Making the Most of Your Animal: What Nose to Tail Can Really Be

Yak Butchering

The Yak

Hammer

I am still in awe that one, single, well-placed strike with a sledge hammer had the power to drop the massive beast instantly to its knees...unconscious.  It was the last time the animal moved.  Certainly, it was not the first time this Mongolian herder had killed a yak, and his experience showed.  As soon as the yak hit the ground the herder dropped the hammer, picked up his knife and sliced the animal’s jugular so it would bleed out.  Nothing out here in the northern Mongolian steppe goes to waste, and most certainly not this yak’s blood.  A metal pot was quickly placed under the stream of blood in order to collect every last drop before the animal’s heart stopped beating and no more blood flowed through its veins.  When it was finally dead, the yak was rolled onto its rounded back and two logs were placed on either side to keep it from shifting during the butchering process.

Butchering such a massive animal efficiently is much easier with several people and two of the yak herder’s “neighbors” came to assist.  Out here, neighbor is a relative term.  To me, where I come from, neighbor would mean the people that live in the house located about 50 yards away from mine, but on the steppe the nearest neighbor could be 30 miles away!  These two neighbors made quite a journey to help their friend, the herder, process the yak.

After the animal was in position, the butchering commenced much as I would have expected...each of the two men took a front leg and using their knives “wringed” the skin just above the feet while the herder sliced the skin across the chest from one foot to the other.  Starting from the mid-point of this cut, a second cut was made all the way to the anus.  Then, the three men all repositioned to the bottom half of the yak and did the same there - wringing the skin above the rear feet and slicing the skin from one foot to the other crossing just above the anus.  Next, the sledgehammer that had dispatched the animal was picked up and while one man held the skin tight another repeatedly swung the hammer where the skin was still attached to the carcass to separate it.  This was done all around the cuts to provide complete access to the chest and belly.  Once the skin was peeled back, a tarp was laid down on the ground underneath the rear feet and then the first of several unorthodox butchering strategies unfolded in front of my eyes - and they were like nothing I had ever seen before.  It wasn’t until I better realized the context within which they were operating and how what they valued from the animal differed from what I was used to in my modern western world that the rationale behind every move they made became crystal clear. 

Perspectives and values advise what parts of the animals are consumed and who consumes them.  All of this, in turn, dictates how the animal is butchered.  The butchering process is an honest and open window into a society’s culture and diet.  

Guts

In our modern, western, meat-centric approach the next step in the butchering process would be to make one cut through the belly beginning at the anus and stopping at the sternum, being careful not to puncture the organs to avoid contamination of the meat.  This creates access to the organs which are then pulled out of the body through this single, relatively small hole.  In this butchering scheme the organs are considered “offal” or “off-fall” - a byproduct of butchering the animal for the purpose of obtaining meat.   And, this approach accomplishes that goal rapidly allowing butchers to quickly remove the organs to move on to the real prize - the flesh.   

It was 40 degrees below zero and the wind was whipping here on the northern Mongolian steppe.  You would think these three men who have come together to help butcher this yak would want to get it over with as soon as possible so that they could retreat into the warmth of the Ger which was a mere 50 feet away billowing smoke from its peak signifying the strength of the fire inside.  But, the quick approach to removing offal from the yak is not the direction they took.  Instead, they carefully cut around the entire rib cage and belly and removed a huge section of the animal in what can only be described as an immense shield-like piece and set it aside.  The scene now resembled something more like an autopsy than a butchering, but once I realized what was happening, it made complete sense.  Removing practically the entire chest and belly of the animal provided the butchers unobstructed access to what they obviously prized most - the nutrient dense organs, blood and fat inside the carcass - not the flesh on the outside.  

The three men, with hands like surgeons, worked together seamlessly to accomplish the next, crucial step - removal of the organs.  First, the mesentery, a lacy membrane covered with fingers of yellowish-white fat that enveloped the organs, was removed and set aside so that they could later wrap the liver in it for frying.  Then, they grabbed the trachea, cut around it, and began to pull using the knife slice anything still connecting it and everything below it to the inside of the body cavity.  As the trachea was pulled out of the body the entirety of the inside of the yak was removed in one huge pile onto the tarp that was earlier laid down between the back legs.  The three men then set to work on what they viewed as a highly prized pile of food on the tarp!   The spleen and the gall bladder, the only two parts of the animal they do not eat were fed to the dogs.  The liver, heart, kidney, and lungs were removed and saved for future consumption. 

Organs

Finally, the intestines and stomach were handed over to the wife of the yak herder who accepted them with an ear to ear smile.  She carried them over to a special place in the yard reserved specifically for cleaning them.  The existing pile of frozen intestinal and stomach contents on which she worked was evidence that they have butchered other yaks this year.  The intestines were destined to serve as casings for a sausage made of dried that, once made, hangs from the roof of the Ger where the smoke envelopes it as it escapes.  The stomach, on the other hand, once cleaned out is filled with butter made from yak milk where it ferments for several months.

What happened next was the second surprise of the day.  Once all of the blood and organs were successfully removed, the rest of the skin was peeled from the carcass.  The surgical precision and cooperation displayed during the removal of the organs quickly transformed into something completely different when they removed to the meat.  The precision was gone.  There were no primal cuts, or subprimal cuts or, for that matter any recognizable individual cuts of meat, whatsoever.  In fact, the meat was not removed from the bone at all.  Everything, I mean everything that was left was chopped up together into fist-sized chunks each containing its own proportional share of meat, gristle, and fat.  What was once a yak was now a pile of indiscernible pieces.  Fascinating.  

 

Every single part of this animal was consumed (except the spleen and gallbladder).  However, that was not the most surprising take away from the unique opportunity I had witnessing this butchering.  Rather, it was the extremely high value that was placed on the most nutrient dense part of the animal and the equally strong, but apathetic attitude towards the meat - the obverse of the modern western view to which I was accustomed.  

 

At first, this seemed strange.  Then, after reflecting on our modern western practices, the ones in which I have operated within for my entire life, ours were the ones that now seemed strange.  I felt embarrassed and disconnected…  All of a sudden I needed desperately to find a way to incorporate everything I had witnessed in Mongolia into mine and my family’s life.  But how?  Where was I going to learn the skills I needed to learn to make the most use of animals in ways that were practical and meaningful?  I needed to find ways to use the entire animal and to do so from the an ethical and ancestral place.  And, the results had to be look good, taste good and smell good.  They needed to be delicious if they were going to make a difference.  This was an extremely high bar to set and one that I did not think would be easily attainable.  It took awhile, but I finally found more than I ever could have dreamed of...in Italy of all places!


