Give Now  »

wfiu logo
WFIU Public Radio

wtiu logo
WTIU Public Television

Choose which station to support!

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

What's Old Is New Again--The Authors Of Meal Discuss Food, Culture And Comics (Rebroadcast)

Read Transcript
Hide Transcript


(Earth Eats theme music)

Kayte Young: From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, I’m Kayte Young, and this is Earth Eats

Blue Deliquanti: “And there's also kind of this vague apocalyptic narrative included in it. More than once I heard people say ‘oh well we'll all be eating this someday.’ “

KY: This week, we give a second listen to our conversation with Blue Dillequanti and Soleil Ho. They’re the authors of Meal, a graphic novel about food, culture, love and entomophagy.

And Chef Arlyn Llewellyn joins us with a nourishing soup recipe made with garden-fresh radishes.

That’s all just ahead, so stay with us.

(Theme music fades out)

KY: First, some news from Harvest Public Media

Madelyn Beck: The union of concerned scientists research now projects higher temperature changes down to the city and county level. It's worst case no action scenario was more extreme than many other projections right now and it shows that by the end of the century, the midwest could see 38 days per year with a 'feels like' temperature of above 105 degrees.

Senior climate scientist, Rachel Licor, co-authored the paper and says that kind of heat would wreak havoc on farmers.

Rachel Licor: "Conditions like that are just not safe for people to be working outdoors so it would really hae a big implication for the bottom line for farm enterprises."

MB: A recent federal climate assessment made similar calculatons showing how ares of the midwest could lose between three and five percent of working hours due to hot temperatures.

The FDA sent a warning to Curaleaf after the cannabis company made numerous claims about CBD oil without verified evidence. The company, which is now reaching into the Midwest, claimed that CBD kills breast cancer cells, is an effective treatment for Parkinson’s and could replace prescription medication for clinical depression.

Dr. Amy Abernethy of the FDA recently spoke to a Senate committee about CBD product violations.

Amy Abernethy: “FDA is a science-based agency. Americans expect the decisions made by FDA are informed by the best available information about safety, and CBD is no exception."

MB: Curaleaf has said it takes the warning seriously and will change its website to meet the FDA’s demands.

Madelyn Beck, Harvest Public Media.

KY: Harvest Public Media reports on food and farming in the heartland. Find more at harvest public media dot org.


KY: Have you ever tried to craft a honey drop cake with bee larvae? What about a simple mealworm curry? Entomophagy, or, the practice of consuming insects for food, has been all over the food media world for years. Often you hear it talked about as a sustainable solution for the world’s growing demand for protein. 

My guests today have a different approach to the topic.

Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho are the authors of the Young Adult Graphic Novel called Meal. Here’s Blue with a summary of the story.

Blue Deliquanti: The basic plot of Meal is that it follows a young woman named Yaro who is moved to a new town in the hopes of getting a job at a new restaurant that is getting a lot buzz for specializing in insect cuisine. And so the book is about her journey to try and get this job while she's making new friends and contacts in her new home.

BD: My name is Blue Deliquanti. I'm a comix writer and illustrator. I am the co-creator of the graphic novel Meal as well as the online comic O Human Star and a few other things."

KY: Blue is the artist and the primary author of the story. 

Soleil Ho is a food writer and the restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. She is also a co-host of the podcast Racist Sandwich, and host of the podcast Popaganda on Bitch Media. 

Soleil played a consulting role for the story, as someone with professional restaurant experience.

Soleil Ho: I feel like it was small details that were really important like how many chairs will fit in a restaurant and like how much is turnover.

BD: yeah

SH: Kind of practical things like what do you call a chef when you're working with them, that sort of thing.

BD: Lots of things that help make the place feel authentic to the experience of running a restaurant and joining like the community of a restaurant staff in a way because Soleil has practical like hands-on knowledge and experience of how that works because of what she's done.

SH: Um-hmm and I think one of my favorite things that I added on was...just to toot my own horn a bit but just there's a scene at the beginning where Yaro first enters the restaurant where Gonzalo brings up..he gets a phone call, right? from the food essentially, the local food critic and they ask about the restaurant concept and so the part that we kind of added was just the way the reporter asked questions about the restaurant to sort of sensationalize it and so that was a really nice kind of undertone there that set the scene for all of these other things that happens in the book.

