Does God Have a Wicked Sense of Humor?

September 6, 2016 in Food Economics, Foodland Chronicles, General by Joyce Bunderson

On July 27, 2016, just about the time I was smugly sitting and thinking about what an adventurous eater I am, I stumbled upon an article about the possibility for the next superfood – cockroach milk. Hmmm. I’d love to feel a little more mature (not chronologically) just emotionally. I’d like to say; “Sure, sign me up; I’ll give the cockroach milk a whirl.” Honestly, I’m not presently being approached with any of this super nourishing and high caloric substance that feeds little Pacific beetle cockroach embryos. I don’t really need the extra high calories. There, calories! High calories gives me a sufficiently acceptable rationale for not indulging. If I’m a hundred percent honest; my western brain just finds it repulsive. I wonder how that happens. If just guessing, I’d have to say it might have been implanted early into my brain. Maybe it was the look of horror on my mother’s face when saying the word ‘cockroach.’ Maybe it is watching them scuttle back into the filth beneath the stove in dirty kitchens I’ve had to inspect.

If cockroach milk succeeds in the marketplace, it will get a name like “super milk crystals”. (Cockroches have no nipples; they just supply these super crystals into a womb full of a hundred or so embryos. Each embryo must get to the nearest crystal and nibble at will.) A better marketing name might help. I of course, am the person who thinks it’s pretty crazy that we need to call prunes “dried plums” so that people will eat them. I’ve adventurously eaten some pretty interesting things during my time in China, Tibet and when my son came home in love with all Japanese food (both fermented and non-fermented) in 1994. But as noted, this one causes some stomach turning.

If you haven’t already read it, don’t miss Ben Guarino’s Washington Post article from last July 27, 2016. One of Guarino’s observations is that the roach brand is bad for business. I say; “Ya think?” In addition, another article in the same genre is Brad Plumer’s May 13, 2013, also published in the Washington Post. Mr. Plumer’s article will give you a big hint why I wish I could say that I’d give the roach milk a whirl. I’m a little disappointed in myself, as I realize that I wrote about eating insects in 2013 Eating Bugs – Solving the Ick Factor. Sadly I report that I’ve made little or no progress in this regard in the past three years. I think I’ve not tried hard enough.

Pound for pound roach milk crystals contain three times more energy than buffalo milk – which was the previous top contender for the highest caloric protein food. Not only that, but the roaches reproduce prolifically and eat omnivorously. Food and nutrition has to evolve, and if the crystals can indeed be harvested economically, it will be become part of the diet. An example of de-yucking is the brilliant red coloring called Carmine. It is made from grinding up and processing little Cochineal beetles, but that is rarely mentioned. I guess the bottom line is that God must have a seriously wicked sense of humor. If the going gets tough, we may be looking at cockroach milk as a way to help feed the world and not be too damaging to the environment. Wonder if I’ll make any progress on my squeamish stomach in the next three years.