Sophisticated and whimsical, elegant and messy

We a proud to offer the following guest post, by Sioned Cox, on the November insect and wine pairing at Trinity College, Cambridge. Photos are also by Sioned.

Wasp larvae blinis platter

On a wintery Monday evening in November, I attended one of the most fun events of my Cambridge experience so far.  It was a wine tasting evening with a twist: edible insects!  This time last year, I’m not sure I’d ever intentionally eaten an insect before.  These days, it’s becoming quite routine!

Grasshopper skewers platter

It all started when I applied to be a research assistant for my now supervisor and insect supplier to the event.  We travelled together to Burkina Faso to study the highly popular caterpillar consumption in the region.  It’s been birthday termites and insect pizza nights ever since!  This event, with its opportunity to watch fifty eager students share in my newfound entomophagy, was therefore quite a treat!

Silkworm sourdoughs platter

The evening consisted of three rounds of insect appetisers, each paired with two different wines.  The first round was wasp larvae blinis paired with the dry white ‘Aphros Vinho Verde Branco Loureiro 2016’ and the crisp ‘Arndorfer Grüner Veltiner Die Leidenschaft 2014’.  This course seemed to be a gentle start for the majority, although I got into some trouble with my peers for the comment that the wasp blinis, with their larvae from different stages of the life cycle, was like ‘eating a family’.

A ‘family’ of wasp larvae

Next was the most popular round:  grasshopper tsukudani skewers paired with ‘Clos Lapeyre Jurançon Sec 2016’ and ‘Weingut Karl Schnabel Morillon 2014’.  Originally immaculately presented, the aftermath of pulling the legs from the grasshoppers left a somewhat grim sight but most people agreed that these were the tastiest insects of the evening.  The second wine was chosen as their best accompaniment.

A grasshopper skewer
A grasshopper skewer with the winning wine

The final round was the most entertaining by far.  Silkworm, it seems, are the most divisive of insects.  For a handful of people in the room, the silkworm paired with the reds ‘Chateau du Cedre, ‘Camille’ Malbec 2016’ and ‘Strohmeier Trauben, Liebe & Zeit (TLZ) Rot No. 6’ was divine.  For the rest of us, silkworm was the most unbearable experience!  The overpowering, pungent taste lead someone to comment that it reminded them of mould in their grandmother’s house!  A comment I was surprised to find myself having no trouble empathising with!  Despite the somatic displeasure, it was exciting to be experiencing such an unfamiliar taste!

The ‘divisive’ insects up close

Overall, it was an exceptional evening, full of contrasts!  Sophisticated and whimsical, elegant and messy!  For me, the highlight was sampling ‘natural wine’ for the first time.  (See: http://www.anthroenology.org/natural-wine/ for an explanation of natural wine).  All the wine served was produced organically and by environmentally friendly methods.  My favourite, the Franz Strohmeier’s Rot No. 6, had a dreamy, cloudy appearance and notes of red berries.  It was a wonderful night of entertainment and intrigue!  I thoroughly enjoyed my exposure to such novel tastes and learning more about sustainability.

Grasshopper skewer ‘aftermath’