In 2050 we will be more than 9 billion people on the planet and facing the reality of scarce food resources. Experts have suggested the practice of eating insects or entomophagy as one of the solutions to this global food scarcity.
"Beatle in the box" is a project by two Italian photographers, Michela Benaglia and Emanuela Colombo, in collaboration with a chef and a biologist, exploring and normalizing the practice of eating insects in a series of stunning still life images. The series highlights popular dishes with insects taking a starring role; crickets, locusts, moths, and worms feature in a number of delicious and elegant recipes for gazpacho, tagliatelle, tacos and more, highlighting the culinary potential of edible insects on the menu.
Find out more about the project with the two photographers and enjoy the stunning selection of images below!
What inspired you to undertake this project and what was your intention with it?
We discovered that a new law on Novel Food came into force in 2018 facilitating the sale and the supply of insects within the European Union. The law brings all member states into line with Holland and Belgium where insect-based products have already been for sale in super-markets for a long time. In 2050 there will be more than 9 billion people living on a planet with increasingly scarce resources, less arable and available land, water pollution, deforestation caused by grazing and overheating of the global climate. How can we support such a situation? Insects are one of the likely responses that have been circulating among food and nutrition experts from all over the world for some time. More than 2 billion people already use insects for food purposes and the edible species on the market are over 1,900.
Gazpacho with assimilis cricket gremolada
Tagliatelle with Acheta cricket flour
This was a collaborative photography project; how did you decide who does what?
It was easy, actually. I (Emanuela) am "specialized" in-studio animal photography so it was clear that I would photograph the insects/ingredients. Michela, instead, started out as a graphic designer and also has experience in food photography, so she took the photographs of the dishes. Michela, who is also a very good video maker also provided footage of the dishes’ preparations, which seemed indispensable in proving that these appetizing dishes were really made using the "ingredients/insects" we show.
Mini pancake with chocolate gregarious locust
Vietnamese rolls with migratory locust, flowers, and aromatic herbs
What were the biggest challenges you faced during the project?
It was quite difficult to find live insects and to be able to photograph them. A cricket or a locust moves very fast and they are not very willing to pose! It was also difficult to find a chef who was involved in "entomophagy" and who was able to prepare desirable dishes with our ingredients. In the end, we collaborated with the "Entonote" girls, with the "tasty" results that you can see in the images.
Avocado mini tacos and honey bee moth
Potato dumplings with mealworms on spaghetti-like courgettes
You chose to show the project as a “diptychs” series – with both insect and dish shown side by side - plus the recipe, why was that?
As Europeans, we have been conditioned since we were young to think that insects are ugly and "disgusting". This conditioning, above all, comes from how they look, making it impossible for us to think that an insect could be eaten or, moreover, could be appetizing. The idea behind the project was to play on this conditioning and to show how a “disgusting insect" could turn into an "appetizing" dish, which we all would eat if we didn't know that inside we would have found the "beasts" shown beside. The recipes show how insects’ dishes can be "normal" and that they can be cooked by everyone.
Scones stuffed with caiman worms
Miso soup with silkworms
Where did the recipes/insects come from and did you collaborate with a biologist for the insects' selection and with a chef to make the dishes?
As I mentioned before we collaborated with the girls of "Entonote", an association based in Milan who have been involved in spreading entomophagy for years in Italy and who organize themed dinners for the club’s members.
Chocolate cream with amaretto biscuits and scorpion
Baked vegetable cupcakes with dried tarantula
Which dish was your favorite and why?
My personal favorite dish is homemade pasta with cricket flour. I am European and even though I believe that insects are the future of food if we want to survive and help the planet, the idea of eating something with the shape of a locust or of a honeybee moth is a bit disgusting, even to me. In this pasta, the crickets have been pulverized and are therefore no longer identifiable and the taste is reminiscent of chestnuts, therefore recognizable and "approachable". Good!
Egg “sunny side up” with ant caviar
Michela Benaglia and Emanuela Colombo
Any future food-related projects that you’d like to share with us?
At the moment we do not have in mind other projects that have food as a protagonist... even if the process of the growth of meat in a laboratory, which would make animal breeding useless, fascinates us a lot... who knows...
All the images Michela Benaglia and Emanuela Colombo