Zucchini Relleno with Lentils (Vegan)

Calabacines rellenos con lentejas

There I was minding my own quiet business waiting for my delicious burrito-to-go from Humberto’s, when lo-and-behold I spied to my right a little Spanish-language classified news rag that had “RECETAS! p. 38” in bold on the side. And I was like, RECETAS! OMG! There’s nothing I love more than recetas, because if it’s a recipe, and it’s in San Diego, and it’s in Spanish, there’s a 90% certainty it will be fantastic. Even if it was sponsored by Nestle. Which it was.

And that being the case, and deliciousness of the recipe aside, I question whether the person who wrote it out ever actually made it, because a lot of the directions were totally wonky. If I had naively followed them, the outcome would have been disastrous. Fortunately, I *slightly* knew what I was doing, and I feel confident that you can trust this version, although I have included a few notes throughout. But don’t worry. Even if you’re not an adventurous cook (and there’s nothing wrong with that – life is too short for bad food), you can’t go wrong with this one.

For the record, I’ve made no explicitly vegetarian/vegan modifications to this recipe, as its original purpose was to serve the Spanish-speaking community with vegetarian recipes for options during Lent. The modifications I’ve made were strictly of the “it is better to make it this way” variety.

Zucchini Stuffed with Lentils

  • 6 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, stems cut off, scooped of pulp & seeds
  • 3 – 4 tbsp vegetable oil (divided use)
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 – 2 serrano peppers, de-seeded and minced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils
  • 10 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp Maggi seasoning sauce (you can find it near steak sauces or in the Mexican food isle or at Mexican food markets; if you can’t find it, soy sauce would work – though Maggi has this strange aromatic-ness that is better)
  • Diced cilantro for garnish, to taste
  • Dry loose cotija for garnish, if desired (of course this will render it no longer vegan)

Slice and de-seed/de-pulp 6 zucchini in preparation. I recommend a spoon for the de-pulping. Additionally, please note that each halved zucchini is about 1 side serving, and once they are cooked they don’t keep well. Hence, if you are cooking for a small bunch I would recommend only preparing the number of zucchini halves you expect to eat. For instance, J and I would only prepare 2 zucchinis, for a total of 4 halves. We’d save the remaining lentil mixture and prepare the zucchinis on an as-needed basis. Does that make sense? Am I over-complicating things? I can do that sometimes. Anyhoo, back to the recipe.

Follow the instructions on the package to cook the lentils (usually ~ 20 minutes/2 cups lentils). If you bought bulk lentils, here’s a quick explanation of how to prepare them.

For the mixture:

Heat 1 tbsp of the veg oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Add the cooked lentils, tomato sauce and Maggi sauce and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes, until everything is hot. Remove from heat. Fill the zucchini halves uniformly with the lentil mixture. Now, you have two final options:

If you want to cook the stuffed zucchini stovetop:

Add the remaining 2 – 3 tbsp of oil to the original pan and heat on medium-low. Place the zucchini in the pan and heat for about 10 minutes or until tender.

If you want to bake the stuffed zucchini in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the stuffed zucchini on a baking sheet or in an iron skillet for about 10 minutes, or until tender. This option is healthier as it requires no oil, but it may result in dryer zucchinis.

Serve immediately with salsa,* cilantro and optional cotija as a garnish. When removing the zucchinis from the pan to serve, use a spatula to avoid a crumpled zucchini fiasco.

A NOTE ABOUT THIS RECIPE: I really liked my first attempt at this but felt there were many improvements that could be made. I will continue to experiment with it and promise to provide updates in the future. Please check back!

*If you’re in San Diego in the greater park area, head over to JayCee’s on 25th & C – they have this excellent fresh homemade salsa in the back of the store in the refrigerated section near the meat counter by the Oaxacan queso. We like the hot version, but all of the varieties are excellent.

