An invitation to a banquet from my old friend Angela Palmer was hardly to be refused, even if the food on offer was a little — ahem — unusual. Crispy Colombian leafcutter ants, anyone? Or how about oven-baked barbecue flavoured mealworms?
These foodstuffs, both of which actually tasted rather good, were a mere prelude to the meal served on the lawn of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on Sunday, for tasters who included H.E. Mauricio Rodriguez Munera, the Ambassador of Colombia.
Seeing the COL 1 number plate on his official limousine Rosemarie waggishly wondered, in the light of what potentially lay ahead, if there was not an ‘E’ missing from it (E.coli, geddit?).
Former Masterchef champion Thomasina Miers went on to offer further tasty treats from her repertoire of insect recipes.
First up were blood orange, radish and pecorino tostadas with salsa verde and sautéed crickets. Next came fennel, feta and avocado tacos with chipotle (a smoke dried jalapeno) and grasshopper salsa. Pudding was fried locusts dipped in salted caramel and dark chocolate.
This was not, it will be understood, a repast for the squeamish, especially since other creepy-crawlies not destined for the pot and pan were around us as we ate.
Its purpose, though, was a sound one. Angela Palmer is the artist who has brought to Oxford the Ghost Forest, ten massive rain forest tree stumps whose year-long presence outside the museum is a reminder of the damage we are doing to the planet through deforestation.
Such clearances are so often a prelude to cattle ranching. Better, say Angela and others, to eat less environmentally damaging, protein-rich insects.
The marvel for me was that I managed to eat them with something approaching relish. Hefty slugs of mezcal (the drink with the worm) certainly assisted in the process, as other panellists agreed. But our maitre d’, the well-respected foodie Paul Levy, suggested, somewhat crushingly, that it would be more to the purpose if I had tried to show enthusiasm rather than mere tolerance.