Bugs

Andreas Johnsen

Netherlands 2016,1h 13min

Bugs follows Ben Reade and Josh Evans as they tour the world in the tasteful realm of insects. At Copenhagen’s Nordic Food Lab which belongs to Noma-chef Rene Redzepis, they embark on discovering how to prepare some of the world’s 1,900 edible insect species, and create delicacies fit for a world class restaurant.

The background is also political: Insects are constantly referred to as a sustainable alternative to meat, and as something we ought and should consume more of in the future. So, Josh and Ben, who later leaves the project and is replaced by Roberto Flore, sample larvae, termite queens, flies and grasshoppers, locates everyday dishes as well as delicacies, goes hunting in anthills and squeezes honey straight from the hive of African stingless bees. They start out as disgusted by insect eating, but after a while they gobble up everything in their way, fearless and curious – and, in the process, ask themselves whether insects actually are the sustainable protein source of the future. Because, if insects are introduced into the current food system driven by large companies sporting dollar signs in their eyes – will it remain a sustainable food stuff?

It is a relief to watch a documentary on sustainability which does not insist on having found the solution.

Problematic. The journey is thought provoking to witness. From their enthusiasm and joyful outbreaks when discovering a whole new world of flavours and textures, to their disappointment and shattered illusions once they realise that to most of the players, money is still what matters first and foremost, and the insect arena is as unethical as the rest of the food industry. In Kenya, they join insect hunters at work. A boy of twelve takes them inside a large construction where a sharp light is supposed to attract grasshoppers. He hunts there between seven pm and seven am. The sharp light hurts their eyes, and they wake the next morning suffering from a serious case of snow blindness. When they arrive at the hospital, they are greeted by a long row of young, blind men – and back in Denmark they conclude that they are unable to uncritically recommend people to eat more insects as long as the current production methods damage people. They continuously debate this dilemma, and are uncertain whether they can defend elevating insects to a gastronomic delicacy when this would most likely normalise it as a food, and thus increase demand for it. Who would line up to profit from it, and at what human and environmental cost?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwgbTaI_S0g

A learned aversion. There is no ‘Praise the Lord’ moment in the considering of insects as a potential solution to the environmental challenges facing food production. But at the same token, the film feels somewhat life-affirming. Something profoundly human takes place in the meeting of the practical knowledge of the indigenous people and the technical finesse of the master chefs. Hunting for food has formed part of our existence since day one. It is not long since we started going to the shops to purchase imported garden blueberries instead of going for a walk in the woods to pick them ourselves, when the forest is overflowing. I myself grew up partially self-sufficient, eating food from from the garden, the forest and the sea.

Something profoundly human takes place in the meeting of the practical knowledge of the indigenous people and the technical finesse of the master chefs.

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