Thursday’s Tile: In Praise of Entomophagy

Right above the vanilla orchid on the Five Senses Bench, right there on the pointy knee of the Taste area, are two tile testimonials to the fact that millions of people enjoy larvae and insects as a daily source of crunchy, savory protein.

We here in North America typically consider Entomophagy a survivalist curiosity, a lollipop novelty or a Triple Dog Dare suitable for reality TV. The plain motivation for including this Sago Palm grub (on the left) and the mess o’ fried mealworm (on the right) was the Gag Factor and frisson of repulsion they induced.

Every one of us working on these particular tiles (it grew into a group effort) started out like that and yet our researching, while not turning us into aficianados or grub-o-philes, did gain us a wider appreciation of all that the human palate and gastro-intestinal system are capable of.

Spit-roasted or raw? Deep fried on buttered toast? Here’s one recipe from ehow. I still would not choose this food, just as I don’t choose snails, rattlesnake or tripe, even though I have eaten them in the past.

It is important to note that I have a choice, just as the ever-insightful Michael Pollan explores in his wonderful books from The Omnivore’s Dilemma to Food Rules. I’m guessing if the choice is gummi or sago palm worms, Mr. Pollan would always advise the latter as being Real Food. Either can be delicious or repugnant according to custom, expectation and the like. Add in the knowledge that processed edibles, no matter how cute and appealing, are Not Especially Good for Us, and that choice sharpens.

Another small takeaway here is that the notion of Taste pretty quickly broadens from direct physical sensation to those cultural realms and choices. We could not capture Taste-as-Aesthetics directly in our tiles, either. The notion of Good Taste might not be translatable into an object, only a sign for it.

We can, however, take an object and call it Beautiful as we see it. Here are these tiles -all of them, this whole bench -all of it, working towards that end. Better still, DP took a mold off the Sago Palm Grub and remade a solid version of it as a brooch! I like her Taste: it made a beautiful personal decoration in a deliciously gross kind of way, and I won’t ever have to eat it!

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