Chef John and the Italian Culinary Institute

Chef John & Bill

I was on a mission.  I needed to find a place to learn advanced forms of butchering where the utilization of the entire animal, from cooking to preservation including drying, fermenting and curing using traditional methods without the use of nitrates or starter cultures, was the focus.  I wanted to start at the farm and meet the farmer who raised the animal.  I wanted to clean intestines for sausage casings and actually stuff them myself!  I wanted to eat all the parts of the animal we were not preserving for long-term storage and close the loop - from life to death to food to nutrients.  I wanted a course steeped in tradition and filled with stories and inspiration.  This was a tall order, but I was convinced that a quick internet search would reveal several options from which I would be able choose.  I was wrong.  After searching the internet for weeks I was experiencing a great deal of difficulty finding what I needed.  There were plenty of really interesting options from which to choose where I could learn the basics of butchering - from as brief as day-long workshop’s to learning experiences lasting several months. 

However, everything I found was lacking something I required from my search.  That is, except for one - the Italian Culinary Institute.  The description of what they offered in their Traditional Italian Charcuterie and Salumi course read like it was exactly what I was looking for in a course.  I tried to look up reviews on the school but could not find much, so I ignorantly brushed the website aside time after time.  Every instance when I thought I found what I was looking for in another site, upon further research I was disappointed.  Over time, I found myself subconsciously using the Italian Culinary Institute’s description of their course  as a model for what I was looking for elsewhere and, I finally realized what I was looking for was in their program.  That was where I needed to go.

Once I made my decision, I shifted gears and focused on booking a place in the ICI’s next Traditional Italian Charcuterie and Salumi course and finding a way to get myself there.  The website said they required a deposit and that all I needed to do was find a way to the Lamezia airport and everything else was covered once I landed.  I took the plunge, filled out my form and sent in my deposit.  And, I waited.  And waited.  And nothing.  I thought my fears had been realized and that this wasn’t actually real.  So I sent a message to the president and head chef, John Nocita and asked if we could talk on the phone to make sure everything was in place.  He replied, “of course,” and we spoke on the phone the next morning.  During our brief conversation he assured me everything was fine, the deposit was received and I had nothing to worry about.  I was still skeptical - it just seemed too good to be true. 

My fears remained even as I landed in the tiny Calabrian regional airport in Lamezia Terme and became more intense as I waited for almost an hour at baggage claim for my bags that never arrived!  It wasn’t until I passed through customs with just my carry-on and I noticed a woman holding a sign containing the name ,“Schindler” scribbled in Sharpie that I realized there was actually something, or at least someone waiting for me in Italy.  This provided me with a small feeling of relief, but I still had no idea what to expect once I actually made it to the Italian Culinary Institute.  The woman who picked me up spoke very little English and, although she was very nice there was not much conversation in her van during the 45 minute-long trip to ICI.  The coast-to-coast drive from the airport in Lamezia Terme, located in the west near the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the Italian Culinary Institute, located in the east overlooking the Ionian Sea spans what is perhaps the narrowest part of Italy - the constriction right before the big “toe” of the boot in the south. 

The sign for Hotel Baia dell’Est was posted at the entrance as we began our final ascent up the steep drive leading up the side of mountain. The van came to a stop at the entrance to the hotel and as I stepped out I was greeted immediately by a woman wearing a white chef’s coat and a huge smile!  I immediately recognized embroidered symbol and letters ICI on her chef’s coat from the institute’s web page and was comforted in seeing it. 

ICI

So, this actually was a real place!  From that moment forward - beginning with my first interaction with someone from ICI - my fears were not only allayed, but I continued to be more and more impressed than I could ever have imagined!  Chef Dawn led me to my room and as I entered I immediately noticed two things - both fantastic and both illustrative of what I was about to experience over the next week - the breathtaking view through the window at the far end of the room overlooking the Ionian Sea and the plate of homemade Italian salumi and cheeses next to a bottle of red wine on the desk (oh, there was a bottle of water too, but it didn’t rise to the same level as the view and the food and the wine!).  The spectacular view of the Ionian Sea was ever-present throughout my entire time and, from that moment forward there was never the slightest hint of hunger or thirst for the entire week!

That night, once all the students were seated around a meticulously set table in the heart of the Italian Culinary Institute, I met the president and head chef, John Nocita for the first time in person.  He walked in and his presence immediately commanded the room.  His striking similarity to cast members of every mafia-themed movie or show certainly helped in this regard.  Once all of our glasses were filled with wine, he toasted the group and then proceeded to tell us what to expect during our week under his tutelage.  I listened with fascination as every bit of the schedule he laid out for us seemed as if I dreamt it up myself.  I was so excited (and, to be completely honest, slightly nervous) to get into the kitchen with this man the next day.  But, when he told us what time to meet for our first day, how we should dress and what to expect I realized that we were not beginning this course on Traditional Italian Charcuterie and Salumi in the kitchen.  No.  We were doing something far more important, starting one crucial step earlier... we were starting at a farm.  Then, as soon as the meal was over, he left.  That was the last dinner he shared with us until the final night of the class.  He used the separation at the evening meals as an opportunity to both allow the students to come together as a cohesive group while also maintaining the teacher/student boundaries at appropriate levels.  Sharing food is a powerful act and understanding the role that is holds in human relationships is equally powerful.  He has certainly taught many times before and has it figured out perfectly.

Field

The Pig

The next day we loaded into a bus and drove up the mountains to visit the 100% Organic Free-Range Farm, Casellone, who would supply the Calabrian Black Pigs for our class.  Upon arrival at the farm my first thought was how it didn’t smell or look anything like a pig farm with which I was familiar.  I spent a year of my life in my early twenties living and working on a huge pig farm in Powell, Ohio and I will never forget the smell and lack of, well, any other life around except the pigs.  This farm in Calabria was nothing like that.  Yes, there were pigs and fences, and even some wooden pens.  But, otherwise, it didn’t look like a pig farm at all.  There were trees - and plenty of them!  And there was actually grass and bushes.  It was not the vegetation-free, stench filled, virtual mud-bath that is typically the case with most modern pig farms.  This was something completely different and the interaction between the farmer, the pigs and the environment was also completely different. There is no doubt the pigs reared on this farm are far superior than those from the more common modern factory farms in every way. 