BD: Oh yeah and the other thing I should add is that Soleil also contributed and essay to be a book end for the graphic novel that I think is like a super important part because know she's talking about..she has interviewed people she knows like friends and contacts in the restaurant industry and people who practice entomophagy and do it in their restaurants and I felt like that was really important because it helps establish that even though the narrative of Meal is fictional a lot of these concepts are grounded in something real and something that people are experiencing and starting to share more in mainstream American culture. It helps anchor these fun fictional details in something that is real and that people have experience in.

KY: And Soleil was there something in particular that excited you about the project?

SH: At the time I think, even currently, I'm so excited about food comix and just the new wave of food comix ever since Cook Korean! There's just so much out there that renders food and drink in really interesting, challenging ways and it's helped expand my idea of food writing and so having the chance to work on something like that was so cool, I couldn't pass it up.

BD: It's a genre of comix that is really grown and matured a lot in the last ten years especially. There's so many amazing ways that cartoonist have figured out how to render food in art and in comix and also be able to communicate recipes and the history of food. It's really a great way to communicate a lot of unusual of esoteric or just like really interesting food concepts.

SH: And when you get to edible insects, making them look...I feel like illustration makes them look cuter than photography [laughter] for a lot of people.

BD: that’s true.

KY: Do either of you have entomophagy in your own food traditions?

SH: In family is Vietnamese, there's some folks who make pho with seaworms in them so they incorporate dry seaworms into the broth to add a certain element, a certain like je ne sais quoi to pho that's pretty interesting.

BD: I'm Italian-American and the only thing that came to mind is the..uh..there's an insect called cochineal that for a long time was a red dye that, a food-safe red dye that you could find in a whole bunch of things and for the most part it's been phased out for artificial red dye in food. I think one of the only exceptions is an Italian liqueur called Campari. Yeah, that's the only thing I can think of Italian-wise that comes to mind for me.

SH: Well there is the maggot cheese, Blue.

BD: Oh, I forgot about the maggot cheese. Do tell. Do tell.

SH: That's your people! (laughs) So there's this island. I can't remember the name of the island but there is a place in Italy where they have traditionally eaten a type of cheese called Casu marzu and it is allowed to be inoculated or I guess, used as an incubator essentially for cheese wasp larvae and so when the larvae hatch they consume the cheese and digest it so it becomes this really interesting creamy, musky flavor and people just eat it with bread and delicious wine and they eat the cheese, larvae and all.

KY:  Do the larvae...are they still alive in the cheese or at some point do they not make it?

SH:  Oh yea, they're still alive.

KY:  Okay so if we could talk a little bit more about the topic of entomophagy so it's become a pretty hot topic in the food world especially in thinking about a solution for meeting the protein needs in a more environmentally sound manner in the future but you make the point in the story and in Soleil's essay too at the end about how eating insects isn't some new fad or a solution for the future but something that's a part of many cultures cuisines and has been.  Could you talk a little bit more about that?

SH:  What is interesting to me is always the...especially in food media because that's my world, the temptation to talk about the future of food and think like with wide-eyed kind of excitement about what's coming and what food might look like as we rapidly approach our Star Trek-ish future especially in the Bay Area there's a lot of ideas that fly around. 

One thing that I find really interesting is about that though is that a lot of entrepreneurs who are jumping on the edible insect bandwagon in the past, oh gosh, six years are of Western origin and by that I mean people from the first worldish developed countries.  People from Europe or from North America.  That doesn't include Mexico because I think a lot of people who are north of the border are the ones who are better situated to start these techish insect startups. 

There's a lot of rhetoric about what insects can do for you, for your nutrition, for your lifestyle and not a lot of that same slow food language that we also have been really excited about in the Bay area and in the US and across the world about you know thinking about the origin of your food.  Thinking about whole foods that doesn't really apply to insects for some reason right?  Because so much thought is being put into the marketing of them rather than sourcing for instance or just their place in like a well-balanced diet rather than just a snack food.  It's just so complicated and so rich and that's what got me really excited about it. 

BD:  And there's also kind of this vague apocalyptic narrative included in it.  More than once, I've heard people saying 'oh well, we'll all be eating this someday.'  like the idea that when the bottom falls out of our current food way that insects will be the perhaps not desired but necessary replacement.

SH:  The experience of entomophagy and edible insects is so diverse and varied because most people in the world eat them and that means there's a huge multiplicity of just ways that people go about that and so in this town called Kashihara in Japan they raise lots in boxes in their backyard.  It's mainly older folks and they capture a tiny, maybe baseball-sized net in the spring and over the summer and into the fall they feed them just like raw chicken, just throw it into the box for the larvae to eat.  

