By Celia Owens, STEM Read Team
Sustainable cuisine is a popular subject for students who want to make a positive change for the future. Most American students are surprised to learn that there is a sustainable food source right under their feet…insects! The graphic novel Meal is a great introduction for high school students to the nutritional, ecological, and economic benefits of insect cuisine.
Meal is the story of Yarrow, a young woman who moves to the big city to follow her dreams of being a chef. Yarrow is fascinated by entomophagy – the human preparation and consumption of insects – and believes the ecological and nutritional benefits make it the future of sustainable cooking. She is thrilled to learn that her hero, chef Chanda Flores, is preparing to open a restaurant with an all-insect menu. However, before Yarrow can set foot in the kitchen she has to prove to Chanda that her passion for entomophagy is more than a passing interest. What follows is a heartwarming story about the the science and culture behind the art of preparing insect cuisine.
Meal is the passion project of Blue Delliquanti, the artist and writer behind the popular science fiction web-comic O Human Star, and chef turned journalist Soleil Ho. Delliquanti’s storytelling combined with Ho’s culinary expertise introduce the reader to the incredible possibilities of insect cuisine. The afterward encourages readers to begin their own journey into entomophagy with an essay written by Ho about her experience researching entomophagy, recipes for preparing insect dishes at home, and a list of books for further reading.
Here are some ways students can continue learning after they have finished reading the book:
- Insect Nutrition – Meal has some delicious insect dishes, but what would a healthy insect based diet look like? Students can explore that idea by planning an entire day of insect based meals that meets their nutritional needs.
- Raising Bugs for Food – Meal contains multiple examples of raising insects for food. Students can research sustainable insect farming and design their own insect farm to supply ingredients for their insect meals.
- Ecosystem and Diet – Meal describes the origins of entomophagy in areas of the world where insects were the most plentiful source of protein. Over time, colonization and western influence discouraged eating insects in many of these areas. Students can explore and discuss the psychology behind this cultural shift. What dictates human taste? Do people crave crickets or is eating insects just a means to survival?
- Flavor and Memory – The characters in Meal often describe their favorite dishes as sensory reminders of happy memories. Students can research the biological reason behind this connection and discuss their own favorite dishes. Are pleasant memories tied to all of their favorite dishes? Are there any dishes that are linked to unpleasant memories?