After a process that included some sole-searching (Me: ‘What was that I just stepped on?’ Charlotte: ‘Was it an insect? Is it edible? Let me see! LET ME SEE!!!’), wine being drunk in the name of research, and the pondering of the calendrical cycle (‘Crap, it is late November already?! How did that happen?’), we have come to a conclusion. That is, it will be best to run our event with the Cambridge Science Centre in January, rather than early December, as previously envisioned.
In addition, we’ve also decided that the best way forward at this stage is to commit to running the event as a virtual tasting. This means you’ll be able to join Charlotte and me from the (dis)comfort of your own home or other exotic location.
We haven’t been able to set an exact date yet as to when the event will take place, but expect it to be in the second half of the month. We will keep you updated with dates, meeting platform and other information you’ll need to know – such as cost, how to obtain your Virtual Insects & Wine tasting kit, recommendations for appropriate festive outfits, and so forth.
We have news. Whether it is good news or bad depends on your view on edible insects and sustainability. We like to think it is good news, but that really depends on who is reading this. I’d presume you are a fan of edible insects, but these are strange times, and perhaps it is best not to assume too much.
At any rate, as the headline says, we are back. Almost. Sort of. More exactly, there are plans afoot to do an Insects & Wine evening with the Cambridge Science Centre. These were the folk who were going to host our tasting back in March, as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.
As of now, the date has been tentatively set for 11 December. That’s not written in stone, but seems most likely.
What, you may be thinking, if the lockdown is extended? How will we get our tasty insects and delicious wine? No worries. The team is working tirelessly to make sure a virtual event can be held if that’s the best option.
Recipes are being tested and wines are being drunk all in the name of bringing you the best possible experience.
Yes, we are still here. It’s been a long silence on our part, but hopefully you’ll excuse and understand that once you continue reading.
Since our last event, at Darwin College in the spring, the team has been busy. The majority of the team earned degrees of some sort or another. A majority (the same majority, as it happens) have then started new jobs or new degrees. Half the team moved, and had various other life events that are usually considered significant.
In other words, we’ve been busy. And behind the scenes, Insects & Wine has also been busy, trying out new recipes, visiting an insect farm over the summer, and, well, dealing with life. However, there are multiple things on the horizon for the first few months of the coming year. Here’s some of them, in no particular order:
On Monday 20th May, we were warmly invited by Darwin College kitchens to host our sixth Insects & Wine to date. We received glowing feedback from the winers-and-diners in attendance, and the College chefs were very amused at the gastronomic delights we were offering!
Darwin College have been very active in promoting more sustainable ways of eating amongst its student body – including offering insect-based snacks in their canteen, and listing the vegetarian and vegan options ahead of meat on their daily menus. The setting was beautifully laid out, and we were spoilt with the kitchen facilities we had on hand (including the loan of some rather flattering aprons!)
We repeated the selection of insect-based canapés that had been so well-received at the Cambridge Science Festival back in March. This included grasshopper ‘sushi’ from Tsukahara Chinmi in Japan, ‘critter pittas’ using Eat Grub’s peri-peri crickets, and nachos loaded with Mexican grasshoppers (or ‘chapulines’) from Merci Mercado in Mexico. We also offered a bonus ‘dessert’ course of insect macarons, from the French supplier Minus Farm. Both Merci Mercado and Minus Farm are certified by EntoTrust, which assesses product quality, food safety, environmental sustainability and ethical employment practices. The Eat Grub crickets came from Entomo Farms which is in the process of becoming an EntoTrust certified producer. These dishes were designed to emulate the flavours popular in the insects’ respective countries of origin.
We switched up the wines we served this time: our guests loved the two Austrian wines (Eschenhof Holzer Invader and Eschenhof Holzer Wagram Grüner Veltliner) served with the first course; the red (Franz Weninger “vom Kalk”) served with the second course was a little divisive; and the Portuguese red (Opta Dão Red) served with the final course went down a treat. Our guests loved learning from Chris about the intricacies of the different (low-intervention) wine-making methods, including what distinguishes orange wine from its red and white counterparts, and even how phases of the moon influence the production of some biodynamic wines.
The event saw first-time insectivores, well-seasoned wine-tasters, and professional chefs come together, united by their interest to learn about and taste the diversity of insects and wines on offer. Our guests were open-minded and engaged, asking pertinent questions, and providing valuable feedback that we will use to make future events even more enjoyable.
We extend our thanks to our guests, and our generous hosts at Darwin, and hope you all had a wonderful evening!
In support of our upcoming event as part of the Cambridge Science Festival we recently did a spot on a local radio station, Cambridge 105. It’s now available as a podcast on the web, and you can listen (mostly to Charlotte) here. Stay tuned for more!
We’ve been busy behind the scenes of late. One of the things we’ve been busy with has been talking to various people from the media. In doing so, it occurred to me (Chris) that we never explicitly explained the origin of this site and project, or its goals. So, here they are:
Insects and Wine is a collaboration between Charlotte Payne (Insects, Dept. of Zoology, University of Cambridge) and Chris Kaplonski (wine, Anthroenology). Charlotte and Chris met at a conference on sustainability and food, and realised that what the world was missing was a chance to bring two of its greatest luxuries, insects and wine, together for people. They promptly stepped up to fill the void.
Apart from a love of delicious
insects and good wine, both Charlotte and Chris have a keen interest in issues
of sustainability in the realm of food and drink. Ultimately, that’s the point
of Insects & Wine, and the tastings they run: not only to get people to try
and hopefully enjoy a new food, but to think about issues of sustainability.
What do we mean when we say a food is ‘sustainable’? What do we need to do to
encourage people to eat and drink more sustainably?
I&W aims where possible
not just to introduce people to insects as food, but also to
sustainably-produced wines. This can often include exposing people to types of
wines (low-intervention, orange) that they may not have tried before. These may
well taste unlike the wines they are used to. And that’s another goal of the
collaboration: not only to introduce people to new ways of eating and drinking,
but to think about how sustainability is linked to the sensory aspects of food
and drink. Sustainable wines can taste ‘funky’ (and yes, that’s the word used)
and insects can have a ‘yuck’ factor for many people. So, how do we address and
overcome these stumbling points on the way to eating and drinking more
Our approach is to guide
people through the stories behind the food and drink. Many sustainable wines
are produced using traditional, artisanal methods, and the production of new
wine is a celebrated event. Similarly, many insects are collected and prepared
by people who look forward to the harvest season and are proud of the
deliciousness of their traditional cuisine. Understanding these stories can
help us to challenge and break down our own prejudices, and in doing so,
appreciate the flavours of both insects and wine.
At our events, we hope to
get you to think more broadly about what you eat and drink, and to have a good
time while doing so.
If you are interested in
having us holding a tasting for you, contact us at info [at] insectsandwine.com