This second podcast is even better than the first one !
I interviewed Michela Dai Zovi, the author of the book: Bugs for Beginners.
This is an easy to use insect cookbook.
Without giving you any more spoilers, enjoy the podcast.
If you’re from the United-States : Bugs for Beginners.
If you’re from the UK : Bugs for Beginners.
If you’re from France : Bugs for Beginners.
Aubin Bernard: After podcast number 1 naturally comes… wait for it… podcast number 2 !
Hi everyone, I am Aubin and I will be your host today, as for every other podcast. You don’t know it yet, but I bought a new microphone, so the quality is quite enjoyable.
In a few moments, we’ll be listening to Michela Dai Zovi, the author of Bugs for Beginners, if you’re not interested in buying her book yet wait till the end of the podcast, you’ll see, her enthusiasm will change your mind, on that note, see you on the other side.
[Intro Play – Neffex ]
Aubin Bernard: Hello everyone, I’m with Michela Dai Zovi, I hope I’m saying it right, she likes to eat bugs and she wanted to tell the world how to use bugs in cooking, but especially for beginners, so she wrote a book called Bugs for Beginners, you can check it out, and well here you are with her, say hi to Michela!
Michela Dai Zovi: It’s so funny because you just described everything perfectly so you don’t even need me!
Aubin Bernard: Great ! At least I did my research well!
Michela Dai Zovi: You even pronounced my name correctly, which is funny, I think it might be the European connection, because my father was Italian so that’s why my name is italian.
Aubin Bernard: Maybe maybe, so I wanted to ask: You’re from new Mexico right ?
Michela Dai Zovi: I am, I lived in New Mexico for 25 or so years, something like that.
Aubin Bernard: Ok, so how did you get into entomophagy, because Mexico, which is quite close, is actually the place where there is the most documented edible insects does it have any relationship with that or ?
Michela Dai Zovi: That would be a really good guess, however, that is not the case, for me I mean. That is a really good guess, that’s a very reasonable thing to expect but actually, we did go to Mexico a lot when I was a child, but I haven’t been to Mexico in probably 6 or 7 years and I’ve only been interested in entomophagy for maybe 3 or so, so actually the last time I went to Mexico I was not interested in entomophagy.
I got interested, well first I’m just interested in food all the time, like anytime I see something, that you know I’ve never tasted before I’m curious you know, I want to know what it tastes like and what it smells like and how it feels and all these things.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah yeah of course!
Michela Dai Zovi: Some people aren’t, like some people just do not care about food, I mean I know what I’m describing, I’m not the only person on the planet that is like this but not everybody is like this and then I did actually, I don’t remember how I found it but I know that (sorry I’m in the lobby area so people are overspeaking I guess) ok so I owned a copy of David George Gordon’s Eat-a-bug cookbook, and I don’t remember how I found it or you know or who, what I don’t remember why I bought it, I just remember owning it thinking it was so interesting, but it was a little bit further removed like I wasn’t just going to order scorpions or something I was just like, this is interesting but I don’t know how to start this, I was too nervous to just make my boyfriend cricket dinner or whatever.
So I owned the book and I loved the book but I didn’t ever do anything with it other than read it and think it was awesome. But then I started to travel a lot, and so when I went to Thailand is I would say like, Thailand and Mexico are probably, you know, I don’t know the numbers but I bet they’re probably very close as far as documented entomophagy and so when I saw like a bug vendor in Bangkok just like frying up some grasshoppers I was just so excited so I was like “Yeah I can finally try it, this guy knows what he’s doing so I don’t have to feel weird for like buying stuff at the pets store” you know this is what this guy does so I know that’s how it’s supposed to taste so actually I really got mostly into entomophagy through spending a lot of time in Thailand.
Aubin Bernard: So that’s where you live now right ?
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah I spend about 4-6 months a year in Thailand, so I move around, my husband and I both work online so we spend you know couple of months here and there, everywhere, all over the place but we do spend a lot of time in Bangkok, and so that is, I mean I guess this is a long answer, I don’t live live here but I definetly spend a lot of time here.
