Insect Flesh

“Cannibal Strawberries” was part of a 2018 Food of War exhibition in Mexico City. Simone Mattar wished to make a provoking comment on radical stances about what to eat. A widely used red food colorant is a natural carmine dye which is obtained from cochineals. Billions of cochineals are killed annually, and their dye is used in commercial industrialised foods such as red fruit jams, jellies and preserves that find their way to some unsuspecting vegan tables. The cochineal’s dye is also widely used as a colorant for kids’ gums and jelly sweets, whose appeal is increased by being deceptively shaped like fruits and vegetables. Drawing on the traditional use of insects as food in Mexico (and on a bit of Monty Python…), Mattar fashioned some delicious-looking candies shaped like very red, juicy strawberries, and then stuffed each of them with a perfectly edible and highly nutritious fried cricket, worm or scorpion. The effect of having your expectations cheated – and even finding pleasure in that – mirrors what Mattar would wish both vegans and the food industry to acknowledge: that there is much more to eating than it is possible to control through questionable ideals, practices and perceptions.