Mushroom Quesadillas (Vegetarian)

Hongos y queso, que guay

Mushroom quesadillas topped with salsa, tomato and guacamole

Oh, I stole this from Rick Bayless, Mexican food chef extraordinaire. Though I suppose I didn’t really steal it, since I paid for his book and all. And I haven’t changed anything about it, so perhaps this is plagiaraism, but … well, I’m here to just help you find good vegetarian recipes that you can trust, so I don’t worry about semantics like that. Rick Bayless, please don’t hate me for sharing:

  • 1 lb mushrooms (preferably button, baby bella, shitaake or some flavorful variety – though white will also do), sliced in ~ 1/4 inch slices
  • Smallish corn tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • 2 – 3 serrano peppers, de-seeded and minced
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese

So, get all the ingredients to the state they’re supposed to be. In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp oil on medium heat and add the mushrooms and pepper. Toss in oil and cook lightly for a minute or so. Cover and cook for 4 -5 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the mushrooms let out a lot of juice. Once they’ve juiced, remove cover and continue to simmer briskly until most of the juice has evaporated, another 2 minutes or so. Add the salt and cilantro at this stage, continuing to stir and cook until the cilantro is wilted, and tasting to determine appropriate amounts.

When you’re satisfied with the mushrooms, remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat your oven on the lowest possible setting with a casserole dish or baking sheet inside – when quesadillas are done, you can place them inside to keep them warm while you are waiting to cook them all before serving.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet on medium-high. With a basting brush or something to that effect, cover one side of a tortilla with olive oil. Place the tortilla, oil side down, in the middle of the pan. Sprinkle a small amount of grated cheese on the tortilla, leaving approximately 1/2 inch border. Spoon about 1 – 2 tsp mushroom mix into the middle of the tortilla and cook until cheese is melted. Fold tortilla over and cook on each side, flipping over every minute or so until crispy on both sides.

When each quesadilla is done, scoop it out with a spatula and move to the heated dish or baking sheet in the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

Serve with salsa and guacamole and/or whatever you like.

Cooking Mushrooms

First of all, you should be aware that I am no mushroom expert. Everything I know about cooking mushrooms I have learned in pursuit of trying not to be such a miserable failure at cooking mushrooms. The fact is, for years I was totally incapable of ever doing anything with mushrooms except destroying them. And then one day I thought to myself, “I love mushrooms so much, it’s tragic that I couldn’t cook a single mushroom well, even if my life depended on it. I wonder if I can find any information online on how to cook mushrooms …” And then of course I immediately found tons of information and I realized I had been a fool to spend so much time ruining mushrooms when there was a huge body of wisdom on the subject right at my fingertips the whole time. In sum, I read some articles and now I’m much better at cooking mushrooms. Contrary to what I previously believed, it’s not rocket science. One just needs to be aware of a few key mushroom properties. For instance, cooking delicious mushrooms starts with storing & preparing them properly.

Storage and prep

  • Select mushrooms that are spongy but not soggy, avoiding the ones with damaged gills.
  • Keep them in paper bags, not plastic, so they don’t get slimy. (Mushrooms have a lot of moisture and paper will absorb it and keep them dry longer.)
  • Don’t wait too long to prepare them; old mushrooms start to taste kind of nutty (not in a good way). I find that the mushrooms I buy from the store are usually past their prime after 3 – 4 days.
  • Depending on what you’re doing with them, it’s probably a better idea to brush them clean rather than rinse them. Use a soft, dry cloth, or, better, a mushroom brush (if you can’t find a mushroom brush, use another soft brush; for instance, I use a basting brush). If you rinse them, they can get slimy, though for the most part if you are cooking them immediately after rinsing them it will probably be okay, it just may introduce more moisture into the recipe. I personally prefer to brush them, I think it’s more effective, and also it’s kind of fun and meditative.
  • Don’t slice them too thin; I learned this from my friend Nick who worked as a professional line cook for some years. Apparently if you slice them too thin they soak up too much oil and cook too quickly, resulting in limp and overcooked mushies. No thanks! I try to cut them no thinner than 1/4 inch thick.

