This was the event to wrap up all of the weird, wacky and wonderful treats that the Hendrick’s Carnival of Knowledge had put on over the past five days. It catered for its audience in every which way – we all knocked back the provocative conversation, delectable - though shocking – nibbles, and. of course, an array of wonderful cocktails.
As we waited, armed with cocktail entrees in hand, we knew nothing of our mystery meal to come. We were then escorted to the top parlour where a long and interesting talk was given by two men consecutively. The topic: insect cuisine. The chef for the evening, Shay Ola, who also founded the Rebel Dining Society, discussed his penchant for cooking with bugs - how and why it can be done. Mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, talked us through the sustainability of the insect option – their high protein content and how they could perhaps become a more popular culinary delicacy in the decades to come.
This was followed by a long and stimulating discussion about the viability of the culinary creepy-crawly market. Interesting topics emerged, such as attitudes towards this kind of food amongst orthodox religious groups and the extent to which ideas like these are the marginal privilege of the wealthy. The discussion was carried well by the smooth and charismatic Mr Lyan, who took and engaged with the questions in a soft-spoken and gentle manner. The audience were also remarkably engaged and interested in unraveling the taboo which made for a rich and diverse exploration of the characteristically bizarre topic.
The discussion did perhaps drag a little towards the end, largely because we were all becoming very hungry creatures indeed. In fairness to the amiable and skilled staff, a constant stream of intriguing cocktails were provided throughout the wait. Although delicious, these beverages made a number of us quite drunk, which was exacerbated by our empty stomachs.
The food, when it arrived however, was magnificent. There were four types of insect treats, each in a warm paste and deliciously rich and thick pastry wrapping – accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce. The whole culinary experience was exquisite – a surprising treat and one which few of us would have associated with the bug world before that evening. I looked around when I’d finished and noticed the man behind me had barely touched his plate. I quickly proceeded to devour his whole lot – a clear testament to my enjoyment of the fare. Every other diner had emptied their plate, which suggested that there could have perhaps been a little more – a number of the people around me were talking about having to go and eat something else – perhaps chips – afterwards.
Over all, the experience provided sustenance for mind and body which challenged conceptions of the image of the insect and the future of food.