Insects have been valued as a food source throughout human history and around the world. While entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, has yet to enter the culinary mainstream of the Western world, two billion people across the globe have been enjoying the gastronomic properties of bugs for centuries. At a time when the increasing demand for protein is taking a huge toll on our environment—and on animal welfare—our focus on local, sustainably raised foods is finally beginning to encompass insects. Many Westerners still think of insects as pests, rather than protein, and meat industry giants like Tyson and Cargill are doubling down on our appetites for beef by investing in start-ups growing meat in laboratories. But a growing number of committed entomophagists are making an ever-more compelling case for an insect-based alternative. Which begs the question, has the time come for ant larvae to replace caviar, and hornworms to stand in for pork rinds?
In this lively panel, we will explore the history, psychology and ethics of entomophagy; culinary uses of the most delicious insects; and even share some bites. The discussion will be led by Dr. Alexandra Plakias, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hamilton College and author of the forthcoming book, Thinking Through Food: A Philosophical Introduction. Joining Alex will be Chef-Owner of Black Ant, Mario Hernandez; American Museum of Natural History’s Senior Museum Specialist in Entomology, Louis Sorkin; and Co-Founder of Seek Foods, a cricket-based snack food company, Robyn Shapiro.
Be prepared for your preconceived notions–and your palate–to be challenged, and to leave feeling inspired and educated.
ABOUT THE PANELISTS
Alex Plakias - Moderator
Alexandra Plakias is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hamilton College. Her research focuses on moral psychology, specifically, the roles played by culture and evolution in shaping our moral values. She’s also published several articles on disgust and its role in moral judgment and food ethics. She grew up in New York City eating everything that came across her plate.
Mario Hernandez - Panelist
Mario Hernandez began his cooking education in his grandmother’s kitchen in Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico. Fascinated by every spice and element of the preparation, he brought this dedication to the unique flavors of Latin food with him when he emigrated to New York City with his father at 16. After starting as a dishwasher, Chef Mario began assisting prep cooks, working in every station of the kitchen eventually moving into the role as Chef and Partner at THE BLACK ANT. He has become a highly visible advocate for the inclusion of proteins unfamiliar to most Americans—ants and chapulines (grasshoppers) among them.
Robyn Shapiro - Panelist
Robyn created the cricket protein snack food brand Seek to address health and environmental issues in our global food system. Motivated by a broken system around Westerners' increasing and unsustainable desire for meat, Robyn was convinced that crickets provided a fresh solution as they provide comparable amounts of protein, but with far less of an impact on our environment and animals' lives. What began as a series of dinners with friends at her home, evolved into Seek, allowing people from all around the world to join the movement in eating cricket protein. Seek has received extensive media coverage, including a New York Magazine feature story, and articles in Forbes, CBS and the Observer. Robyn has also led multiple education workshops on edible insects, including an in-school video series with Project Explorer that is distributed for free nationwide. In January 2018, Seek was accepted into the Plug & Play accelerator in Silicon Valley.
Louis Sorkin - Panelist
Louis Sorkin (Board Certified Entomologist) is a Senior Museum Specialist for the American Museum of Natural History. His interest in entomophagy (species reared, biological information and life histories, plus species used in organic recycling) and forensic entomology (includes stored products, urban, and medico-legal studies) began many years ago. He works in arachnid and myriapod systematics and taxonomy, but also some of his studies include investigations on the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) due to the increase in infestations of many homes, business, hotels, by this insect and for which he receives inquiries on their natural history and biology and management. He keeps a few bed bug colonies in addition to other insects, arachnids and myriapods for study and for educational purposes. The bed bugs feed on him, but he dines on their relatives!
This panel will take place at our Brooklyn Farm. Detailed directions can be found by following the link below.
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