Cooking the ‘shroooms

Mushrooms, as we’ve alluded to, are full of moisture, but they can also be very absorbent. So it is important to first allow mushrooms to release their juices before doing much with them, and it is also important to remember that after releasing their juices, they will immediately reabsorb them along with anything else in the pan. So, one ought to be judicious about when to introduce things like garlic or onion or salt during the sauteing of mushrooms. For example, let’s consider my Mushroom Spinach Arrabiata, in which we begin with the mushrooms accordingly:

  • Saute the mushrooms on medium heat for a couple of minutes
  • Cover and continue to cook until they juice, a few minutes
  • Uncover and continue to cook until the juice is gone again, a couple more minutes

Then add the onion and garlic. And later salt.

If we were to add the onion and garlic at any stage prior to the re-absorption of the juices, then the flavor of the mushrooms could be overwhelmed by the flavors of the additional ingredients. I’m not saying there will never be situations where you wouldn’t want that to be the case; for instance, the chanterelles and fresh corn recipe calls for everything to sauté simultaneously, and the chanterelles are strong enough that the sweetness of the corn is simply a compliment. In any case, it’s just something to be conscious about.

There are other schools of thought that suggest that you can just quickly brown mushrooms for a couple of minutes and throw them right into the other ingredients of your recipe when they’re slightly toasted. In theory I suppose this could work, but in practice, I have never found it to produce results that I’m happy with. On the occasions when I’ve browned mushrooms and not let them juice before proceeding, I’ve felt the mushrooms ended up tasting kind of raw and tinny. Maybe some people like that, but I prefer the post-juiced mushrooms because I think they have a more voluptuous flavor that way.

So, yes. That’s my 62 cents on cooking mushrooms.mmmmmm

Z’s Spicy Corn Chowder (Vegan)

This party fave is the result of a combination of several different white bean chili recipes, actually, all originally meat-inclusive, minus the beans and plus a bunch of random stuff I added for fun, including a few special twists I like to include to make something mine (e.g., hella garlic, jalapeno, potatoes and homemade soup stock) alongside the requisite vegification. Enjoy!

By the way, please note: This is a fairly spicy chowder. If you have trouble with spicy things, I’d recommend starting with about 1/4 of the recommended jalapeño & cayenne, and then adding additional pepper to taste. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. However, if you luvah the spicy, preparing this with the maximum amount of pepper ingredients recommended puts it at about a 7 on a 1 to 10 spicy scale, IMO. So …

  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced or thinly sliced
  • 1 celery rib, chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 2 bell peppers, red or yellow or both, chopped or diced
  • 4 – 6 smallish sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I use Yukon gold or red or both, though you can really use any kind of potato, and you can use more or less if you like)
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
  • 3 c. sweet corn (from about 4 ears)
  • Enough olive oil to sauté the veggies (~3 tbsp or so)
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños, de-seeded & minced (don’t rub your eyes!)
  • 4 c. vegetable broth (make your own, it’s easy!)
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 tbsp vegan cream cheese (or more, based on your preference)
  • Dry thyme*
  • Cayenne*
  • Freshly ground sea salt*
  • Freshly ground black pepper*
  • Ground cloves or nutmeg*

If you’ve never cut fresh corn from the cob, view this tutorial. If you are intimidated, however, please feel free to use canned or frozen corn. It won’t have quite the same freshness, but it will still be delicious, so don’t you worry. Anyhoo …

In a large pan, sear the corn for a few minutes, until it begins to brown slightly. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or big stock pot) on medium to medium high heat.

Saute the garlic, onion, peppers, celery until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add water, vegetable broth, carrot, potato, fresh thyme & cayenne and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 20 – 25 minutes.

Stir in the cream cheese & corn, gently whisking until well combined. Allow to cook for another 10 – 20 minutes or so. Add the salt, pepper, dried thyme & nutmeg. You can also add more cayenne & more cream cheese to taste, if desired.


A very loose & general guide to spice quantities:

  • Around a small handful of salt & pepper
  • More dry thyme than you would expect (6 – 10 shakes of the jar)
  • A few shakes of the clove or nutmeg (around a teaspoon maybe)
  • Around 1 teaspoon of cayenne

J’s Black-Eyed Peas (Vegan)

J says:

The thing to remember here is that thyme is your friend; it takes the part of the ham hock which is usually required in this Southern dish. I’ve listed dried thyme, but HIGHLY suggest getting it fresh. It’s easy to grow yourself to have on hand. Around our house, we normally include a jalapeño, slit four times down the sides, so that I can remove it after cooking. If you aren’t sure about your spice tolerance, cook with only a little pepper and finish with Tabasco or another pepper sauce on your plate. It is easy to reduce the amount of sodium by using less vegetable broth. I’ve made it with water instead and extra thyme and it works out great.

