

½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
½ cup milk
4 tablespoons of cocoa powder (I used
unsweetened Ghirardelli)
½ cup of creamy peanut butter
2 cups dry quick-cook oatmeal
1 cup dry roasted mealworms
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a large saucepan, bring to a boil: butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa, and boil for         1 min

2. Remove from heat

3. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla

4. Stir in oats and mealworms

5. Drop into cookie sized heaps on wax paper and let cool until set

Enjoy!

Kim C,
Los Gatos, CA

Death – By Eating Too Many False Death’s Head Roaches? The Truth About This Species

Last week, I took this photo of a family of discoid cockroaches at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans. Yesterday, a man in Florida died, apparently after eating too many of them.

In response to the disaster, Six Flags Great America is now reviewing their plans to hold a similar event on Friday.

The question is, was it the bugs’ fault? We won’t know for certain until the coroner’s results come back in a week or two. In the meantime, here are a few things about discoid cockroaches you may not have known.

These roaches, ironically enough, are also known as False Death’s Head cockroaches because they so closely resemble actual Death’s Head roaches –  minus the sinister smiley face on their upper thorax:

Despite the creepy name, there is nothing inherently deadly about either Death’s Head or False Death’s Head cockroaches. And in spite of their large wings, they don’t generally fly, so you can release those visions of careening Palmetto bugs that might be flitting through your mind.

Discoid roaches, unlike true Death’s Heads, are good breeders, and are quite productive in captivity. Think of the difference between big cats and housecats – it’s much easier to coax a litter from the latter. The term “litter” holds true in this case: like mammals, female discoid roaches are viviparous, which means they give birth to live young.
Because of their speedy breeding, discoids are a popular feeder insect for reptiles and large arachnids. Their inexpensive availability likely led to their inclusion in the Florida eating contest.

They are also relatively easy to keep. They have almost no odor (unless they are really afraid of something) and keep their enclosures tidy, requiring less cleaning than a goldfish tank. They eat a vegetarian diet of mostly raw fruits and vegetables. It’s likely the roaches in the contest had a better overall diet than the eaters themselves – indeed, better than most of the meat we eat.

Nevertheless, eating a large quantity of an unknown food is inadvisable, especially if the food is alive and kicking as you do so. Since cockroach and shellfish allergies can apply, it’s better to start with, oh, I don’t know, just one? And for goodness sake, always cook your bugs. It’s safer and they taste better.

For more information about the inner lives of roaches, check out David George Gordon‘s The Compleat Cockroach, and for a roach recipe, should you want to try them for yourself, check his Eat-A-Bug Cookbook (soon to be re-released!).

Whip Scorpion, Master Hunter

Damon variegatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley

You would have bought tickets to see the show in my living room last night. During a long, hot, dusty hike, Brian and I each caught a small grasshopper, intended to feed the two arachnid residents of our home: Caliope, the tarantula, and Freddy, the tailless whip scorpion, AKA cave spider.

Caliope is the good eater in the family, gobbling down almost anything we drop into her enclosure: crickets, mealworms, waxworms, small spiders we find around the house, garden pests like caterpillars. Usually her meals come from the live insects I order for my own cooking projects. Once, I fed her a few waxworms, fresh from the farm. I expected her to eat them one at a time, but she greedily stuffed all of them into her mouth at once, and walked around with the white, sausage-like bodies protruding out of her mouth like a dog with three bones. The one time a caterpillar got away from her, it built a chrysalis in the upper corner of her terrarium. When it hatched, she consumed the beautiful, pale green cabbage moth butterfly with gusto.

Freddy, on the other hand, is not such a great eater. He’s very sensitive to temperature and humidity, and if conditions are not just right, he’ll turn up his chelicerae at even the juiciest, most defenseless prey we give him. I’ve watched fat larvae crawl right over his face, only to be staunchly ignored. In fact, since I’d never seen him do it, and had found plenty of carcasses in his cage, I wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever eaten in the entire year we’d known each other.

