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Archive for the ‘Senses’ Category

(Inago no Tukudani: Locust with sweet soy sauce savor)

Aside from in the United States, Canada and Europe, most cultures eat insects for their taste, nutritional value and availability. (from HowStuffWorks.com)

It’s called entomophagy, literal translation from Greek entomos, insect and phagein, to eat…and it happens all the time.

All you picky Canadians, Europeans and United Statesians who think you’re too evolved for such tomfoolery as bug eating, consider this report from the Food and Drug Administration. It is a handbook that guides compliant food processors and packagers on how much mold, rodent filth, mammalian excrement and…yes…bugs are allowable per unit of weight or count before action must be taken. An interesting read. Did you know that canned citrus juicers are allowed five Drosophila (fly) eggs or one maggot per 250 ml (one cup)? Peanut butter makers are allowed 30 insect fragments per 100 g (8 tablespoons). Golden raisin driers get to leave 30 Drosophila eggs and 10 whole or equivalent insects per 8 oz. (one cup). That, friends, is a lot of entomophagy, even if you didn’t know you did it.

But, before you get all grossed out scurry off to brush your teeth, let me inform you a bit about why other cultures find bugs to be an acceptable choice for dining. Here it is in one sentence: Bugs are cheap, plentiful and nutritious.

In ancient times Algerians collected locusts and boiled them in salt water. The Aborigines ate moth bodies, honey pot ants and witchety grubs (moth larvae that supposedly taste like almonds). John the Baptist himself survived the grueling desert by eating locusts. (found this info here)

Nowadays entomophagy is still abuzz with energy. Here’s a little quote from an entomology blog from University of Kentucky:

As a potential food source, though, insects have a lot to offer. They breed/grow quickly. And as long as they don’t have dangerous spines, stingers, or chemicals, they can be nutritious. In fact, edible insects have the potential to be a food-source in hunger-stricken regions of the world. Unfortunately, there has not been much scientific research on the subject of entomophagy.

Currently, a group of international scientists are working together to learn more about entomophagy and its possible role in the fight against world hunger. This month, there is a conference on the subject in Lineville, Alabama. In addition to several talks, there will be a bugfood tasting!  And at the upcoming 2010 ESA (Entomological Society of America) National Meeting, a symposia on entomophagy is being organized.

(By the way, Blake Newton, author of the above blog article, said that eating a cockroach can be dangerous because their chitinous exoskeletons are rather sharp if not chewed properly. Ouch!)

So what kind of bugs are people from other places eating on purpose? Here’s a short list found at this lovely site by Sophie Rousmaniere (take a look at her great pictures too):

Crickets and beetles are on snack bars and ants and ant larvae are used in soups and salads in Thailand, Bamboo worms (roasted or deep fried), silk worm pupae (roasted or steamed), red ant eggs (“nice on warm toast”), mole crickets (high in iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus), regular crickets (grilled with chili sauce), water beetles (“a bit salty, and high in vitamins… higher levels of protein, vitamin B2 and niacin than most other bugs”), and to top it off, fried scorpions (actually an arachnid, not an insect, but I think it still counts).

The HowStuffWorks article (mentioned above) on entomophagy takes a moment to address the Western bug-ick factor:

The fact that most Americans and Europeans might find eating arthropods gross is due to cultural bias and history. Once farming and raising animals for consumption became the norm, insects became the enemy. After all these years of trying to get rid of insects, it’s hard to turn around and consider them food. There’s also a bit of hypocrisy going on here. Lobsters and crabs are both arachnids, but they’re prized as expensive seafood instead of an odd delicacy like their spider cousins. Most insects are much cleaner than lobsters and crabs too. Their diet of clean grass sets them apart from these oceanic vacuum cleaners that eat whatever refuse they can scavenge from the ocean’s floor.

I hope I’ve given you enough positive information that you might begin to break down your own cultural taboos against entomophagy (if you have these taboos that is). I know that before doing this research, I wouldn’t have eaten a bug. But now that I know I secretly eat them all the time AND that other people overtly eat them all the time AND that perhaps bug eating might answer the age old problem of world hunger, somehow it’s better now.

