Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THERE are two things happening at the moment that are virtually impossible to ignore — the soccer and Banting. Of the two, the World Cup is easier to avoid. Shun newspapers, the radio, television and social media and you can almost pretend it’s not happening. The Banting diet however, will find you regardless of what you do or where you go.

Pop into the supermarket for milk and you’ll be obliged to fight your way through a gathering around the refrigerator arguing, not about whether the yellow card was called for or not, but whether Prof Tim Noakes and company’s Not Butter Chicken recipe requires fresh or sour cream along with 250g (250g!) of butter. Go for a workout and you’ll find your fellow gym-bunnies all a-banter. There are even dedicated LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) stalls at some of Cape Town’s hipster markets. More and more restaurants are including Banting options on their menus. But sometimes it just sneaks up on you like a hungry, jumping spider.

Last week, after the Netherlands beat Chile (no, I’m not avoiding the soccer), I joined some friends for supper at a local pub. As the meal was placed before us, an inebriated elderly woman (a stranger) wobbled over from the bar, threw an arm around my friend’s neck and leered into her plate.

"Are you luvvies having a good supper then? Ooh! Chips! I love chips. But Tim forbids them. Banting, you know," slurred the old lush, before leaning in closer, helping herself to a large chip from my friend’s plate and placing it slowly in her mouth.

What? We looked on in horror but it didn’t end there. She paused and was dead still for a few seconds before apparently yielding to Tim, spitting the chip back onto my friend’s plate and swaying back to the bar.

That wasn’t my final encounter with Banting last week. The next day I received an e-mail from a reader of this column who recalled I’d written about cockroach farming last year. ("How roaches can make you rich", Business Day November 13 2013.)

"Here’s something that might interest you," he wrote, adding a link to a www.kickstarter.com article. "Snacks made from crickets. Protein rich and gluten-free; even Noakes might approve!"

Produced by a company called Six Foods ("because six legs are better than four"), Chirps Chips and Chocolate Chirp Cookies are made using flour created by slow-roasted milled crickets. The bugs are raised on insect farms in the US, including an urban cricket farm in Youngstown, Ohio, that breeds organically fed crickets.

The start-up’s founders — three young Harvard graduates, Rose Wang, Laura D’Asaro and Meryl Natow — spent many months experimenting with recipes and production methods because they believe insects are sustainable, healthy and delicious. "The future of food," they insist. They asked professional chef Geoff Lucas to help perfect the recipes. He was intrigued enough by the challenge posed by cooking with insects and how it required him to rethink techniques and flavours to take on the project.

The women of Six Foods concede their business "isn’t normal", and that they’ll have to change people’s minds about eating insects for it to succeed. They also maintain, however, that the recipes result in "the tastiest snacks in the world". Others concur.

Wang, D’Asaro and Natow needed $30,000 to cover ingredients, technology and packaging to get Chirps to market. They listed with funding platform Kickstarter on April 23. Within a month, Six Foods had raised $70,559.

According to Wang, dried crickets comprise 70% protein. Chirps, she says, contain seven grams of protein for every 140 calories, which is similar to the formula used for most protein bars. Moreover, the snacks are gluten-free. But crickets are also low fat. So, whether or not Chirps will score with Prof Noakes remains "debantable".