Aubin Bernard: Ok, and that’s really cool but, me for one, when I first bring edible insects to my friends and family they are all like “Oh, that’s weird” and they’re kind of disgusted, how did your friends and family react when you told them about edible insects?
Michela Dai Zovi: It’s the wide range, you know obviously, my parents are super grossed out, my mum won’t eat anything, so you know, she won’t even eat sushi so I didn’t even try to get her to eat insects, my dad actually is a lot more adventurous, he will eat something if it has cricket powder in it but he won’t anything that looks like a bug and then my friends kind of range, you know like my friends that have travelled to Thailand a couple of friends have actually come to visit and eaten bugs with me and they’re like “oh yeah more crickets, I don’t care we had that, that was cool but whatever”.
And actually that’s not true, some of them are big supporters, some of them are very interested and then you know there is a couple of friends they’re just like that’s disgusting, but what I think is very funny about it, is that when I was writing, when I was working on the book, a lot of my US American friends and European friends were saying “Why would you want to write about that ? That’s gross” but when I would tell thai people in Thailand they would be like “Why do you want to write about that ? That’s boring ! It’s not gross, it’s just like, Why are you writing a book about potato chips ? Who cares ? It’s just a thing you eat sometimes, Who cares ?” and so I thought that that difference in people’s perceptions is very interesting
Aubin Bernard: Yeah I get that, I once went to a Halloween party I think it was last year actually, and I had baked a quiche with mealworms inside and I ended up being the only one eating it because everyone was “Oh it’s so gross” and I was like it’s Halloween so like you can? I don’t know, nevermind…
Michela Dai Zovi: Actually about a month ago, I visited the United-States because I’m working for a company in San Francisco and I know that my co-workers are kind of interested… let me put it this way, they think that entomophagy, they like the fact that I am interested in entomophagy, but I don’t think they’re interested themselves. And so I made a bunch of herb fed mealworms that I brought them, and none of my co-workers ate any of them. However there was a girl there, that happened to be where we were anyway who was very interested! And so this complete bystander I was giving her blind tastes and “What does this one taste like ? What does this one taste like ?” and she was just like mind expanded, the first time she tried them she only tasted like 2 mealworms, and in my head I was like these are tiny mealworms how can you even know what they taste like ? You only put 2 in your mouth that’s nothing but you could tell that was like a big deal for her.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you tell us a bit more about the Bugs for Beginners project ? How did you come to write something like that ? And well the “beginner” part you know ? Why did you want to focus so much on beginners ?
Michela Dai Zovi: I basically just wrote the book that I was looking for and I couldn’t find it. I hope this doesn’t come out as any kind of criticism or anything, it’s just describing, I mean when I started travelling I got rid of almost all my books and the Eat-a-bug cookbook was one of the one’s I kept, you know one of like 20 or 30 so obviously I like it very very much but when I was reading it, I was just like, I’m not going to order, I felt maybe this is just me being nervous or shy or whatever, but I’m not going to buy bugs from a, I’m not going to order these from a pet store, this is too weird for me and so I was looking at other books, I guess close to a year ago now, and I was looking at other books and they were all still very kind of academic, like I would buy a book that said it was a cookbook and there would be so many essays on why we need to eat bugs and I was like “Yes I know, that’s why I bought this book!”
Aubin Bernard: Yeah I got that too, I got quite a couple of books on edible insects and most of them have like pages of, well they’re not actually cookbooks even if they say “yeeeahh I’m a cookbook” but they have like 5 recipes and you’re like, oh.
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah exactly, and so I mean I don’t want to sound like as a criticism because they were all very good essays but that’s just not what I was looking for I wasn’t looking for, you know like for example the book “On eating insects” that one I love that book, it’s like an artbook and it says essays and whatever, it doesn’t really build itself as a full-on cookbook and that’s fine, but also at the same time like their pictures are so gorgeous but I think a lot of their recipes are like high art, and I wanted something that A: talk a lot about food and didn’t really convince you, assumed you were already convinced and was really just a standard cookbook with like a bunch of recipes and pictures and B: I wanted something that had like normal food, an average person with not a whole lot of skills like me.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, you can like eat on weekday without having to go to a fancy restaurant.
