12 December 2015

12 December: Bon appetit, insects for Christmas

Christmas cuisine

Today's researcher is Jonas Astrup Pedersen, who researches – deliciousness. Here, he presents his take on insects as future Christmas fare. Pedersen is a researcher and product development manager at Nordic Food Lab based at the Department of Food Science (FOOD).

In the pursuit of deliciousness, Jonas Astrup Pedersen and colleagues are just about to wrap up a large insect project in which they are attempting to discover a gastronomic argument for dining on insects.

"It's naive to think that one can save the world if we all ate insects. One needs to understand the cultural contexts in which insects are eaten. Roughly 2 billion people eat insects as a part of their daily diet, so its somewhat laughable that we can peel a shrimp, but grimace at being served a grasshopper or larva. If we want to get more people to eat insects, making them taste good is the place to start. Among other things, we have whipped up some umami rich and strong sauces from insects that can be used for cooking."

Crunchy insects on the Christmas table

Many enjoy crispy crackling atop a juicy Christmas pork roast. But if you ask Jonas Astrup Pedersen if insects will make their way onto the table at Christmas,  he answers with scepticism:

"I highly doubt it. One needs to be careful not to force these ingredients into people’s kitchens and mouths. We can hope that we here at the Nordic Food Lab are successful at convincing people that there is actually taste locked up in insects, but I deeply doubt that inspects will ever find their way among the Christmas spread.”

Deliciousness as guiding light

Jonas Astrup Pedersen works at the Nordic Food Lab, an independent group based at the Department of Food Science. The team brings a variety of disciplines together and is consumed by the concept of ‘deliciousness’.

 “We try to grasp deliciousness using a range of parameters, and maybe first and foremost, from the geography and cultural landscape that surrounds us. In other words, we are interested in understanding how deliciousness is connected with biodiversity in local food systems at local, regional and global levels.”

New hands are constantly coming aboard, and besides Jonas Astrup Pedersen, the team now consists of members from England, Canada, Indonesia and Colombia:

“They come with a project that they think might be interesting to work on, one that accords with the Nordic Food Lab’s visions. But the theme of deliciousness runs throughout, I guess it’s a bit like our guiding light.”