Yesterday’s conditions were perfect. It was very warm, so I’d been misting Freddy more often than normal. Caliope, of course, pounced on her present instantly, dragging it back into her cave to devour. Freddy ignored his grasshopper as usual, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Reaching down into his tank, I gently nudged the grasshopper into Freddy’s archway. Cave spiders like to hang upside down, so he has a little tunnel to hang out in. I positioned myself with a head-on view of the tunnel: grasshopper in the foreground, Freddy above and to the right. Nothing happened.

I waited. More nothing.

Afraid Freddy might be out of practice, I tapped gently on the glass, in the general vicinity of the grasshopper, to make Freddy think, “Hey, maybe there’s some prey over there.”

Sure enough, Freddy’s whip, or antenniform leg, a long, tendriliferous sensing wand, began to move, exploring his surroundings. Freddy only has one whip, having lost the other before we met. It has two elbows, and the end of it can flex any which way, like a dancer’s wrist. He slowly began to wave the whip about, touching down occasionally on his archway, the ground, and reaching tentatively out into the air beyond the tunnel. If you’d been standing outside the archway, you’d have seen this long black tentacle meandering around, like the patrolling eye-stalks of the aliens in War of The Worlds. I felt a thrill of vicarious fear.

Freddy’s explorations were getting him nowhere near the grasshopper, which sat completely still at the bottom of his tunnel, so I kept up my minute tapping. Slowly, slowly, the amazingly flexible and yet precise tip of Freddy’s whip came closer to his/my target. It touched down here, behind the grasshopper; there, to the left of the grasshopper. I could feel my impatience, and the suspense building. Finally, the tip of Freddy’s long, long arm touched down on the grasshopper’s back.

The tip of the whip pulled back gently, almost thoughtfully, hanging suspended over the seemingly oblivious, yet frozen grasshopper. As if Freddy were processing and planning: “Was that food?” “How shall I proceed?”

The whip-tip came back, touching the grasshopper again. Then it pulled away, and came back down on the right side of the insect. Then the other side. The whip-tip seemed to be ever so delicately stroking the grasshopper, running over its topography, reading its dimensions and precise location. As it did so, Freddy’s body moved, almost imperceptibly, closer.

My heart caught in my throat. Was I finally going to get to see him in action? Was he going to eat?

Since Freddy was behind and to the upper right of the grasshopper, moving closer essentially meant sort of looming down above it. If this had been a scary movie, and the grasshopper the goat in Jurassic Park, or Ellen Ripley in Alien, you’d have been on the edge of your seat. Here, from the grasshopper’s perspective, was an enormous, black spider-scorpion, hanging down above you in a dark cave, with huge spiky claws and a long tentacle that was stroking the electrons of your back without you realizing it – mapping out where you were, inching silently, and with deadly aim, closer.

Freddy stroked the grasshopper, back and forth, back and forth, hovering forward. The grasshopper didn’t move a muscle. Then, suddenly, in the blink of an eye Freddy pounced, yanking the grasshopper to his mouth with his claws and biting in.

The grasshopper didn’t even have time to struggle before his life force was seeping out of him and into Freddy. They stayed like that in a mortal embrace for some time. At one point, the grasshopper’s leg stretched out, like a deliberate ballet stance, or a lover in an ecstatic splay of the big petit mort.

I guess the moral of the story is, why keep a goldfish when you can get a show like this?

Girl Meets BOOK!

(Working title.) Photo by Kimberly Sandie for SF Chronicle

It’s official: I have a book deal! Amazon Publishing, in all their worldly wisdom, has decided to give this insectivorous ink-slinger the opportunity of a lifetime: to tell the story of entomophagy as I know it.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll get to visit experts and projects in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and various places across the US. I’ll keep you posted via this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter as things progress. It should be a pretty interesting journey.

The book won’t be available for awhile, since I haven’t even finished writing it yet, but if you’d like to be added to a mailing list for updates, releases, and other fun, secret, book-club-only stuff, email me at GirlMeetsBugTheBook@gmail.com. Also, if you have any questions, tips, suggestions, or just plain writing advice :), send ’em there, too.

Thanks as always for your support and interest in this not-so-niche-anymore subject. See ya in the funny pages! (Because, hopefully, parts of the book will be funny. Ok, it didn’t really work; I just wanted to say it.)