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah exactly, you don’t have to look that, other than the insects I guess, you don’t have to look that hard for the ingredients, you already know what it’s supposed to taste like, you’re only changing one thing at a time like it’s not this big fancy thing I’ve never had, it’s like hot-dogs with mealworms on it or something. I wanted something that was really introductory and like entry level and approachable I guess is the answer to that question.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, that’s good, that’s a good answer. Can I ask, what was your favorite insect and what was your favorite recipe in that book too ?
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah I don’t know.. You’re not the first one to ask me that and I don’t really know what the answer because I mean everything I put there I tried and everything I put in there I like. Actually I have to backtrack, about half of the recipes are mine and about half were contributed by somebody else, so the ones that somebody else contributed I didn’t make, I just trusted that you know, they made them and liked them and intentionally I wanted to add other people’s flavour palets so It wouldn’t just be like a 100 things I like to eat, you know?
But for the ones that I put in, I liked all of them, so the closest thing I can tell you is that I tend to prefer wormy type things like mealworms or waxworms or silkworms. I like crickets and grasshoppers but my personal preference is more like the wormy things. But passed that I don’t really know if I would be able to narrow it down.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah that’s actually a hard question. So do you think insects are safe and clean to eat ?
Michela Dai Zovi: Yes absolutely otherwise I wouldn’t eat them !
I mean I think that that’s like, you have to have some amount of food safety with any kind of meat. It’s like asking are cows or are pigs clean ? Actually, have you ever smelled a chicken farm ? That is a really bad smell.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, I have 5 chickens at home and it stinks, I can approve.
Michela Dai Zovi: And so I think it’s like anything, obviously if you keep your animals well, then they are clean, and you shouldn’t eat something that lives in a garbage dump I mean I think that is kind of general. I mean I realize why you’re asking that because westerners tend to associate insects with garbage and disgusting things but I just think they’re meat like anything else.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah of course, of course. Also, we hear a lot about the yuck factor, what in your opinion would be the best way to overcome it, if there is any?
Michela Dai Zovi: I have I guess 2 thoughts about this. Which is 1: if somebody has a really strong yuck factor, I don’t even try to help them overcome it, I always use my mum as an example, seriously for about 20 years I tried to get her to eat sushi and she just will not do it so for people like her, she’s going to live and die and never try an insect, that’s fine, it’s not her thing.
For people that are kind of on the fence, I’ll admit that the first time I ate a grasshopper, I had like, you know how people have the cartoon of their conscience the angel and the devil on their shoulders ? I had the fighting yuck and curiosity. I was like “What if it’s gross?” “But it’s so interesting!” “What if it’s gross ?” So I guess that would be for the people that are interested just and try to help make it an exciting and fun experience so if they have the both feelings, the one wins, the curiosity wins over the yuck.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah some people I guess you can’t just push them to eat something they don’t want
Michela Dai Zovi: Well all people ! To be honest, I like most food, but there are a couple things I do not enjoy eating, and so if somebody was like “I’m gonna help you get over your yuck factor for Olives” I’d be like why ? I don’t like olives.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah yeah, I get that totally.
Michela Dai Zovi: I feel we should just look for the people, like I was or you probably were your first time like kind of curious and just give them a bit of a nudge, not like pushing people you know ?
Aubin Bernard: Yeah yeah, totally, totally. Have you ever discussed entomophagy and eating edible insects with vegetarians or vegans ?
