Bugs for dinner? New Aussie food trend has legs (and wings)

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This photo taken on March 16, 2017 shows ingredients for a starter that includes crickets on a kitchen table at a restaurant in Sydney. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 16, 2017 shows sous-chef Nowshad Alam Rasel displaying a signature cricket dish at a restaurant in Sydney. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 16, 2017 shows sous-chef Nowshad Alam Rasel giving a final touch to his signature cricket dish at a restaurant in Sydney. (AFP)
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This photo taken on January 28, 2017 shows a bowl full of fried crickets for sale at a market in Sydney. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 16, 2017 shows sous-chef Nowshad Alam Rasel giving the final touch to his signature cricket dish at a restaurant in Sydney. (AFP)
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This photo taken on February 16, 2017 shows Skye Blackburn, an entomologist and owner of Australia's largest insect supplier, the Edible Bug Shop, holding a cricket at her work place in Sydney. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2017
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Bugs for dinner? New Aussie food trend has legs (and wings)

SYDNEY: With a twist of lime and a dash of salt Sydney chef Nowshad Alam Rasel flavours a hot pan full of crickets, tossing them over a flaming stove.
The savoury snack, which would not be out of place at a Mexican cantina or a Bangkok street stall, is creeping onto menus at Australian boutique eateries such as El Topo, challenging the inhibitions of diners.
“When they come for the first time, the customer very much wants to know what it is,” says sous-chef Rasel, as he neatly plates up the fried critters, topped with slices of fresh chilli.
Roasted cockroach, honey-flavoured ants, mealworm and chocolate coated popcorn are now available to try and buy — and while the cuisine remains a novelty, there are signs it is growing in popularity.
Consumer attitude toward eating insects are usually split explains Skye Blackburn, owner of Australia’s largest insect supplier, the Edible Bug Shop in Sydney.
“The first kind of people are completely grossed out and they really can’t change their mind and they kind of just want to come and have a look and don’t want to try it really,” the entomologist says.
“And then we get the second kind of people that really want to learn more and some of them will try edible insects and some of them won’t, but they will go away and talk about insects and they’ll spread the word about what they have seen that day,” she adds.
High in protein, cheap to produce, and with a much lighter carbon footprint than meat or dairy farming, bugs are already part of the diet for more than two billion people worldwide, according to the United Nations.
Advocates of increased consumption say it will help feed a bulging global population as land becomes scarce and climate change threatens conventional food supplies like fish.
Insects such as beetles, caterpillars, crickets and even spiders are common in diets across parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa, while Australia’s Aborigines have eaten bush tucker including ants, moths and larvae for thousands of years.
But they are a difficult sell in the Western world where people struggle to dissassociate the nutritional value from the source, with most insects considered pests.
“You have to name them something else,” suggested one El Toro patron when asked about overcoming fears of eating insects in Australia.
“We don’t eat cow, we tend to eat steak and sausages,” he says. “With pig we eat pork and bacon, so you have to start by naming them something else.”

Blackburn is leading the charge to change the perception of edible insects.
She runs Australia’s only commercial bug farm, supplying a growing number of restaurants across the country, breeding hundreds of kilogrammes of insects each week, including savoury crickets, dehydrated ants, and even a “special” kind of roasted cockroach “that don’t have any germs on them.”
Australia’s trendy urban farmer’s markets too are a popular spot for her produce, with inquisitive foodies sampling creations like mealworm and chocolate coated popcorn, and green tea and honey roasted black ants.
“I’m going to go a big gob,” says 53-year-old market goer Guy McEwan, putting a handful of a savoury mix of mealworms, ants, crickets and popcorn into his mouth.
“It’s great. I love em, I love bugs,” he adds, likening the texture and flavour to crisps.
Others at the crowded Saturday market in the hip Sydney suburb of Redfern are drawn to the novelty.
“Sometimes when you move the packet it looks like they’re alive,” says Danny Stagnitta, 42, while giving his snack box a shake.
Back at El Topo, while the bugs remain a hot item among Sydney’s experimental diners, it may be some time yet before it becomes a staple in Australian homes.
Nine-year-old diner Alexandria winces as she samples the fried crickets.
She concludes: “It feels awkward and weird that you’re eating an insect. You would normally eat meat.”


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 21 June 2018
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Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.