Tell us who you are and what you do
I was tired of the life I had as a programmer in Amsterdam and I decided to leave everything to go to Lisbon on foot across Spain and Portugal, along the road to Santiago de Compostela and Fatima.
I lived in the portuguese capital for some time, working as a freelance (some would say digital nomad) to live.
You’ve recently completed an epic solo-cycling journey. How did you get the idea?
In Lisbon I had basically returned to my previous life: many hours at the computer, routine, stagnation, frustration.
But a bug came to change things: a program I was working on continued to have problems and did not work, neither after three weeks of big efforts.
In a “moment of fury” I punched the laptop and I said “That’s enough! Now I want to go to Singapore by bicycle”. In the following days the project took shape and I divided it into parts: Lisbon-Istanbul, Istanbul-Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar-Singapore.
You have gone through many culinary cultures during your trip, did you ever come across a recipe that contained insects?
During my journey from Lisbon to Istanbul I tried three recipes of each of the 14 countries I’ve crossed, concentrating primarily on traditional ones.
I am a big fan of grandmothers’ poor-cooking of the wartime, because I think that’s the antidote to the cooking fashion trends of the ’80.
Eating first of all means sustenance; well-being growth after the Second World War has made us forget that only 2-3 generations ago, when there was nothing to eat, people cooked everything edible (cats, rats, snakes, flour mixed with sawdust, etc.).
Unfortunately I have not tried any european recipe with insects (mainly roots, animal fat and meat), but I do know that the ancient Greeks and Romans ate them regularly, mostly crickets and grasshoppers.
Before starting my trip I documented on ancient Mediterranean food and I discovered that the Romans fed the Cossus Cossus larvae with wine and flour to make them more palatable.
Highly recommended the book “Insects as Human Food: A Chapter of the Ecology of Man” – Bodenheimer.
Have you ever tried edible insects in other occasions?
Not yet, except a larva of Hypopta Agavis found at the bottom of a Mezcal bottle.
During my journey between Lisbon and Istanbul, in a nudist camp near Leucate in France, I found a package of fried larvae and I was really curious to try them; unfortunately, the exorbitant cost has stopped me: burn three days of budget to try something new is unthinkable during an adventure so… à la prochaine!
What’s your reaction to the idea to eat them?
I’m an ex-entomophobic and I learned by himself to get closer to insects and consider their presence as something normal, although sometimes I still feel a little uncomfortable and I realize that I’ve much more to learn: in Albania I was hosted by a family of farmers and when the father noticed a scolopendra (Dalmatica, I suppose) on the floor, he killed it squashing it nonchalantly, without shoes.
I am very curious and I like to try foods that I don’t know, so I would surely try well-cooked insects…if you need a volunteer, here I am!
Do you think entomophagy will have a future in the West?
The reasons why we do not eat insects are mainly two: first of all, we are not in contact with insects as people living in a tropical ecosystem because here it’s colder, winter is long and the europeans do not meet a lot of insects so they are far from considering them a reliable source of food; always because of the climate, our houses are closed with doors and windows, and we cannot live in contact with nature as it happens in the warmer regions of the world.
Then there is a strong cultural barrier, we are not used to insects or to live in symbiosis with them, so we see them as pests or a source of diseases; I believe that the introduction of the Christian religion in Europe has encouraged this distance from all that is in close contact with the earth.
Fortunately, however, human beings get used to the ecosystem they live in and they feed accordingly.
If even a carnivore like Arnold Schwarzenegger publicly recommended to reduce meat consumption and to prefer alternative protein sources, it means that we are going in the right direction, toward a more sustainable being-omnivorous. The secret to make insects appealing to westerners perhaps is to eliminate all the factors that trigger disgust (antennae, legs, heads, exoskeletons) and transform what remains in ingredients people looking at them can’t relate to insects.
Your next project?
After 1.600km on foot and 12.300 by bike is time to learn to ride a motorcycle and be on the road again! The best way to stay updated on my next adventure is to follow me on instagram and on my website.