KY:  Wow

SH:  Yeah it's really interesting and the adults eat like sugar water, like honey water and bring meat to the larvae and so it's a kind of funny thing when you think about people trying to sell insects as a protein replacement because they are just feeding them the protein that you would ostensibly be replacing with them and so less about that shift in lifestyle and more just about we are cultivating these things because we enjoy the flavor, because we like them and that's so different from what we normally here.  You have to make the nest big because there's a contest at the beginning of November every year to see who has made biggest hornets nest or wasp nest and so you gotta make'em big.  You gotta, you gotta make'em swole.

BD:  (laughs)  Soleil was describing this to me about like whose gonna get like the biggest hive.

SH:  They ranged from like one kilo to seven.

BD:  Really gargantuan looking.  They're just really really big and yeah just talking about all of these like older retirees who would be winning and everyone else grumbling like 'oh well they can stay home all day and feed them chicken and squid'.  It just feels like totally normal in a very charming small town way and I really love how completely outside of the say North American experience but still extremely relatable.  I love that story.

SH: Those scenarios are what's competing against the future narrative.  

KY: Soleil I wanted to ask you if there are a lot of restaurants in the Bay area that are offering dishes made with mealworms with ants and grasshoppers or tarantula and do you expect to be sampling those dishes and reviewing those restaurants?

SH: Oh man, I actually just met one of the founders of Tiny Farms which is a cricket and mealworm company out in Oakland and he said that there weren't too many out here but that he was willing to come with me to sample whatever we could so yeah, I would be really excited to try restaurants insects in the Bay Area but I haven't yet.

KY: Okay, do you also expect to be taking on the topic of cultural appropriation in the restaurant world in this new position?

SH: Maybe. It's the sort of the thing that will be more implicit because I think the conversations about cultural appropriation are so damaged. I don't think people really understand how to talk about it and so I think going about it in a more subtle way would probably make more sense.

KY: Yeah, what do you mean by the conversations are so damaged. I mean some people haven't even had the conversations yet so...

SH: I mean yeah right that's the thing right? I think that there is a knee-jerk reaction where cultural appropriation means you can't eat food that doesn't belong to your culture. I think that has just triggered so quickly that reaction that I don't if using that phrase makes sense anymore because I think people bring a lot of baggage to that conversation when really what you should be talking about is the racial wealth gap and about you know unequal business opportunities and cultural ownership and intellectual property rights and that sort of thing.

There is so much more deep ways to be having the conversation whereas cultural appropriation is just kind's a flashpoint and so you know, I think, especially with me, I think there are people who have encountered my work who haven't really read it. They think that I'm just gonna be just marking down all of the white-owned taco places but it's a lot more complicated than that and I'm hoping to reintroduce a level of nuance and complication.

KY: Well thank you both so much for taking the time to talk with me today.

BD: Yeah, our pleasure. Thank you!

KY: Bye!

BD & SH: Bye!

KY: Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho are the Authors of Meal published by Iron Circus Comics. We have links to their work and some of their favorite food comics on our website at Earth Eats Dot org. 

I have to say, I wasn’t that thrilled about entomophagy when I first picked up the book, but by the end, I was genuinely wishing I could try some of the dishes described in the story. They sounded so appealing. I hope you have a chance to check out the book. 

(production support music)

KY: Production support comes from Elizabeth Rue enrolled agent providing customized financial services for individuals, businesses and disabled adults, including tax planning, bill paying and estate services.  More at Personal Financial Services dot net. 

Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio, architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects.  Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world.  Bill at griffycreek dot studio and insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch insurance offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage in affiliation with Pekin Insurance.  Beyond the expected.  More at 812-336-6838.

(production support music fades out)

KY: I wish I could say that our recipe this week includes insects, but unfortunately, no. You’ll have to get your hands on a copy of Meal for some recipes, Instead, this week we have a soup recipe from Chef Arlyn Llewellyn, featuring the whole radish!

AL: We are going to make a whole radish soup. I say that because we're gonna use tip to tail of the radish. There's so many vegetables where we only eat one portion of it so it's really nice to be able to use the whole thing so we're gonna use the radish itself as well as its greens.

KY: So do you normally try to source a lot of your vegetables locally?

AL: We definitely try to work with local vendors whenever possible. It's always a balancing act. In Indiana we only have a certain growing season and as a restaurant, we have to think about profit margins but its really important to us to work with local vendors and do whenever we can.