John demoing

The farmer came out of his home with his family and introduced us to his wife and his daughter.  He then gave us a tour of the farm and told us all about traditional Black Calabrian breed pigs and what makes them special.  He informed us they are one of only six native breeds to Italy and told us how explorers, even 350 years ago, spoke of the quality of the meat in this region.  He talked to us about raising the pigs and compared the firm flesh of his Calabrian Black pigs with the softer, more water-filled flesh of the typical modern white pig.  Not only are his pigs raised on much higher quality diets (which includes olives!), but it takes his pigs one and a half years to reach 150 kilograms while modern white pigs can do the same in less than a year.  And, after meeting the pigs we got to select the two pigs that we would use for the workshop.  The tour ended in the farmer’s home around a few large tables where we tasted some of his homemade extra virgin olive oil and bread providing the opportunity to ask him any final questions we had.  Then we loaded the bus and headed back to ICI.  As I sat on the bus I began to think about the pigs - especially the two pigs we had selected to use during the course.  In order to get them to the ICI for our use later that day I was confident that as I comfortably sat on the bus, the two pigs were being prepared for slaughter.  Or, perhaps they were already dead.  Beginning the course here, at the farm was brilliant on Chef John’s part.  We met the pigs and observed their personalities, listened to them and heard their voice, touched them and felt their life.  This experience added an important level of responsibility to what we were doing and made how we go about doing it so much more important.  This is something that it missing in our modern relationship with the animals that provide us food.  But, it was front and center in everything we did with Chef John.

Once we returned to ICI we ate (eating was a common theme throughout the entire week!) and Chef John embarked on a series of lectures and presentations about Italian Regional Cuisine, traditional Italian butchering and salumi, and laid the groundwork for all that we were about to do once we had the pigs in front of us and knives in our hands.  He told story after story to steep us in the tradition that over the past several hundred years created the traditional practices we were about to learn.  We learned about safety and the difference between working with a properly raised, recently slaughtered pig.  We were immersed in the context we needed before we even picked up a knife.

John and Pig parts

Butchering, cooking and preservation

The pigs, dehaired, gutted, and split in half arrived later that day.  All of the internal organs were delivered separately in bags except for the intestines, which arrived in a big 5-gallon plastic bucket.  The organs were immediately placed in the refrigerator and the split carcasses laid on the workstation tables.  The bucket of intestines were placed in the large sink in the back of the room.  Chef John then assembled us around the half of the pig and began to walk us through the different options we had that would inform how we would approach taking each individual half apart.  He used his finger as a virtual knife and we explored in detail the anatomy of the pig and the different American, Spanish and Italian approaches to butchering.  I will never forget the very last thing he did before we initiated the butchering process - he cut several lemons in half and, using the newly exposed cut surfaces, wiped the inside of every carcass with the lemons.  He did this as a sanitizing measure to ensure the exposed surfaces of meat were safe.  It is the same approach I use at home to clean my work surfaces - I used vinegar instead of lemons, but the chemistry is the same.  Although is does not sterilize, low pH, acidic nature of both lemons and vinegar sanitizes by destroying many harmful pathogens and, with high quality fresh ingredients handled the right way, is enough to ensure food safety.  This was perfectly in line with my approach and an incredible first day!

Once the fabrication began we literally did not stop for the entire week. Whenever he felt we needed a break, Chef John stepped to make us, in his words, “a little snack” which almost always amounted to a full course worth of food and each one were experiential learning opportunities in their own right.  His mantra, “you should never eat on an empty stomach” was one we all practiced during our entire time there.

Bill & Chef
Cooking a snack
The animal
Bill with pork

Through lectures, stories, demonstrations, and a ton of hands-on teaching and learning Chef John and everyone that assisted him, created an incredible experience for us all.  We prepped parts of the pig for fermentation and curing and long term storage.  We cooked and ate, on the spot, the other parts such as the organs, skin, ears and certain cuts of meat immediately.  I even spent one of our lunch breaks with one of his assistants, Maria, cleaning, scraping and preparing the intestines that we would later stuff for fresh and fermented sausages.  By the end of the course we made a variety of whole muscle cures such as pancetta and prosciutto.  We made lardo, or cured pig fat.  We used the bones for bollito, or bone broth.  We made various fermented and cured meats including salami and, my personal favorite, ‘Nduja, a fermented and cured spicy spread made from all sorts of leftover bits that didn’t meet the standards for other cured meat products  - a true “zero-waste” food that tastes absolutely delicious.  We made a number of different cooked dishes using everything from “choice” cuts of meat in pasta dishes, to skin in pork skin braciole, and odd bits and pieces in head cheese and bolito.  We adhered to tradition but also innovated when appropriate.  Everything was delicious and presented beautifully.  It was all nutrient dense.  And, since I was a part of the entire process I felt a special connection to all of it that could never be replaced by anything I could buy - anywhere - no matter how good it tasted or how much it cost.  Safety and respect for the animal was ever present at the forefront of everything we did.   However, what impressed me the most at the end of the week was that the parts of the pig that we did not use filled up a medium-sized bowl!  That’s it! We started with two large pigs and, over the course of a week using traditional food processing technologies transformed almost the entirety of both of them into nutritious, delicious, gorgeous food that appealed to all of our senses and to which we all felt a close connection.  It was pure magic.

I left empowered and inspired.  I gained a whole new appreciation for what is possible to create in the kitchen when raw materials, in this case animals, are transformed into food with the right skills and approach.  I was now even more disheartened with how we treat animals in our food chain in much the modern western world.  There is so much more we can do - and most of the answers are not new, rather, the path forward can be found in the past.  


Making the Most of your Animal

Teaching flintknapping

I left the Italian Culinary Institute with my head filled with knowledge, my hands filled with know-how and, most importantly, having made an incredible new friend and colleague in Chef John Nocita.  A few days into the workshop Chef John learned about the work that I do and my approach to food both informed by the technologies of our ancestral dietary past.  He and I had several early morning meetings before class began each day and stayed in contact after I left.  In order to supplement the context he already provides in his course he has brought me back to the Italian Culinary Institute several times to deliver lectures and workshops for his master’s students on our ancestral dietary past.  These have been incredible opportunities for me to share my work with his students while simultaneously continuing to learn from him.

I finally had a chance to include Chef John and his expertise in the Food Evolutions project and a great way to bring full-circle what I experienced in Mongolia and my journey to learn to translate it into something that is both meaningful and delicious!  On May 17th, Chef John came to Ireland so that we could co-present an interactive one-day workshop we titled: Making the Most of Your Animal: context, implementation and taste. 

