Tansha Vohra has a freezer full of ants in her Bengaluru home.
She has been using them in different kinds of chutneys. Vohra is one of two fellows this year at the Serendipity Arts Foundation’s residency programme in culinary arts in Delhi. Over the phone from Bengaluru, Vohra talks excitedly about entomophagy or the practice of eating insects.
She recalls eating silkworms in the northeast, and why termite farming may not be a good idea as it releases methane gas. Vohra sends me an image of her lunch thali on the day we speak in mid-August. A small white bowl on a plate of vegetable gravy and rice; in the bowl is ant chutney made with coconut, chilli and garlic. She just took a handful of ants (adults and larvae) and ground them in a mortar. Some coconut flakes, two chillies, five garlic pods and sprigs of wild coriander were blitzed together with crushed weaver ants, spring salt and a sprinkle of water. “I wouldn’t say it is normalised in my house but definitely my folks are not as freaked out as they used to be,” says the 29-year-old; her mother and brother have gotten around to relishing her arthropod concoctions.
As part of her three-month residency, Vohra will dig into recipe collections, understand seasonality, foraging and harvesting methods, and the many cooking and preservation techniques, from smoked to sundried, employed by traditional communities for insect meals.
Ever mindful of cultural appropriation, Vohra emphasises that her work is a curiosity-driven exercise. “The idea of the project is to document, research and archive information from historically excluded communities in the hope that we will be able to craft real solutions to the huge issue facing us all—a global food crisis,” says Vohra.
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