Before we opened the restaurant, I had this sort of utopian vision of the classic restaurant owner walking through the Farmer's Market with their basket, shopping. Picking up foods to make specials with at the restaurant that day. I feel like you see that on like food television and that's certainly never been my reality. I've got so much going on that the idea of going to the Farmer's Market on task, trying to buy stuff of the restaurant, not run into a ton of people I know. Get in, get out. Go to the restaurant and shop just doesn't tend to work. I tend to prefer working with vendors where we can just have a separate arrangement where we pick up from them.

KY: for this recipe, Chef Llewellyn is using locally sourced radishes and chili peppers. 

AL: Um, we're gonna really layer textures and temperatures in this soup. We're gonna have a hot radishy base and then we're gonna top it with some crunch and some cold elements.

We're going to start with making that little cold topping which is minced radishes. We're gonna use a pound of radishes for this stage which is the standard size that you buy at a grocery store. You're just gonna break these down into maybe half-inch pieces. (chopping sounds)

Okay, so we're gonna transfer these cubes of radish to the food processor. So we're just gonna pulse these up. (food processor sound) Scrape down the sides.

Okay, so we are just gonna go ahead and transfer those to something and put them away in the fridge until we're ready to eat our soup. We're gonna make our garlic poppyseed breadcrumbs which will be the other garnish for the soup. We have about a half a cup of peeled garlic cloves. It's probably about one to two heads of garlic. We could mince it ourselves or use a garlic press but we're just gonna have the food processor do that for us so we're just gonna pulse these in here until it's minced (food processor sounds) and now we've got four slices of whole wheat bread so we've torn the bread into bite-sized pieces and we're gonna have the food processor break them down into crumbs for us (food processor low sound). Transfer the garlic breadcrumb mixture to a cookie sheet and to this we're gonna add a half a cup of extra virgin olive oil...

KY: ...and how much salt did you add?

AL: That was two teaspoons of fine sea salt and we're gonna just mix this really well as the breadcrumbs are all pretty equally coated with the oil and spread it out evenly on our pan and we are gonna cook this at 325 degrees for well we're gonna have to start checking it every ten minutes but it will probably take 15 to 20 to cook.

KY: Keep in mind that Chef Llewellyn is making a large quantity here. I think at home, I might just pop this in the toaster oven and keep a close eye on it. Either way, you’ll want to check it every 5 minutes and stir it to make sure it all gets evenly browned. 

AL: So you cook them and stir them periodically until we got a nice, do you hear that noise?  It's nice and crunchy and to that we are going to add some poppy seeds and now we're going to make the soup which as I promised will take less work than the garnishes did.

Okay, so we want a large onion.  We just wanna dice this up.  Okay so we're gonna wanna transfer onions to a medium stockpot with a couple of tablespoons of oil and we're gonna cook this for about ten minutes until the onions start to become translucent and starting to carmelize a little bit. 

Meantime we're gonna get our other vegetables ready.  So we want a half a cup of hot peppers. So we're gonna mince these up (chopping sounds) and we want three pounds of radishes cut into quarters. 

Again we're going to be using the whole radish.  Don't feel like you have to remove the little scraggly root ends.  It's totally edible and this is going to be pureed later and no one is gonna know the difference so we're just gonna use every part of the radish that isn't the greens.

Right so, you can absolutely cut these by hand.  I already have my food processor set up so I'm gonna use the slicing attachment on my food processor and then use that same attachment to slice up some potatoes but you can definitely just dice them by hand.  So we want three cups of dices potatoes. 

Yeah so we're gonna check on our onions and a few of the edges are starting to carmelize a little bit and we're gonna stop there and add these vegetables we've prepped, half a cup of hot peppers, our three pounds of sliced radishes and our three cups of diced potatoes. 

We're gonna transfer all that to the stockpot and we're also gonna add four cups of radish greens and then we're gonna add four cups of water. 

It's a common mistake that people make when they're making soups at home especially pureed soup is they add a ton of water and then the blend the whole thing and the vegetables taste really waterlogged and bland.  I think there's something really amazing about tasting a pureed soup and really feeling like you're tasting the vegetable itself and the best way to do that is to use very little water. 

So you're gonna want to maintain that water level so you pour the first four cups of water in you want to see where that water level is.  You're wanna keep adding some water to keep it about at that level but you don't want to add more or you're gonna end up with a very soddy bland soup. 

First you're gonna wanna bring it up to a simmer over a medium, medium-high heat but as soon as you get that simmer you're gonna turn it way down to medium-low and check on it every fifteen to twenty minutes just stir it and as said you may have to touch up the water level but this could easily go for a couple of hours and just get nice and soft. 

KY: The nice thing about making a soup like this is that you can go do other things while it gently simmers on the stovetop. 