The description of the workshop read:

 

The nose-to-tail approach to eating animals is more ethical, sustainable, and nutritious than the current practice which, for many of us, means a diet comprised of the same cuts of meat from the same few animals.  In order to make changes to our modern diets and food system to restore our health and the health of the planet we need to adopt a whole animal approach similar to that of the past.  This workshop provides exposure to the knowledge and basic skills necessary to make the most of the animal to produce informed, meaningful food that reaches its full potential by exceeding modern expectations of flavor, texture and presentation.

Through a dynamic combination of presentation, demonstration and tasting offered by Experimental Archaeologist and the Director of the Eastern Shore Food Lab, Dr. Bill Schindler and Master Chef and President of the Italian Culinary Institute, John Nocita learn: 

  • How animals have been a part of the human diet for almost 3.5 million years and why it is important to know.
  • See examples of approaches to making the most of an animal using traditional regional Italian Cuisine deeply rooted in both history and sense of place.
  • Experience how amazing food made from even the strangest parts of an animals
 
Bill & Chef

The event was co-sponsored by the Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College, the Italian Culinary Institute, Odaios Foods, University College Dublin, and Airfield Estates.  It took place on the Airfield Estates grounds and, through a combination of lecture, presentation, butchery and cooking demonstration, and tasting and discussion we tackled important topics that ranged from our 3.5 million year long relationship with animals in our diets to butchering techniques focused on a nose-to-tail approach.  Most importantly we wanted to illustrate a powerful approach that included archaeology, experimental archaeology, ethnography combined with traditional and modern culinary techniques.  The audience consisted of trained chefs, culinary students, faculty from local culinary schools, archaeologists, experimental archaeology students, archaeology professors, and a few people that didn’t fit into the above categories but had a genuine interest in food.  It was a truly interdisciplinary event with an equally interdisciplinary audience that closely resembled the various approaches Chef John and I believe we all need to take in order to reconnect with our food and create meaningful change in our food, diets, and health.

Bill Talking
Chef John talking
Dr. Aidan O'Sullivan (University College of Dublin), Ms. Grainne Kelligher (Airfield Estate), Chef John Nocita (Italian Culinary Institute), Dr. Bill Schindler (Washington College) and Mr. Jason O'Brien (Odaios Foods)

Dr. Aidan O'Sullivan (University College of Dublin), Ms. Grainne Kelligher (Airfield Estate), Chef John Nocita (Italian Culinary Institute), Dr. Bill Schindler (Washington College) and Mr. Jason O'Brien (Odaios Foods)

 

A nose-to-tail approach does not have to automatically result a grey mass of strange looking, tasting and smelling food.  Instead, with an open-mind fueled, inspired and informed by the approaches of our ancestors, extant traditional societies, and a handful of groundbreaking chefs we can do something different.  

 

By focusing on using the entire animal, recognizing and increasing nutrient density and bioavailability, and celebrating (not masking) the range of textures and flavors of all of the parts of animals we can transform our diets and relationship with animals in very powerful, meaningful and accessible ways.  Most importantly, it is something we can do in our own home kitchens.  By making small, meaningful steps you will slowly begin to change your approach/view, build your skills, and empower yourself to take the next step.  Start with buying a whole chicken, butchering it yourself and using every single part - making several different dishes from meat, skin, giblets, and bones.  Then, once you have mastered the chicken go to the butcher and buy a whole pork shoulder, butcher it, and again use every part.  Make your own nutrient rich bone broths.  Make pates from livers.  Learn to cook kidneys.  Eat marrow - roasted marrow is delicious!  Use the skin of every single animal you eat.  Then, once you have developed your skill set and feel confident, begin to cure meat (why not make your own bacon?), make head cheese and even hot dogs.  Make your own salami.  Get together with neighbors and tackle butchering an entire half of a pig making use of every single piece! 

ICI Halloween Trip

Reconnect, learn, develop, empower yourself, have fun, and create change. 

Everyone and everything around you will benefit from it!

 

 

 

Bugs on the Menu?


Cricket taco seasoned.jpg

“No, I am putting my foot down on this one. No. No. No . . .You are not allowed to eat them.”  
 

What do you mean? Wait. Are you telling me what I can and cannot eat? I replied in disbelief.  You don’t understand.  I think there is something important in all of this, and, I don’t feel right even having a discussion about the importance of eating insects in prehistoric diets if neither the students nor I had ever eaten any.  Plus, how can I ask the students to try them if I had never tried them?


This was part of the heated discussion between Christina and me almost 15 years ago – at least the part I can remember.   

Earlier that day I had received in the mail, and excitedly opened, a package containing all sorts of edible bugs!  This package had come all the way from Thailand, in fact the name of the company that sold them was “Thailand Unique.”  This package was a big deal for Christina and me for several reasons.  

 
  • First, it was full of edible insects – certainly a first for both of us.  Christina and I were young, on our own and graduate students who were pushing limits and learning about ourselves and one another in the process.  Every time we pushed our own limits the other was becoming keenly aware of what and who they actually married!  A box of edible insects, along with all of the other limits I was pushing at the time seemed to have struck a nerve.  
  • Second, it was the first package I had ever received from overseas.  It floored me that in order to obtain insects suitable and legal for human consumption, at least anything more substantive than a gag or dare gift of scorpions in lollypops or chocolate covered ants, I had to order something from so far away.  
  • And finally, we were two graduate students living on our own trying to make financial ends meet.  My adjunct position at the time paid a criminally low amount and we had very little.  The cost of these edible insects along with shipping fees was a substantial amount of money for us and certainly must have added to Christina’s anger.  
 

But, I firmly believed in my approach to teaching, immersing them using all of their senses, and the importance of taking students outside of their comfort zone in order for them to really learn.  

I had been waiting on this arrival of edible insects to launch a new lesson I had been working on – one focused on modern issues of human diet and health and food security and sustainability within the context of ancestral diets.  I wanted to take my modern western 20-something year old students out of their comfort zone and have them experience what it would be like to consciously eat insects during this lesson – to get over the “yuck” factor – and then be able to discuss with at least some experience entomophagy in the diets of their ancestors and also their contemporaries in other parts of the world.  After all, how could I expect people who had never had any experience with eating insects to engage in a meaningful dialogue about it?  This was my motive and this was what I was trying to get across to Christina. 

 
Despite years of trying, insects still aren't Christina's favorite, but she tries them all and so do the kids!  Here they are in Thailand at Massimo's house tasting some (February 2018).

