Dr. Gina Louise Hunter doesn’t see “creepy-crawlies” when she looks at insects. She sees potential.
Hunter, an associate professor of anthropology at Illinois State University, is the author of the new book Edible Insects: A Global History (Reaktion Books). The work not only delves into the historical role of insects as human food, but their contribution to sustainable future food systems.
“An estimated 2 billion people worldwide regularly consume insects. They are considered a culinary staple across many cultures,” said Hunter. “Why we in the West don’t generally eat insects is a bit of a mystery, but many ‘ento-prenuers’ see insect-based foods as an exciting new market.
Edible Insects highlights stories of traditional methods of insect collection, preparation, consumption, and preservation. It also explores the role of world-class chefs in making insects palatable to consumers in the West. The book includes recipes for beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, grubs, and more.
While insect foods may play a role in alleviating global food shortages and mitigating the exploitation of natural resources, Hunter does not think that we all need to bite into bugs, “If you are concerned about the environment, eat plants.”
Hunter serves as the director of the Office of Student Research at Illinois State University. Her current research focuses on foodways and food systems. She is co-director of the Food Studies Minor and is affiliated with the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program. Her regional specialty is Brazil, where she conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar. Along with her research, Hunter has served as a consultant for the McLean County Museum of History.