We are not what we eat

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I haven’t touched coffee from our works machine since a colleague found ants floating in her brew several months ago.

At home we have an annual invasion of the annoying little six legged insects and litter the house with “Nippon motels,” powder and gel before they crawl their way into the spice jars and honey pots. Now it seems instead of shunning or destroying them I should, in fact, be eating them.

In case you hadn’t heard, Noma, named for the past three years as the world’s best restaurant, has decamped from Copenhagen for a 10 day “pop-up” at Claridge’s hotel. And as if “pop ups” weren’t bad enough (they’re temporary dining establishments, usually over priced and oversubscribed) this one seats 178 people each sitting (the real one takes just 40) and foodies have been queuing up to spend £195 a head to sample the delights of Rene Redzepi’s creations.

He’s seen as a “food visionary” using foraged ingredients and such delights as “edible soil.” He also serves up ants. He doesn’t even disguise them with a French or Dutch name so you’re not sure what you’re eating until you’re eating it. They’re called “ants” on the menu and the first 27,000 imported by his ant hunter had gone in days (well, a spoonful probably puts paid to a couple of hundred at a throw).

Thankfully these aren’t just any old ants (or even M&S ones). They’re a species only found in four anthills where the hunter sucks them out gently with a straw into a tiny net at the end. They’re then flown to London to be served in a glass kilner jar as they scramble over cabbage leaves dressed with creme fraiche.

Yes, I checked the date too and it wasn’t April 1. But surely there’s an element of the Emperor’s New Clothes going on here. Basically if you’ve spent £195 each on A Taste of Noma you’re not going to admit that the best place for an ant is under your foot not under your creme fraiche.

There was other stuff on the menu too – crudites in that edible soil (how many times have we told children not to eat dirt?) and slippery dishes made to be eaten without cutlery.

Thankfully Mr Redzepi is as unlikely to “pop up” in Blackpool as Azir’s Kebab’s are to make a temporary home at Claridge’s but as a food writer who once baulked at the prospect of a snail starter I won’t be placing my ant order just yet.

However I did find myself converted to something this week – female beach volleyball. I never bothered with it when it was on Blackpool Promenade – and more’s the pity. But last Saturday whilst a few of us killed time in our morning suits waiting for the Only One’s wedding to come around it was there in all its Olympic glory. I can’t tell you who won – because that seemed quite secondary to the proceedings. What I can tell you is that there was no trouble filling the sponsored seats even at a surprisingly early hour. Even our own Government bought 410 tickets at a cost of £26,000 compared to just 256 athletics tickets.

So what was the appeal? Well, it wasn’t the ants in their pants we were watching.