Despite years of trying, insects still aren't Christina's favorite, but she tries them all and so do the kids!  Here they are in Thailand at Massimo's house tasting some (February 2018).

 

And, eventually I accomplished both and, by doing so I learned a great deal about this approach to teaching and learning.  

Its all about creating context . . . 

and a place where students can safely be taken out of their comfort zone, 
and experience, 
and learn, 
and think about something that is not easy, not familiar.

This is where real learning takes place and this is where real innovation takes place.  We need both in order to address the real issues of human diet and health and sustainability.  And, it turns out, everyone really gets a lot out of eating insects!


Insects Become Woven into my Teaching

I served insects at the party after I defended my dissertation.  I organized student-led annual insect bake sales at Washington College for 10 years now and strived every year to create the correct the proper context for maximum results.  That context requires not only a safe place but also one that is informed and focused on the important aspects of insects as food… NOT a dare or FEAR FACTOR type situation.  

Apples & Bugs
Eating bugs with Billy
Students at the Bake Sale
 
Stuck under the steps for our Insect Bake Sale

Stuck under the steps for our Insect Bake Sale

And, is needs to be in the right setting so that it just simply “feels” right.  It took years, but after much persistence we finally accomplished it.  For years we were stuck beneath the steps leading up to the dining hall.  We could not get permission to serve insects in the dining hall for fear that doing so would compromise the commercial kitchen status of the college’s food facility.

Every year I would call the county’s board of health department and try to get permission and each year the best they could do was to tell me that as long as it was to a closed audience and there was not actually any money exchanged and that we were not in the college’s “real” cooking or dining facilities then I could do it.  This meant that I was not allowed to advertise to spread the important message of insects as food to a larger audience.  However, most problematic was the fact that I was not allowed to serve insects . . . food that has been in our diet for probably at least 7 million years . . . where the students actually ate.  This ruined the setting and sent the exact opposite message than I was trying to send. . . How was I supposed to have the students think of this as real food if everyone in authority was saying that they were not allowed to eat it where real food was prepared or served?  


A Breakthrough . . .


Finally, it happened and it was brilliant! 
 

A few years ago, when the director of the food safety inspector for our county realized that I was not going away and I was not going to stop searching for straight answers about insects as food and whether or not they can be prepared in commercial kitchens and served in licensed dining facilities.  And, it turns out that insects fall under the G.R.A.S. classification – this means Generally Recognized as Safe.  It actually is at the same level as salt and pepper and we could, in fact serve them in the dining hall! 

 

So, with an army of amazing students and staff at the college we built a makeshift “food truck” out of cardboard, created traditional Oaxacan tacos entirely from scratch, and served tacos in the dining hall.  

Cricket truck
 
 

To make the entire experience even more rewarding we invited Pat Crowley from Chapul Bars to interact and speak to the students.  Pat is the owner of Chapul, a company that makes protein bars from cricket flour (dried, roasted, and ground up crickets).  We set up a station on the side of the dining hall where students could create their own power bars from scratch on the spot and Pat, the very guy who does this for a living, was there to help them.  

 
Pat Crowley  from  Chapul Bars  making cricket flour protein balls

Pat Crowley from Chapul Bars making cricket flour protein balls

 
 

We even had one of our students, Kathy Thornton, dress up in a cow outfit and wear a sign that read, “Eat More Crickets.”  It was a great success and resulted in an even bigger event last year, Bugs: They’re What’s for Dinner where we actually took over one of the food stations in the dining hall for dinner and insect tacos were offered as a genuine option for dinner!  

Eat Mor Crickits
Cooking in the Cafe
Jarrod Goldin, co-founder of  Entomo Farms , cooks Cricket tacos with WAC Anthropology students

Jarrod Goldin, co-founder of Entomo Farms, cooks Cricket tacos with WAC Anthropology students

 

We organized a series of events that led up to this dinner that included a screening of two documentaries on entomophagy, Bugs: A Gastronomic Adventure with the Nordic Food Lab and Bugs on the Menu.  The highlight of the entomophagy series was a lecture by Jarrod Goldin, co-founder of Entomo Farms, a farm in Canada that organically produces insects for human consumption.  To promote the event I appeared on WBAL – the Baltimore News station where I prepared insect tacos live with Jennifer Franciotti.  

 
 

Bill Schindler, with Washington College, talks about insect food and Jennifer Franciotti takes a bite 

 

The Missing Link: Creating the Context

The importance of both insects as food as well as the message behind it is a powerful one and I wanted to learn more about how people really traditionally incorporate insects in their diets in other parts of the world.  I had read everything I could find written about entomophagy, viewed everything I could from the internet and even experimented on my own.  But, what I was lacking was the background…the context.  In order to make insects a real part of our diet again I needed to experience what is it like to actually have it be a part of the diet from people who actually consume insects still today.  I am tired of superficial patches we put on addressing food issues – we hide behind key phrases that are trending in the modern food world, but do not really make real progress to change anything.  Even though intentions are usually good, part of the problem is because we don’t fully comprehend the scope of what we are trying to do. Traditional societies still practicing traditional forms of food processing and consumption are incredibly rich sources of information in this regard. 

 

Insects are going to be a real part of the Eastern Shore Food Lab we are building and, as a result it has always been on the “bucket list” for the Food Evolutions project.  The question was…where to go…and where better to go than where it all started for me?  Thailand!!!!  I just needed to figure out where to go and what to do…  This was not an easy task and after months of trying to plan the research trip, I finally caught a break – and everything about it was unexpected!


Finally, a contact . . .

Bushmills

Christina and I walked past the peat fire slowly to absorb as much of the warmth as possible on this frigid and damp Northern Ireland winter night.  We had just entered the Bushmills Inn on an unexpected “date night” and quickly located a table in a dimly lit corner of their beautiful dining room.  The kids were exhausted from exploring Northern Ireland.  Just an hour earlier we checked into our AirBnB and, once they entered they didn’t want to leave.  Christina and I were ready to get a bite to eat and, since town was within walking distance, a much needed drink after our busy day. The kids, on the other hand, were in awe of the high water pressure in the shower and fast internet service – two “luxuries” we did not have back in our house in Dublin.  A dream evening to them, they explained, was a hot shower, catching up with their friends on social media, and doing a little research on our upcoming research trip to Thailand.  So, they urged us to have a date night and simply asked us to stop at the “chipper” on the way home for them to pick up fish & chips.  Christina and I quickly took them up on the offer.

