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Going from 'ick' to 'yum': Don't let State Fair presentation bug you

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- The Minnesota State Fair is known for food on a stick, but one woman promoted food that may eat sticks: Bugs.

"I know it might sound gross initially, but trust me it is quite tasty," Kiah Brasch told fair audiences.

The woman from Roseville, near the fairgrounds, said that at first she had a hard time because of "the ick factor." But after a couple of tries, she got over it.

"This lady over here is eating a cricket burger," she said, pointing to some pictures. "This little girl is eating chocolate covered crickets."

Audience members showed some interest, and a few said they have eaten bugs (on purpose), but many remained skeptical.

When asked if Brasch's talk removed the ick factor for him, Jeff Ericson of the Twin Cities replied: "Not yet, although I may be willing to try something that is flavored with insects where I would not recognize the insect."

Brasch said she can understand such reactions since they are much like she felt years ago.

But after going to Thailand, where insects are common in meals, and studying the subject, she is sold.

"I am not advocating for completely replacing current livestock," she said. "I still enjoy a (beef) burger from time to time. It is just another piece of the puzzle where I can make my carbon footprint less."

Insects need a lot less water, food and space to produce the same protein as livestock, Brasch said. That means, she added, bugs are better for the world.

"We can reduce the demand for livestock a little bit, and thus reduce our demand for carbon. ... Insects are really, really efficient at converting feed into body mass."

Bugs are good for food sustainability, she said. "Eating insects is like riding a bicycle and eating a steak is like driving an SUV. That is the sustainability issue of it."

The taste of bugs varies, she said. Mealworms, for instance, taste a lot like nuts. Crickets, on the other hand, are more like shrimp, which she calls "sea bugs."

Ericson asked if all bugs are edible and Brasch suggested that he be careful. Some bugs have bright colors that serve as warnings they may contain poisons, she said, so they should be avoided.

"There definitely are some you would not want to eat," she said. "They have certain poisonous compounds or whatever."

Bugs that may have been exposed to pesticides also should not be eaten, Brasch added.

Generally, it is safer to grow your own insects or buy them online or from an Asian market, she said, but she has caught some grasshoppers for meals.

Since the whole bug is eaten, professionals usually make sure digestive tracts are cleared out before bugs are killed, which is done by placing them in a freezer for at least an hour.

Once bugs are cooked a few minutes, they are ready to become part of a burger, smoothie, stir fry or other dish.

Once she allowed eating bugs not to bug her, Brasch was sold. She said others can do the same.

"Try it twice," she advised. "Just give insects a shot."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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