AL: So once the vegetables are entirely cooked down and very soft, just before we're gonna blend this we're wanna add a few more elements to bring out the flavor of the radish by seasoning it. We're gonna add six tablespoons of miso, one and a half tablespoons of vinegar and a little bit of sea salt and then we're gonna puree the whole thing either with an immersion blender or transfer it in batches to a traditional blender

KY: If you use a blender or food processor for this, let the soup cool down a bit, and be sure to blend it in batches. Hot liquids expand in the blender and can make a big mess if you’re not careful. If you have an emersion or stick blender, you can blend it right in the pot.

AL: Dish the soup into a bowl, you're gonna wanna layer on those garnishes that we've carefully prepared and we are ready to serve.

KY: And now comes the fun part. We get to taste it. It has such a  complex flavor, I just, I love the heat from the peppers and the radish. Oh, it's really nice.

AL: I think you could easily serve that to someone and not point out that it was vegan and I don't think that they would feel like they were missing out on a dairy or a meat element at all.  It's definitely very filling and rich and again really the only richness comes in those breadcrumbs otherwise it's really just vegetable mass that you're tasting but because it wasn't diluted and it has that complexity from the miso you'r able to serve people mostly vegetables.  So I hope you enjoy it.

KY: And enjoy it, we did. And you will too. Don’t even think about skipping the garnishes. They really make the soup. You’ve got at least two different kinds of crunch here, from the crisp fresh radish to the bread crumbs. There’s some poppy seeds in there, too, it’s a great contrast to the smooth and creamy soup.

Look for the recipe on our website, Earth Eats dot org

(Theme music fades up)

The Earth Eats team includes Chad Bouchard, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Taylor Killough, Josephine McRobbie, Daniel Orr, The IU Food Institute, Harvest Public Media and me Renee Reed.  Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.

Special thanks this week to Blue Delaquani, Soleil Ho and Chef Arlyn Llewellyn.

Production support comes from insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch insurance.  Offering comprehensive auto business and home coverage in affiliation with Pekin Insurance.  Beyond the expected. More at 812-336-6838.  Elizabeth Ruh, enrolled agent with Personal Financial Services.  Assisting business and individuals with tax preparation and planning for over fifteen years.  More at Personal Financial Services dot net and Bill Brown at Griffy Creek studio.  Architectural design and consulting for residential, commerial and community projects.  Sustainable, energy-positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world.  Bill at Griffy creek dot studio.

(Theme music ends)

Cartoon drawing of Blue Deliquanti and Soleil Ho, with various insects on them.

Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho, the authors of Meal, as depicted by comic artist, Blue Delliquanti (image courtesy of the artist)

“And there's also this vague apocalyptic narrative included in it. More than once I heard people say ‘well we'll all be eating this someday.’ “

Entomophagy, or, the practice of consuming insects for food, has been all over the food media world for years. Often you hear it talked about as a sustainable solution for the world’s growing demand for protein.

My guests today have a different approach to the topic.
Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho are the authors of the Young Adult Graphic Novel, Meal. It’s a story about restaurant life, traditional foodways and insect cuisine. Oh, and there’s an LGBT romance, to boot!

Blue Delliquanti is a comics writer, illustrator and the creator of O Human Star.

Soleil Ho is a food writer and the restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. She is co-host of the podcast Racist Sandwich, and host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She has also cooked professionally in Minneapolis, New Orleans and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

In the interview, Blue and Soleil share stories about cultural traditions of raising and eating insects. They also talk about how comics have a way of making complex food topics comprehensible and making bugs look cute on a plate.

Also this week, Chef Arlyn Llewellyn of Function Brewing joins us with a nourishing wintertime soup recipe.

Food Comic Recommendations from Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho

From Soleil:
Cooking Papa
Sweetness and Lightening 
Nobunaga Chef

From Blue:
The Drops of God
Cook Korean!, by Robin Ha
Jade Fung Li
Jean Wei

Music on This Episode

Summer League by Connor Musarra and Stephan Sechi (Killer Tracks)

Sidewalk Strut by Matthew Robert Corbett and Michael Joseph Wilkie (Killer Tracks)

The Earth Eats’ theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Stories On This Episode

Whole Radish Soup


The garnishes for this soup are not extra, they are essential. The contrast of crunchy and smooth, hot and cold makes this soup striking and memorable.

FDA To CBD Retailers: Don’t Make Unfounded Health Claims


Buyer beware: some makers of CBD oil products make health claims with no backing.

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media