  • 16 oz black-eyed peas
  • 5 c. veggie broth
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried leaf thyme (~2 tbsp chopped, if fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp dried leaf oregano
  • Tabasco or pepper sauce, to taste
  • Salt to taste

Rinse peas and pick over for bad or discolored peas and small stones; transfer to a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add the onion, diced carrot and garlic.

Add  enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add pepper flakes, black pepper, thyme and oregano. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Uncover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes longer (this is a good time to start some rice), or until peas are tender. Add more water as needed to keep them moist.

Serve with brown rice and steamed collard greens with lemon.

And because J is such a great guy, he’s included nutritional info for you:

1 cup = 143 calories
Protein        9g
Carbs        24.7g
Sugar        4.5g
Fiber        7.5g
Fat            .6g
Cholesterol    0mg
Sodium        Varies, depending on salt content of vegetable stock and added salt

Mushroom Spinach Arrabiata (Vegan)

This is a very fast and easy pasta of the variety that I usually make if I haven’t been to the store for a while and/or I’m feeling lazy. That is because I pretty much always have all of the ingredients on hand,* and also because it’s really fast and easy to make. Oh wait, I already said that. Did I mention it’s fast and easy? But how about quick and simple? Anyway. As an aside, if I were dispensing unsolicited advice on general kitchen-keeping, I’d say try to usually have these ingredients on hand. With these basics, there are many different dishes which can easily be thrown together on a moment’s notice.

Mushroom Spinach Arrabiata

  • 1/2 lb mushrooms (I like button or baby bella, but any kind will do)
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 6 c. uncooked spinach
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, chopped, with sauce
  • Oregano (or you could just use a generic Italian seasoning blend – Trader Joe’s has a pretty good version)
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste (I use a lot)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 package of pasta (follow cooking directions)

Saute mushrooms on medium heat for a couple minutes, then covered for a few minutes more until they juice. Remove cover and continue to cook until liquid is reabsorbed. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is softened.** Add tomatoes and spinach and cook until spinach is fully wilted and tomatoes are mushy. Add stewed tomatoes and seasonings to taste. Continue to cook until the sauce is thick and pasta is done.

Serve immediately with pasta. Makes  approximately 4 servings.

*You can omit any of the fresh vegetables if you don’t have them.

**J prefers this sauce to be pureed with the onions and fresh tomatoes for a smoother sauce. If that is your preference too, then simply start by sauteing the onions & garlic before the mushrooms, add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, then blend in a food processor until smooth. Saute the mushrooms separately per my directions above, add the spinach and saute until it wilts, then add the pureed sauce to the mixture and cook until it’s hot.

Broccoli Leek Soup (Vegan)

I freely and shamelessly admit to you, this shiz is a straight-up Billy Sonoma ripoff. You see, they have this beautiful, delicate soup that is rendered unnecessarily non-vegetarian by the totally extraneous placement of chicken stock rather than vegetable stock. That being the case, I fully admit that my adaptation of replacing the chicken with veg stock is not particularly cunning. But the recipe is so thoroughly lovely and simple that I feel it warrants a bit of pomp and circumstance. Tah-dah!!!!

Courtesy of Billy Sonoma

You'll wish you made more.

Broccoli Leek Soup (adaptation from Williams-Sonoma*)

  • 23 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, including tender green portions,
    rinsed well and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb broccoli, trimmed, florets and stalks
    cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Tofutti sour cream
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until softened, 3 – 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and saute, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 2 – 3 minutes more.Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. 

In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth and return the soup to the pan. (Alternatively, process with a stick blender in the pan until smooth. Reheat the soup gently over medium heat. Season with salt and white pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the sour cream and chives. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma*


*If you’re wondering why I keep repeating the point, it’s because I don’t want them to sue my ash. Not that they would ever notice me in the first place. But you never know.