Michela Dai Zovi: I have and only a couple, like I haven’t done like a rigid search or anything it’s just like friends of mine that are vegetarian or vegan I asked them what their opinion was. So let’s see, my vegan friend said that she understands the arguments like oh well a lot of the problems that advance like might push somebody to be vegan are not present in insects because they’re good for the planet and they don’t really suffer nearly to the degree like a factory farm animal would. But she just said, she doesn’t care, it makes her sad, she doesn’t really kill anything, in her head I understand.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah vegans are more of a ethical problem I think, it’s not about the ecology or stuff that would be more vegetarians
Michela Dai Zovi: And then the vegetarian, I have a friend that actually was fairly similar she’s like: I understand this argument and I like that you’re doing this but it grosses me out, but actually her kids I brought over food, she lives very close, she’s less than a mile away from my parents house so when I was making a bunch of the food and shooting pictures of it for the cookbook, I would usually have more than I just feel like eating by myself, so I would bring some over, and her older kids, who are also vegetarians, you know the whole family is raised vegetarian the 2 older ones, the teenager and the 8 year old were like “ew gross, I can’t believe you’re eating bugs” but then her toddler and her 5 year old just loved it, they just thought it was so good and I wish I had taken a video of her adorable toddler eating like mealworm toffee because it was so cute, but I wasn’t thinking about it in like a marketing perspective, I was just bringing over my spare food to my friends!
Aubin Bernard: When you eat insects, do you like, remove bits like wings or legs ? Or do you just eat them whole ?
Michela Dai Zovi: So, I read a study that… I’m not 100% clear on, I think that some people cannot digest the chitin and so we’re not really sure, some people do recommend you remove the legs for that reason, and I actually usually don’t, I usually just eat the whole thing, especially with smaller things like crickets or grasshoppers, to me it’s just like eating a shrimp tail, which actually I didn’t use to eat shrimp tails until I started eating insects, Now when I eat the shrimp I just eat the entire thing. Unless it’s a really big bug like a waterbug or something but for the little ones like for crickets and grasshoppers I just eat the whole thing.
Aubin Bernard: It’s easier that way!
Michela Dai Zovi: Honestly I like it, I think everybody, obviously everyone’s food taste are particular to them, but I’ve noticed that I tend to really like different textures, if a food is a texture that I don’t eat all the time like squid, octopus or oysters or whatever, it’s probably why I like that food, and to me the little crunchy bits are part of why I really like eating insects
Aubin Bernard: Yeah yeah. I understand in your book you said you didn’t want to say about your opinions what entomophagy could bring, and you were really concentrated on making a cookbook, but do you believe that entomophagy can be a major change and help the world in a good way or is it just like a side food like could be sushi or something ?
Michela Dai Zovi: You know? I think it’s a little soon to tell. I think that a lot of us have a lot of hope as far as it being a cleaner protein source, and I think it’s possible, but I also think that at this point in time, maybe part of the reason that’s it’s so much cleaner is because a lot of the farms are small, I mean maybe when there’s a factory cricket farm or something then it have something bad come with it. I mean I would hope so but I’m not sure, I think it’s a little soon to tell…
Aubin Bernard: Ok! So your book is about, is for people starting to, or interested in eating insects for like mostly the first time. Where would you recommend they get their bugs ?
Michela Dai Zovi: Obviously that depends a lot on where they live!
Aubin Bernard: I mean, on the internet, or in the pet-store or just outside ? Would you go to a place in particular or ?
Michela Dai Zovi: Well I can tell in specifically when I’m in the United States, I actually order them from Rainbow Mealworms out of California, and because I move around all the time unfortunately I don’t have like, I would love to be able to raise them myself, so that would be the number one recommendation if people can but you know some people don’t have the time or interest in doing that. So, I would say that you should start just doing things that are really easy and approachable like ordering them from EntoMarket or Merci Mercado, oh I’m sorry I’m thinking about US americans right now, if they’re european then it would be ordering them from like Essento or you know anyone that is nearby.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah a website that they can order them from, something that is already prepared and not like for reptiles !
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah, I should have told you that, don’t go to the pet-store.
Yeah exactly like, try probably with something that is meant for humans for example Jimini’s or Essento depending on which country you’re in and what is accessible to you, and then I guess the hope would be that you like it enough to raise them yourself because obviously fresh is always the best.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah of course, I heard a lot about that, the difference between people eating fresh insects and dried up insects. Like some people would have a week challenge of eating dried up insects and they would say it’s the worst day of their lives. Like they were eating it the worst way possible so it’s kind of hard to tell.