 

The kids were safe and Christina and I were out on a date!  The only thing important enough to interrupt holding Christina’s hands across the table was when the waitress arrived with two glasses of Bushmills whisky.  We picked up the glasses, looked in each others eyes, toasted with a full-blown Irish, “Sláinte”, and, as we were bringing the glasses to our lips for our first taste of the whiskey my phone buzzed with a text from Billy that simply read,

“I just found your new best friend.” 

I quickly messaged him back informing him that his mother and I were enjoying a quiet, device free moment, but I also let him know that I was eager to learn what he found when we got back.  As soon as we walked in the door, Billy was so excited to show me what he had found - a restaurant in Bangkok called “Insects in the Backyard.”  The chef, Mai Thitiwat (who Billy thought would be my new best friend) had created a restaurant that showcased insects in dishes that were both inspiring in taste and presentation.  I immediately emailed the restaurant and explained what I was looking for in this research trip and asked if there was anyone there that could help me make the contacts I necessary to make it all happen.


The Plan

The next day I received an email from Regan who not only worked at the restaurant, but is also a member of the AFFIA (the Asian Food and Feed Insect Association).   She couldn’t help me directly, but was willing to put me in contact with someone that could, Nathan Preteseille, the coordinator the AFFIA.  As it turns out, Nathan and the AFFIA were willing and able to help – and help they did.  After numerous emails and Skype calls, Nathan and the AFFIA organized an agenda that satisfied all three components I was looking for in the research trip:

  1. Experience insect consumption at a fine dining establishment
  2. Experience insects as food at a local market in Bangkok
  3. Experience insect production, harvest, preparation and consumption at a traditional level with a traditional group

NOTE: The AFFIA set up all the contacts, a translator, meetings and reservations.  I cannot say enough about how professional they were in every aspect of the planning and execution of this trip.  It would not have been possible without them.


The Barter…

Our first full night in Bangkok we were scheduled to experience a meal at Insects in the Backyard, but, first, we had to go to the Unicorn Café!  I had made a deal a few weeks earlier with my 10-year old daughter, Alyssa that if she promised to try all of the insects while we were in Thailand we would take her the one place in Thailand she wanted to go – the Unicorn Café.  This café is fully focused on Unicorns – the décor the food and even the Onesies you can rent and wear at the table are themed, Unicorn!  Everything has rainbow swirls, glitter and usually has some sort of a “cone” representing a unicorn’s horn stuck in it.  She was in unicorn heaven and I had absolutely no problem making this deal because I knew it would be equally magical for her to experience traditional entomophagy with an open mind.

The rainbow feast
Unicorn Cafe

Insects in the Backyard

That evening, with the Unicorn Café under our belt, we got a real taste of what it is like to fuse modern cuisine with a Stone Age diet…through a meal focused on insects!!  We joined Nathan Preteseille, the coordinator of the AFFIA and an innovator in insect product development inside the Chang Chui Bangkok Plane Night Market for dinner at chef Mai Thitiwat’s restaurant, Insects in the Backyard, for an incredible meal filled with several different varieties of crickets, bamboo worms, silk worm pupae, ant and ant larvae!  Chef Mai did not attempt to “hide” the insects in the food, but instead found incredible ways to highlight their uniqe flavors and textures in delicious and beautiful dishes.  The insects were front and center of each and every meal, but in an artistic and well-planned and executed way.  It was obvious as we looked and and tried these dishes the amount of planning, executing and skill it took to create them. 

 Insects in the Backyard Night
Menu options
Risotto with friends

The entire meal was an amazing way to experience what it possible when you transform the nutrient dense food of our ancestors in ways that exceed the expectations of taste, texture, and presentation of the modern western palate!  And, Chef Mai’s approach is an extremely important one – it is not enough to just believe in the nutrient density of the food you are serving.  Biologically, that approach makes complete sense, however, culturally we have expectations and needs that require a calculated approach.  Chef Mai, through his work with insects, was able to create dishes that exceeded my expectations of flavor, texture and presentation.  I learned a ton, even through this experience of one multi-course meal, that I cannot wait to use in the Eastern Shore Food Lab when we launch!

 
Delicious dinner at Insects in the Backyard highlighting Entomophagy in Bangkok, Thailand! See the gourmet menu we enjoyed!
 
 

After expressing our gratitude and thanks to Chef Mai we took a few pictures and said goodnight.  The night ended with a walk through the Chatuchak Night Market – a complete sensory overload experience where the kids got their first taste of Dragon Breath Candy - a well deserved treat after the insect eating (see video)! We explored the market until fully exhausted and took a tuk tuk taxi back to the hotel.  Christina fell asleep on the couch and I crashed while the kids attended to their social media.  I had a hard time falling asleep because I was so excited for the two full days of entomophagy immersion that was about to take place!


A Food Market Like No Other & Bugsolutely

The next morning we woke early, or, at least early for us, and scrambled downstairs to throw down some of the hotel’s breakfast before the taxi arrived to take us on the next stop on our agenda.  The plan was to meet Massimo Reverberi and David Pattison of Bugsolutely for a tour of the Khlong Toei Market with a focus on the edible insects that were for sale and then to return to his house and the head office of Bugsolutely to sample his company’s Cricket Pasta and to talk about his approach to entomophagy.

 
Massimo, David & Bill
 

 

The tour through the market was incredible and Massimo did an excellent job of pointing out and explaining all of the aspects of the market that may seem strange to Westerners like us.  We passed the live chickens in the woven basket cages that were located adjacent to their butchered colleagues on cutting boards cut in half and displaying golden orange orbs - their unlaid eggs (a nutrient-dense delicacy) intact!  

 

We passed piles of skinned rats that were being sold as food and fish slithering across tables, jumping out of buckets and even trying to escape on the floor! We passed mesh bags full of live bull frogs that the vendors were happy to kill and clean for you on the spot.  We passed countless pigs and cows in various states of butchering and corresponding buckets full of all the offal – from hearts to intestines – all for sale for food.  Nothing went to waste.  

 

frogs
Bits
rats
 
 

The sights and odors and state of the floor were strange and sometimes off-putting to our Western senses.  But, there was something beautiful and visceral about the entire thing.  There was no question where the food was coming from and who grew/raised/harvested it.  There was a direct connection between the producer and consumer.  During each and every transaction – the producer and consumer saw one another, spoke to one another, and inadvertently touched hands when they passed payment of bags from seller to buyer.  You cannot put a price tag on that.  

