Bugs are probably not the answer to our food sustainability needs. Not yet at least, judging by the interactions I’ve had over the past few weeks, as more and more people have discovered I’ve eaten ants once. For adults, the response is at least a slight squinching of the face at best, then, depending on how well that person knows me, something along the lines of, “You’ll tell anyone who will listen how gross onions are, but you tried ants?” Kids are a little more open to the concept, but mostly because it means they can entertain themselves for the next half hour by bringing me bugs and demanding I eat them. (I don’t.)
On a long enough timeline, unless things radically change, insects are probably the future of our protein consumption, but in the short term, there are other potential options to help with sustainability—some of which don’t involve eating things that have eyes. Consider the blended burger.
Earlier this week, representatives from the James Beard Foundation and the Mushroom Council were in town to spread the good word about the Blended Burger Project. At Kitchen 713, local food folks were invited to try and a trio of blended burgers from chef Jonathan Wicks (Hotel Zaza), chef Ross Coleman (Kitchen 713), and chef James Haywood (Kitchen 713). The results were interesting.
As you might have guessed from the reference to The Mushroom Council, blended burgers are burgers that contain 25 to 50 percent chopped mushroom in their patty, with the rest of the patty coming from familiar meats like beef and lamb. The goal of the Blended Burger Project is to get chefs thinking about how to make great-tasting burgers that are more sustainable. Starting Memorial Day, restaurants across the nation will be adding blended burgers to their menus for a chance to cook their burger at the James Beard House.
With the right ingredients and preparation, it’s pretty easy to hide mushroom in a burger. Chef Wick’s burger was a standout, with his mix of brisket, sirloin, beef neck, and oxtail going a long way to make his burger—which featured king trumpet and hen of the woods mushrooms—tasty.
Want to experience the blended burger yourself? The James Beard website has a full list of participating restaurants from coast to coast, including restaurants in Houston and Galveston. Or make your own with the recipes over at Blenditarian.com. Either way, give the blended burger a shot. They’re better than ants. I promise.