Mushroom Stroganoff (Vegan)

Mmmmm is for mushrooms

Oysters, shitaakes, chanterelles, baby bellas


Mmmmmmmm is for mushrooms. That’s right.

So, once upon a time before I became vegetarian, I happened to discover an outrageously amazing Beef Stroganoff (in a restaurant in Lawrence, KS that is no longer open). After I quit eating meat, I always lamented that Beef Stroganoff and thought to myself that if there was one thing I missed about a non-veggie lifestyle, it was that magically delicious Stroganoff. In fact, it was that Stroganoff that first kindled my love of mushrooms, a passion which has grown to implausible proportions since. Lo, you can imagine my delight when I finally perfected (in my opinion) my own vegan version of that Stroganoff. Which isn’t really my own version, rather it’s a slight variation on Cully’s recipe from Child of Atom. The main differences are that I prefer to cook the mushrooms in a slightly different way than he recommends, the sour cream is vegan, I eschew the mustard and add parsley.

I do believe that beef lovers themselves would look favorably upon this rendition. That said, I offer it freely to you in all its vegan glory. (Note: If you’re jonesing for some dairy, you can make it non-vegan with real sour cream.)

Mushroom stroganoff

  • 1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, sliced (a mix of different kinds is good, but baby bellas alone will do quite fine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • One large clove garlic, minced
  • Fresh ground sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups Tofutti non-dairy sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • A few splashes of dry white wine and white wine vinegar (ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts wine)
  • Paprika to taste (though, as J points out, if you can taste it, you’ve probably put in too much)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Your favorite type of pasta (though I do recommend the short types of noodles, like rotelle or penne or the like)

Cook your pasta of choice per its standard instructions. Meanwhile …

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the mushrooms. Toss until coated in oil and continue to stir regularly for a couple of minutes. After a couple of minutes, cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they juice – usually 2 to 5 minutes. After the mushrooms have juiced, remove the cover and continue to cook until the juice is reduced. Remove from heat and set aside.

Next, saute the shallots and garlic until the onions soften. Add the wine – not too much, but maybe just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and a few splashes of vinegar, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the sour cream and return to a boil. Cook for a few minutes until liquid is reduced. Add veggie stock and return to a boil. Same drill – cook for a while until the liquid is reduced. Stir in the mushrooms and parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Crazy delicious

Stroganoff awaiting its pasta

Chanterelles & Fresh Corn (Vegan or Vegetarian)


Not my own pic, but close enough

Totally ganked this recipe from the LA Times. But no specific chef or author was credited, so my props can’t go further than that. The addition of the gruyère was my own innovation, albeit a modest one. Also, if you use the gruyère, obviously it’s not vegan anymore, and furthermore it wouldn’t technically be vegetarian either, because gruyère usually contains rennet. But, since gruyère is so delicious, it’s one of those occasional rule benders we’re known to eat. Whatever—this dish is rich and luscious with or without the gruyère. Also, it’s super fast & simple to make.

  • ~4 – 8 oz chanterelles
  • ~4 cobs fresh sweet corn
  • 2 tbsp walnut oil (if you don’t have walnut oil, olive oil will suffice)
  • ~ 1 tsp sea salt
  • Bit o’ water or homemade veggie stock (extra credit for mushroom stock, if the latter, however, be mindful that whatever stock you use isn’t too strong, as this dish has subtle flavors that could be overpowered by too bold of a stock)
  • ~1/3 cup shredded gruyère, if desired

Dust the chanterelles clean with a mushroom brush and slice them in whatever way makes most sense to you, but not too big, small or thin.

Cut the corn from the cobs – it’s not difficult but it does take some getting used to. Here’s what I do: Remove the husks & cornsilk. Take the cob, stand it on its flat end in a dish deep enough to prevent the corn kernels from flying all over the place. Take a sharp knife and slice in four sweeps, 3 or 4 or so rows of kernels at a time, creating a cube around the cob. Does that make sense? If not, please view this tutorial for a visual representation.

