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Pestaurant tries to prove how tasty insects can be

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Stop squashing, start noshing

"Where's the beef?" may become more than just a funny saying thanks to a new restaurant that's switching out the meat in their burgers for a less-traditional type of protein: bugs.

The — aptly named — Pestaurant popped up in Washington D.C. to give the brave a taste of grasshopper burgers, roasted crickets, scorpions, Mexican spice mealworms and ant lollipops, among other goodies. Everyone else got a good show as people first tentatively and then enthusiastically chowed down.

Eaters compared the taste of the bugs to mushrooms, sunflower seeds and even baked potato chips, but the real stars were the burgers. Chef Rodney Scruggs of the D.C. eatery Occidental concocted a recipe that used ground grasshoppers bound together with duck fat for the "meat" patty and, according to all accounts, it was moist and delicious, just like you'd expect a gourmet burger to be.

The Pestaurant is a traveling restaurant that does exhibitions around the world to show people how edible and delicious bugs can be — ironically (or not).

The idea started with the pest control company Ehrlich. "But we're not recycling insects that were captured in people's homes," Ehrlich's C.E.O. John Myers insists. (Although, I wouldn't complain if he did, honestly! If he needs more ants for those lollipops, I know where he can find a few thousand.)

But, this is more than just a publicity stunt. In addition to donating the proceeds to local food banks, the Pestaurant aims to show the viability of using bugs as a worldwide food source. And even the U.S. government is getting on board.

In an interview with NPR's The Salt, Sonny Ramaswamy, the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says he was pleased to see so many people at the Pestaurant. He points out that insects are nutritious, more efficient and better for the environment than other protein sources.

"Edible insects are going to be part of the tool kit for us to achieve global food security," he says. "Unfortunately, in Western countries we will need to overcome the 'yuck' factor, and events like Pestaurant will go a long ways to help people overcome the same."

If Ehrlich and others can shift the public perception from squashing to noshing this is definitely a good — and entertaining! — first step.

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