I’m betting that’s an opening I can’t let stand unexplained, so here goes. In the spring, which is peak tick time in terms of numbers, my dogs routinely come in from a long walk with multiple ticks on each of them. The highest was the terrible, wet spring when they were averaging 20 ticks apiece; normal is three or four. Out of necessity, we discovered that the easiest way to dispatch large numbers of ticks quickly is with the back of a spoon on a flat surface. You probably can predict where this is going.
Apparently a spoon with 20 or so dead ticks squished on the back can miraculously go through the dishwasher without dislodging any of the ticks. Who knew? Ask me how I now know.
So I looked down, completely unsuspecting, into my cereal only to wonder, “what is that floating in there?” That was bad enough. The true horror came when I (pretend you hear the creepy creaking-door don’t-go-in-there slasher flick film score) very slowly turned my spoon over, and . . .
. . . realized that my cereal had tasted a little different for a reason.
Surprisingly, I got over it. I even started eating cereal, and milk, and all foods eaten with a spoon, after only about six months. I guess I’m just that tough.
I keep hearing about “the Coming Insect Cuisine,” using just that phrase, like it’s a proper name. Apparently foodies (and others) predict that eating insects is the inevitable next big thing, that it will solve global hunger, help reduce global warming, provide low-fat, readily available protein, and be hipster-trendy as well. I don’t know.
It’s not the yuck factor. I’m way over that. Once you’ve eaten dead ticks for breakfast, the world becomes a much tamer place. You just can’t scare me anymore.
I keep bees. That means I spend an inordinate amount of time taking care of them and spending big bucks on supplies, and yes, worrying about the welfare of a bunch of insects that sting me if they get the chance. I not only worry about the bees, I worry about their society. And their future in a world full of poisons and pesticides which seem almost designed to render the bees extinct.
I don’t kill spiders. Once upon a time I read that you shouldn’t kill household spiders and centipedes because they are excellent predators and they keep the populations of all the other insects in the house way down. I think it’s true. I never have any stinkbugs.
After a while, I started observing the spiders, and thinking about the task they were performing in the ecosystem of my house. I started thinking about ants, and how they, like bees, have a whole society. Bees and ants can go out foraging in the world, find good stuff to eat, report back, and other bees and ants can follow their directions to where the good stuff is. I know people who can’t do that.
I have a friend who is a militant vegan. I am not vegan. Left to my own devices, my diet consists, literally, of yogurt and Kit Kat bars. I am not exaggerating. I shouldn’t be alive.
Yet here I am. All this has me wondering – about the sanctity of all life, about the nature of consciousness. I like to amuse myself by thinking about the next nearest parallel universes, and alternate timelines. I wonder: in any of them, have we gotten it right? And if I am going to muse about the wisdom and ethics of eating bugs, shouldn’t I at least have the street cred of being vegan? Or vegetarian? But I’m not, and I don’t.
I think life is sacred, especially if you include nature within the definition of “life.” Some people don’t. I also know the cold, hard, truth that not everything can live. It just won’t work that way. How do you choose? Who gets to choose? What if we choose wrong?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. As an essayist, you’re supposed to write what you know, but I don’t know anything.
Animals and plants are disappearing. Scientists consider it a major extinction event akin to the dying of the dinosaurs. It’s caused by the proliferation of human life. I don’t know if switching to eating insects will help this world in crisis. I do know that adding another whole category of creatures to the list of things we feel entitled to consume makes me sad.