 
 
Market

There were no hand washing stations, the ground was filthy and there was no refrigeration – to our Western standards this may seem like a dangerous place from which to obtain our food.  But, I would argue the exact opposite!  I believe, save for directly acquiring your own food, it may be one of the safest and healthiest food systems on the planet!  Nothing is hidden from the consumer.  Much of what they are buying is alive and killed in front of them.  There is no doubt about the freshness.  The producers get the chance to see their consumers and their families who they will be feeding with their food purchase and there is an inherent sense of responsibility that is not present in the anonymous and disconnected industrialized food system.

 

But, we were there to see the bugs!  After weaving through what seemed liked endless aisles of different foods we came to the section where insects were for sale.  There were four different types of crickets, grasshoppers, bamboo worms, silkworm pupae (they came from China and are a by-product of the silk industry), water beetles and mounds of weaver ant eggs.  We watched for awhile as people came and purchased insects and observed the interactions.  Even though I didn’t speak Thai it was obvious that the people purchasing the insects to take home to cook were not doing it for “survival” or because they couldn’t afford anything else.  In fact, many of them came to the insects stalls with bags overflowing with other food they had purchased at the market.  No, they were purchasing the insects for food because many of them grew up eating insects and it was a traditional food source for them complete with all of the memories associated with a food that is that ingrained in a culture.  I couldn’t wait for my family and me to experience what that sort of a tradition was really like.  I only had to wait one more day…

 

When we were finished Massimo brought us back to his home and Busgsolutely office where we sat down for a thorough discussion about his approach to providing his customer’s with nutrient dense insects.  His approach is different than Chef Mai’s.  Massimo believes that he can reach a lot more people, especially Westerners, more quickly and effectively by using cricket flour to enhance the nutritive properties of foods with which we are already comfortable.   Perhaps it is his Italian heritage, but Massimo accomplishes his goal be creating pasta made with cricket flour, essentially ground, dry roasted crickets. 

 
Bill & Massimo talking about the nutriental benefits of eating insects while the table is covered in edible insect food products from around the world.

Bill & Massimo talking about the nutriental benefits of eating insects while the table is covered in edible insect food products from around the world.

 

 

Massimo is not trying to hide the fact that there are crickets in the pasta.  The fact that he calls his company Bugsolutely and calls his product “Cricket Pasta” supports this.  However, he doesn’t believe in foods that stick the insects directly in your face either.  He is concerned that doing so elicits a “dare” type mentality where insects are seen as a pawn a game of dare instead of a nutrient dense and sustainable source of food.  He also believes that his product – pasta with a familiar taste and shape, albeit a slightly darker hue as a result of the cricket flour, is a much more accessible way to deliver good nutrition to his customer base. 

Enjoying the pasta
Schindlers with Massimo

 

He then brought a large pot of water to a boil and dumped in a couple boxes of his cricket pasta to cook.  A few minutes later my family and I sat down and enjoyed a delicious meal of cricket pasta with pesto with the Italian owner of Bugsolutely.  It was a great experience and another opportunity to experience a completely different approach to entomphagy – exactly what I was looking to do!


The Traditional Experience

In order to make the most of this incredible opportunity in Thailand, I wanted for me and my family to experience as many different aspects of entomophagy as possible during our stay!  To me this meant not only a fine dining experience focused on entomophagy, a tour of a city market filled with edible insects, and pasta made with cricket flour, but, also an immersive opportunity to experience every part of the “culture” surrounding the processes of traditional entomophagy that are typically hidden from interlopers like us.  I wanted us to participate in the harvesting, cooking and consumption of the insects with people that do it as a regular part of their lives.

That is exactly why we took a 40 minutes flight from Bangkok to Phitsanulok and stayed the night in the Factory 8 hostel.  In the morning we were greeted in the hotel lobby by Nikki Patspon who would serve as our translator for the day.  We jumped in the van and, after an hour long drive arrived at the Boonchoo Weaver Ant Egg Farm.  As we turned off the dirt road and headed up the lane that led to his house, the jungle around became dominated by mango trees.  And, all of the trees seemed to be connected by thin red pieces of twine that made geometric designs in the landscape.  I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at.

view
Meeting everyone

Boonchoo Kitsantria, the ant egg farmer quickly came out to welcome us.  He was a thin, sinewy man and was dressed in a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and tall rubber boots.  At the time it seemed strange to me that he was covered in so many clothes in the hot day, but his attire would soon make sense…to all of us.  His also donned an ear-to-ear smile, which suggested he was genuinely excited to have us.  We piled out of the van and, through the translator introduced ourselves to him.  

Wasting no time, he handed us all different bits of equipment ranging from a bottle of Hele’s Bluboy (a sweet red syrup), a bottle of M-150, a plate with bits of leftover cooked fish and rice, a long bamboo pole with a large bag on the end, and a large dish.  Laden with our supplies he ushered us into the mango grove and stopped at a pole with a plastic crate on top

into the woods
 

It was here that he, through our translator, began to explain how he came to be a full-time weaver ant egg farmer.  He used to be a mango farmer, but when he realized that the eggs of the weaver ants that inhabit the mango trees would be more productive for him to harvest and sell he made the switch.  Ant eggs have always been a traditional part of his and his fellow villager’s diets so the switch was not a drastic one.He then began to explain the farming and harvesting process to us.  These ants are called “weaver” ants because they weave intricate homes out of the leaves of the mango trees.  It is in their woven homes that they lay copious amounts of eggs this time of year.  In fact, the weaver ant egg harvest season is approximately two months.  His job is to ensure the ants are well feed so that they produce as many eggs as possible and then to harvest the eggs when the time is right.  

In between clumps of trees he has placed posts topped with plastic crates.  In these crates he places whatever leftover food they have from the previous night’s meal – it could be rice, or fish, or rat, or frog, or any combination.  The red lines I observed from the van extend from the mango trees to these posts topped with plastic crates and serve as easily maneuverable paths for the ants to collect the food in the crates and bring it back to the houses to feed the queen’s who are laying the eggs.  When we looked close we couldn’t believe the shear number of ants that were walking on the lines nor the size of the food they were carrying backs to their nests!  In many cases they were working together to transport large pieces of foods on these wires.  He then had all of us taking turns feeding the ants with the leftover cooked fish and rice we brought out. 