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(color wheel by Moses Harris–1766)

Did you know that if you stare at a yellow circle for a minute or two and then close your eyes, you will see a purple circle floating around on the back of your eyelids? And that if you stare at a blue circle and then close your eyes you’ll see an orange circle floating? As a matter of fact, if you stare at any color on the color wheel long enough and then close your eyes, you will experience the color directly opposite on the color wheel (it doesn’t work on the computer screen, possibly because of back lighting. You have to use paint or something non-opaque).

Goethe (the German philosopher, scientist and writer) said that when we see colors, something inside of us “reciprocally evokes” the colours diametrically opposed to [them] in this diagram.” (Goethe’s Theory of Colour) (ps. the “diagram” refers to the above color circle). When we see a color, its complementary color arises inside of us, and we unconsciously experience the whole of the chromatic scale at once.

In my last post I posed a question. If everything physical in the world can be continuously reduced and reduced until it is no more than nothing, does the physical world hold any meaning?

During a particularly depressing period in his life  (he had been helping a prostitute raise her children but it didn’t work out), Vincent van Gogh moved to a city called Nuenen to live with his parents. Nuenen was a city of weavers and van Gogh spent a lot of time during the year he lived there watching the weavers work. It was during this time that he decided that weaving was much like painting, and he began to develop his method of using paints as a weaver uses threads.

When the weavers weave that cloth…the peculiar Scottish plaids, then you know their aim is…for the multicolored checkered cloth to make the most vivid colors balance each other. But for the weaver, or rather the designer of the pattern or combination of colors, it is not always easy to determine his estimation of the number of threads and their direction, no more than it is easy to blend the strokes of the brush into a harmonious whole. (Vincent van Gogh quoted in Van Gogh and Gaugin: The Search for Sacred Art by Debora Silverman)

Van Gogh carried a little lacquered  Chinese tea box full of yarn with his painting supplies. While he was painting, van Gogh would take out different colors and twist them together to maximize the balance and luminosity that is experienced by the viewer. The colors, weaving together like so many threads, evoke the feeling of balanced contrast in the world.

On observation, all those swirling, seemingly disparate particles collapse like threads into a moment of balance, creating meaning in a formless world.

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My lady told me the other night, over a divine meal of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts (it really is brussels sprouts! with an extra s! I couldn’t figure out why it was underlining it at first), that she doesn’t like it when scientists (specifically particle physicists) dissect the world into tinier and tinier pieces until the meaning is all sucked out of it. The world becomes a mass of nothings.

The universe is pulsating with an energy that we call electromagnetic waves. The frequency range of electromagnetic waves is huge–from radio waves, which can sometimes have more than 10 kilometers between them to the tiny cosmic waves, which move in wavelengths of about a billionth of a millimeter–with X rays and ultraviolet and infrared and TV and gamma rays in between. But the average human eye can detect only a very small portion of this vast range–only, in fact, the portion with wavelengths between 0.00038 and 0.00075 millimeters. It seems a small differential, but these are magical numbers for our eyes and minds. We know this section as visible light, and we can distinguish about ten million variations within it. (from Colors by Victoria Findlay)

The world is a swirling mass of electrons and photons just waiting for a finely tuned assemblage of rods and cones, optic nerve and cortex to happen by, absorb the waves and interpret the results.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend at the recent Earth Day celebration here in Eugene. My friend teaches a Brahma Kumaris meditation class. She told me that Brahma Kumaris teaches that the soul is as tiny as a grain of sand and it lives in the middle of the forehead, just behind the eyes.

Our souls interact with the physical world through our bodies. My body is a wonderful and magical tool (fully equipped with millions of rods and cones) that I inhabit. Everything that I “see” is, in its original form, a wave of vibrations, perceived by my receptor cells and interpreted by my cortex.

Question of the day: at what point does the physical world become meaningless?

(Memory of the Garden at Etten by Vincent van Gogh)

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