Heat the oil. Throw the mushrooms, corn & salt into the pan, stir and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the veggie stock (or water) and cover, stirring occasionally. Let cook around 8 minutes, until corn is tender. Uncover the pan and continue to cook until liquid is mostly evaporated. Salt & pepper to taste, and serve with shredded gruyere (if desired).

Go Fresh or Go Buggy (Reader Caution Advised)

This is one of those annoying things your friend who always looks everything up will tell you that you immediately wish you could erase from your mind. So I warn you, if you are the type who would rather not know, please don’t read any further.

So. Now that you’ve been warned: This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I became obsessed with wild mushrooms and learned that even the store-bought varieties often have miniscule larvae hiding in their gills. If one finds that disgusting but simultaneously worships chanterelles, what is one to do? Through a powerful combination of reasoning and vigorous exercises in denial, I finally came to accept it. After I accepted it, I did some research and discovered that lots of consumables have bugs in them, either because they contain certain dyes, or because they become contaminated during processing, or other sundry unsavory reasons. Here’s a short list off the top of my head:

  • Chocolate – up to 60 insect parts per 100 gram! That is a troubling bite from one’s Hershey bar.
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Tomato paste
  • Foods dyed red (and you might be surprised what seemingly naturally red foods are actually dyed that way; I dunno, say, strawberry jam?)
  • Peanut butter
  • Pretty much everything canned
  • That’s not all.

If you, like me, are the kind who really does have to know, then do an internet search on “bugs in your food” and read away. There are way more comprehensive and detailed references than the ones I’ve linked here, but I have deemed them just a bit too icky to post. If you wish to investigate further, you may do so at your own risk.

Meanwhile, what I have to say about the subject is this: Bugs are of the kingdom Animalia. Read: They’re animals. So if eating chicken or fish isn’t universally reviled, then why would eating bugs be so? And by the way, shellfish are arthropods, which is the same phylum as insects and spiders; they’re practically brothers. So why is it normal to eat crab but not wolf spider? Then there’s the fact that many cultures have always eaten bugs. At the risk of sounding un-American, I daresay that finding the eating of bugs to be unseemly is a uniquely Western and modern concept. And just maybe a little bourgeois? I mean, some people eat bugs because they’re starving and bugs provide free protein. So it would be classist of us to judge. Don’t get me wrong; as one who follows a mostly vegan diet, and also as one who is Western and admittedly rather bourgeois, I am totally skeeved out by the idea of eating bugs. But I also don’t relish the idea of eating dirt or chemicals, and those things are pretty much impossible to avoid.

In any case, I do still think it’s reasonable to want to avoid eating bugs as much as possible. And it seems to me from my research that the best approach is eating fresh, unprocessed foods as much as possible and avoiding anything that’s ever been in a factory. For the most part, it’s the processing that lets the bugs in.

As for the controversy over the FDA acknowledging and permitting certain levels of bugs and other gross things in food, look at it this way: Requiring that foods be immaculate just means more pesticides and toxic flotsam being tossed into the system to control the naz. Which we certainly don’t want or need.

Speaking of the environment, the intentional practice of entomophagy has been said to be more ecologically sound and sustainable than meat production. Well OBVI. We don’t even need to feed bugs, they live on dust and dirt and other bugs. And furthermore, what animal resource is more naturally abundant than the 6-legged critters? (In Southern California, maybe chihuahuas. But elsewhere, nothing!)

Nevertheless. I’m not defending the FDA or saying people should start munching on household crickets (they probably have herbicides or other pollutants on them anyway*). And I’m certainly not here to be an “All food is unsafe!” type alarmist. I mean, I suppose maybe that’s true, but then again, life is unsafe. I could be sitting here blogging away and some random highly implausible flaw in my computer could cause it to blow up and result in the first ever blogging fatality known to science. So whatever. I’m just saying, let us not allow squeamishness to prevent us from eating or drinking delicious things. Like wild mushrooms, mimolette cheese, and foods dyed with cochineal bettles.


*I wish I had a handy reference for this, but all I have is a handful of websites about pet reptiles and the references are buried deep within the content. Basically the reason I know this is from researching the effects of feeding wild insects to geckos. Long story. The short story is that generally speaking, experts recommend against it because bugs pick up herbicides and other chemicals from the environment.