It's easy to say insect. Marco Ceriani of Italbugs teaches us this

They can be breaded, fried, boiled, grilled, added to soups – as the ancient Roman legionaries used to do, adding beetles to their broths. They can be reduced to granola and used to bake vegetables or become muesli. They are taken in the form of food supplements, as a main course or as a "side dish" of various dishes. Their flours are used for revolutionary confectionery preparations inspired by tradition. Like the Panseta, the Christmas cake made from silkworm flour, patented by Marco Ceriani, journalist and writer expert in wellness and sports nutrition.

Eating is a cultural act, and a fundamental part of our life system. When social customs, nutritional needs and product availability change, it is inevitable that the diet will change accordingly. Food tradition is therefore a continuous and necessary evolution.

Will Europeans be able to change their disgust into taste?

Since 1 January 2018, the EU Regulation on novel foods has become operational at EU level, but individual countries maintain national legislative control procedures and it is not always easy to find the right balance between the obvious progress of food science, regulatory frameworks and business dynamics.
Research is well underway in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, England and Switzerland. For some years now you can buy burgers and meatballs from the supermarket, or enjoy an entire menu based on insects in avant-garde restaurants that provide guests with interactive teaching materials for greater awareness of entomophagy.

Marco Food Hero Ceriani's Quest

Marco Ceriani is the founder of Italbugs, a startup that deals with the research and development of safe, eco-sustainable and hypoallergenic food matrices for novel food, such as insect matrices, the ingredient that is soon to appear on our tables. Italbugs, in collaboration with PTP – the Technological Park of the Po Valley in Lodi, is studying the effects of the introduction of new foods in the human and animal diet. It also produces flours, functional foods and supplements made from insects. In February 2016 Italbugs was officially included among the European companies operating in the field of edible insects, it became an associate member of IPIFF - the international insect platform for food and feed - and it registered its headquarters in Wageningen, in the Netherlands, thus becoming a full member of the pioneering realities that deal with novel food science.
Marco Ceriani has been in the sector for about twenty years; his research does not only concern insects, but the entire range of novel foods, if, though arthropods seem to be the best compromise between environmental sustainability and nutritional optimum. "Jellyfish and plankton farms need too much water, while 10 kg of feed produces 9 kg of insect protein” he states.

After having widely explored crickets and scorpions - particularly appreciated by agonists for their energizing properties and for the virile symbolism associated with the animal - at the moment Marco looks with interest at the world of silkworms, which offer a range of healthy and nutritious proteins for sporting practices: B vitamins, mineral salts, essential amino acids and zero lactose.

The Silkworm cake

The Panseta, or the silkworm Christmas cake, is only the tip of the iceberg of a larger study project on silkworm breeding. Last April, Marco attended the inauguration of the Silk Urban Farm in Bologna, the first Italian thematic farm on silkworms, a didactic and museum centre that operates as a research centre for the development of flours and derivatives of silkworm processing, with a special focus on food innovation, biomedical and cosmetics.
The silkworm is the perfect example of a model of a circular and sustainable economy: the animal feeds on mulberry leaves, native tree species, proliferates on the local territory in perfect balance with the food chain and is collected at zero kilometre, directly from the tree. Not eating it is a blunt anachronistic form of culinary resistance. During the vernissage Marco also talked about this, and presented his latest book, “Né ossa, né lische - Guida alle nuove proteine che fanno discutere l’Europa” (Neither bone, nor fishbone - Guide to new proteins being discussed in Europe), another chapter on the investigation of novel food. In his last editorial effort, the author asks himself further questions - and offers as many answers - on the entomophile’s drift of food supply.

The caterpillar and the butterfly

Where some see only a larva, others see a universe of possibilities in the making. Not only for matters of ordinary livelihood, but also as a new artifice for the food & beverage, always hungry for novelty. According to FAO, there are more than 1,900 species of edible insects in the world, already consumed in 90 countries by 2 billion people; so far, only 10 have been fully recognised and authorised in Europe. But with the demand for protein growing on a global scale, it will probably be necessary to speed up the process.

"The problem is to understand what tradition is and how to help it evolve. Tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines have taken centuries to be eaten as food and no longer considered waste. The insect would have no problem if it weren't for the aesthetic question, which inevitably affects the perceived taste of the ingredient. For this reason, as for other foods, cooking methods must be respected. Technically, an insect is like a shrimp or a lobster: an arthropod without an external exoskeleton."

Marco says that his first close encounter with entomo-gastronomy was in 2009 in Thailand, where he was president and official nutritionist of the Italian Olympian Committee of Muay Thai. To prepare for the fighting, the local athletes added insects, especially crickets, to their soups. Marco did the same with his team, and monitored their performance to verify the impact of entomological protein on the diet of the athlete.
The results of his analyses of body assessment and general health of athletes showed that insects are a privileged source of clean protein and a precious concentrate of essential elements, and the anabolic properties of their meat do not affect the high digestibility of the product, tasty to the palate and light for the intestine. Marco also writes about it in his 2013 book “Si fa presto a dire insetto. Storia del cibo del futuro. Sulle nostre tavole qualcosa di nuovo seppur antico” (It's easy to say insect. History of the food of the future. On our tables something new, and yet old), where he explores in detail the nutritional role of insects and the new food scenario that is emerging.

Lessons of the future from our past

Insects have historically been a cheap source of protein, a healthy, humane and environmentally friendly food, and they should become one again in the future.
In early 20th century Italy, the mondine, or rice cleaners, of the Po Valley returning from the fields prepared rice soups and tasty dragonfly fries. With the introduction of frogs into the rice paddies, the crop was supplemented by the proteins of the amphibian and the insect that fed it, and the local population soon recognised the advantages of a new food at no cost and with no mileage. The mondine have been the first pioneering attempt to introduce insects into the animal diet, which proceeds step by step from the principles of biodynamic cultivation, or rather the sharing of the same ecosystem.
Insect meal has become the basis of various veterinary nutrition products and appears to have the advantage of making farmed meat with more protein and less fat. The anabolic effects of the entomophile protein are measurable on humans and animals, and more importantly it seems that the consumption of insects has no contraindications for human health; on the contrary, eating animals not belonging to our own order of mammals reduces the risk of introducing into the body viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
All roads seem to lead right there, where there are "no bones and no fish bones", but rather algae, plankton, jellyfish, mold, wild herbs, rare spices, insects. There are only a couple of obstacles left to overcome in order to gain the goal, and to do so, top-down and bottom-up actions are needed.

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