When someone says bugs are the food of the future, you might envision a future in which we are all the cockroach-eating plebes in the back of the Snowpiercer train. Here's hoping it doesn't come to that, especially if food scientists are right about the ways in which insects like mealworms can be a sustainable, possibly delicious way to remake old faves. They might even start with that global phenom, the IKEA meatball.
"Our latest take on the IKEA meatball, the Neatball, is designed to get people thinking about reducing their meat consumption, using local produce and trying alternative proteins," the Danish "future-living lab" Space10 wrote in a Medium post last week about some concepts that are still in the test kitchen phase.
The lab has actually been working on what it calls "Tomorrow's Meatball" for years, developing sustainable alternatives to feed the world as our population continues to grow and climate change reduces traditional crop yields. As any vegetarian will tell you, producing beef takes up a lot of land and energy, and those cows' methane emissions account for 39 percent of the earth's greenhouse gas. To that end, its chefs have been working on ways to use local produce, lab-grown meat, algae, nuts, and, yeah, bugs.
Space10 actually presented a few new possible additions to the IKEA cafeteria menu, including a meatless hot dog served on a bright-green spirulina bun and a completely vegetarian meatball made of beets, carrots, and parsnips. The Scandinavian furniture giant has had decent success with vegetarian options in the past, so those make sense. But will people accept bug burgers and Neatballs that include ground mealworms? Well, we have come to accept that we have to build our own furniture, so maybe.
I have yet to try anything made of mealworms, but I did taste some products made from cricket flour that were pretty good. According to other reports on mealworms, the larvae of the darkling beetle, they can be quite tasty: flash-fried mealworms at the Boston Chinese eatery Mei Mei Kitchen taste "like pork rinds coated in Doritos cheese spice," according to one Boston Magazine writer.
"They are slightly nutty in taste," Katharina Unger, the founder of DIY mealworm kit company LIVIN Farms, told CNN. "A lot of people say it taste like peanuts or like pumpkin seeds when you roast them."
Most important for those of us raised in a non-bug-eating culture, ground mealworms aren't slimy or crunchy, making the concept just a little easier to swallow.