Michela Dai Zovi: It’s like we don’t really have a context for eating insects most US Americans and Europeans, so if they eat it once and don’t like it, they’ll think it’s what it tastes like. But if someone hands you a rotten apple, you’ll say the apple is bad, because you’ve had good apples. And I think that that is definitely the case, if maybe you have something that is dehydrated too much or it has no flavour. Actually since I spend so much time in Bangkok I eat a lot of silkworms, and here they are like fried up fresh and they are really good and then when I went to the United States, my friend took me to a Korean grocery store where they also had silkworms but they were canned and they just did not taste the same thing to me, at all! And obviously my advice can’t be like “Go to Thailand”!
Aubin Bernard: It would be good advice ! If anyone wants to eat insects why not go to where they breed them the most?
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah but it’s kind of like, we probably don’t think of it this way but imagine the difference between getting salmon at a restaurant versus canned salmon from the grocery store, it’s not the same thing. I mean insects are the same also, obviously you can buy them but it’s really best if you get the fresh.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, yeah, when you cook your insects, How would you kill them ? I mean you don’t obviously eat insects like you would eat raw meat?
Michela Dai Zovi: No yeah, I do eat raw meat sometimes but I wouldn’t eat raw insects no. Yeah so I like to freeze them and then I actually boil them for about 1 to 3 minutes. When I was researching a little bit, it didn’t look to me like there was a 100% consensus, like everybody by now knows that you need to cook pork for this amount of time, you need to cook beef for this amount of time, at this temperature you know whatever, and I felt like people’s recommendations for cooking insects were all over the map, some people would boil them for a long time, some people would boil them for a short time, some people wouldn’t boil them at all… And so I felt like, maybe I’m airing on the side of doing it a little bit too much, but my whole life my dad was a restaurant manager and so he was always all about food safety in our house so I felt like, if I’m going to write something and try to give people advice I would rather tell them a little bit too much to cook and they can be “oh whatever she’s boring, I’m going to make it taste better by cooking less”.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, better safe than sorry.
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah exactly for me to be “Nooo it’s totally fine, just eat it” and someone gets sick. So, I actually usually boil them for like 1 to 3 minutes although my recommendation is 3 to 5 and then I’ll, you know like sauté or roast or whatever it is I’m going to be doing with them.
Aubin Bernard: Ok, and do you have any future projects ?
Michela Dai Zovi: I mean I would love to do like 3 more bug cookbooks, that would be super fun, but I don’t really consider Bugs for Beginners finished. I think that a lot of people think that you write a book and then you’re done and that’s basically like, you’re pregnant, and you have a baby, and then you abandon your baby. That’s not how it works.
Aubin Bernard: Yeah, you have your baby to look after.
Michela Dai Zovi: Yeah exactly so what I’m doing right now is I’m always working on something to get more people to get aware of it and to get more people to think about it and I’ll probably be focusing on bugs for beginners for the next handful of years just because a lot of people, I mean obviously you know about it and I know about it and we all think about eating insects all the time, whoever listens to this probably already thought about it but a lot of people it never even occurred to them, so I’m trying to figure out who those people are and trying to find them.
Aubin Bernard: So, is there anything else you would like to share with my audience before we wrap this up ?
Michela Dai Zovi: Ummmmm, I don’t know, I guess, I have no idea. I’m actually really accessible if anyone has any questions or if they want to like contact, they are welcome to message, like go for bugsforbeginners on Instagram or go to the website or shoot me an email I’ll probably write back. So, that’s it!
Aubin Bernard: Ok so thanks to you, Michela, it’s great to have you hear, it was a great talk, thanks for the insight on your book, and people remember, if you don’t have it yet, you can buy her book and try insects yourselves.
Michela Dai Zovi: Why thank you very much !
Aubin Bernard: So, what do you think ?
If you’re a beginner, check out the links below the podcast to buy her book to start eating insects today, if you’re not a beginner, why not buy it as a gift for someone ? I hope you enjoyed this podcast, I sure did, her enthusiasm is really contagious.
Don’t hesitate to share this with your friends and family so they can start eating bugs too!
Now that you’re buying her book, you will soon be tasting insects yourselves, and when you do please share it on social media with the #MyFirstBug, I’m repeating #MyFirstBug !
See you soon for another episode, bye !