Ants on the line
 
The ant food

He then showed us bottles affixed to the sides of the posts which he filled with sugar-rich red liquid for the ants.   There were red lines that extended to these bottles as well.  Each bottle also contained a stick that extended out of the liquid and acted like a ladder for the ants to easily get down into the bottle and drink the liquid.  He had us mix up a sugary Hele’s Bluboy with M-150, an energy drink very similar to Red Bull – both of which originated in Thailand and we filled the bottles.  He explained that the M-150 was there to make the ants “extra active!”  Once we finished feeding the ants he handed me the large dish and he grabbed the long pole with the bag on the end and brought us deeper into the mango grove.

Explaining process

As we walked he pointed out the weaver ant nests in the trees to us.  We were early in the ant egg harvesting season so he was searching for one that looked ready and full of eggs.  Finally, he found one that looked appropriate and reached his log pole up into the tree and used the end of the stick to shake the ants and eggs out of the nest.  The idea was that they would all fall into the bag below – and, most of them did.  However, we quickly realized why he was dressed in the manner he was!  

The ants that missed the bag and fell onto the ground were extremely agitated by the disturbance and were looking for vengeance!  Weaver ants are known for an extremely painful bite and within seconds we were all getting attacked by them.  

It must have been a comical sight - Boonchoo was busy harvesting ant eggs from the mango tree with his pole and bag while a family of American’s in short pants and shore sleeved shirts were dancing around withering in pain trying to brush off the ants that were attacking us!  

Finally, he had a bag full of ants and eggs which he dumped into the large dishes and proceeded to “winnow” it using the breeze to cast the ants aside leaving only the smaller, denser eggs behind. 

Getting the eggs

The spread

The Meal!

When we were finished he brought us to his the patio behind his house where many members of the village were waiting for us to show us how to prepare the ant eggs traditionally.  The tables were covered with food and, all of it except for one of the fruits came from Boonchoo Weaver Ant Farm property!   They had all done an incredible amount of work preparing for our visit.  Bonchoo caught and cooked a snake head fish from his pond where he raises them.  There were vegetables, and fruits, and rice and leaves and a bowl full of weaver ant eggs waiting for us to learn how to transform into a meal.

The women from the village sprang into action and began to show us how to prepare ant egg omelets and ant egg salad.  The kids cracked the eggs, mixed the ingredients, and cooked the ant egg omelets while Christina and I helped to prepare and mix the ant egg salad, Yam Kai Mot Daeng.  

Cooking the ant omlette
Egg Omlette
Brianna Cooking

We all learned how to fold Betel leaves around the ant egg salad in a traditional manner to use as a both an edible utensil and bowl.  Once wrapped in the leaf the idea is to pop the entire morsel into your mouth at once.  The bitter flavors of the leaf explode in your mouth the same moment you begin to taste the flavors of the salad which, of course, includes the rich fatty flavors of the ant eggs.  It is well known around the world that bitter and fat work well together and probably accounts for the combination here as well.  It certainly works.   The textural difference between the tough leaf and the soft salad is equally as unique.  I can honestly say that eating this traditional food is more than just fulfilling a nutritional need, but rather an experience.  The omelets the kids prepared with the help of the villagers were equally as delicious and complex.  It was a thick omelet that contained copious amounts of ant eggs. 

Ant egg salad

 

In addition to these dishes there were roasted crickets for us to snack on and tons of fruit including mangoes and rose apples and bananas.  There was grilled snake head fish.  There was rice and spices and tons of vegetables.  And, for desert, there were steamed sticky rice cakes with bananas wrapped in banana leaves.  

Each and every component of every food we consumed was ripe, delicious, made by hand, steeped in tradition and was nutrient dense.  

Snakehead fish
Spread
 

 

With the exception of the bananas, each and every ingredient came from the ant farmer’s property.  This was a meal rich in tradition and was a meaningful, magical experience.

 

 

Next Stop - Cricket Farm!

After leaving the ant egg farmer we headed off to visit Miss Pat to see her cricket farm and had the opportunity to tour the farm and harvest crickets.  Her crickets take 45 days to grow to the point they can be harvested at which point she boils them for 10 minutes and sells them to a processing plant where they are vacuum packed and put into cold storage.  From there they are distributed where they can then be cooked in any numbers of ways which can include roasting and grinding to make flour such as that used by Massimo in his cricket pasta.

Collecting crickets
Scooping crickets
Group at the Cricket Farm

Insect “Take-Aways”

Christina excited

Our entomophagy experiences in Thailand were powerful and diverse – exactly what I was looking for.  It wasn’t about eating insects – I have been doing that for years.  I wanted to get to know more about the different approaches and the “cultures” surrounding all aspects of entomophagy.  And, I wanted to experience it not just through my eyes – the eyes of a 45-year-old Western man, but also an adult woman, a high school girl, a middle school boy and an elementary school girl.  Just like most other people involved in entomophagy I am looking to find ways to take this nutrient dense, sustainable food source that our ancestors have relied upon for millions of years acceptable and relevant to the Modern Western Diet.  Experiencing all of these different approaches with different members of my family is an excellent way to do this.

 

There were so many “take-aways” from these insect-eating experiences, but I will leave you an anecdote about how my 10-year old daughter Alyssa responded to the different insects eating experiences.  Even the Unicorn Café trip and the expertly prepared and beautifully plated dishes at Insects in the Backyard were not enough for her to try the dishes.  She did a little better with the cricket pasta with Massimo, but even then only ate one piece.  I held up my end of the bargain and was even willing to put on the unicorn onesie if she wanted me to, but she simply would not eat the bugs – it was too foreign and strange to her.  That is, until we were immersed in the context with people and traditions that use insects as a real component of their diet.  It was that experience with the ant egg farmer, his family, and the villagers harvesting and cooking beside them, that created an experience magical and meaningful enough to break down the barriers modern western lifestyles have created for Alyssa and she ate the ant egg omelet, she at the ant egg salad and she ate the crickets. 

Alyssa with the ants
Alyssa feeding the ants
Eating the leave with eggs

 

This shows me that there is no substitute for real, meaningful, honest interaction between people around food. The connections and context and understanding that these interactions can create between us and our food are exactly what is needed to create and maintain meaningful changes to our modern diets.

 

The Schindlers at the Ant Farm
 

It’s not just about the food!

It’s not just about the food!

How does Food On The Edge , wrestling and learning how to feed my family tie together with the Food Evolutions Project? Find out!

Airfield Estate Festival of Food: Cultured Butter Demonstration

Airfield Estate Festival of Food: Cultured Butter Demonstration

Using cultured butter to connect people with a traditional food processing technology in a meaningful and powerful manner along with Roundstone Bakery at Airfield's Festival of Food Event