Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge premiers tonight at 9pm EST on the National Geographic Channel.
Bear Grylls is back doing celebrity interviews out in the wild and it’s as compelling as ever. Somehow, interacting outside of a television studio or movie set while at the mercy of Nature and your host/survival guide also allows them to open up and embrace vulnerabilities that just don’t see the light of day during morning, noon, or nighttime talk shows. It may be a trust thing since they’re entrusting their immediate well-being to Grylls. Either way, it works and never ceases to amaze. This season features the likes of Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Simu Liu, and Anthony Anderson.
Bear Grylls wouldn’t be Bear Grylls if he wasn’t subjecting his guests to his form of culinary adventurism drapes in the guise of survival training. Chowing down on some form of creepy-crawlie is par for the course and an amazing display of trust on the part of Grylls’ guests.
On the surface, it’s great television because it elicits a very visceral response with the guest and also the viewer. It has to be said, watching people’s reactions before, during, and after never gets old. It’s kind of the same amusement you get watching celebrities do interviews on the Hot Ones. What makes it even more appealing is the fact that we know exactly how we would react if we were in their place. It builds this odd sort of solidarity with these celebrities who, let’s admit it, none of us will really meet in real life.
Ashton Kutcher had termites coating his fish filet like breadcrumbs on a chicken cutlet. Rob Riggle got treated to some boisterous crickets while trekking through a tunnel. Natalie Portman, Simu Liu, and Anthony Anderson were treated to that staple of gross me out Foods, the maggot.
And while Portman and Anderson were forced to ingest the little suckers, Bear Grylls had something special lined up for Simu Liu. Not only did the Shang-Chi star eat maggots with his fish, in order to catch said fish, he needed to first defrost the maggot in order to use it as bait. Unfortunately for Liu, with no microwave in sight, the warmth beneath his tongue would serve the purpose.
But on the serious side, eating these insects and wild mushrooms brings up a very serious issue: The limitations of our diets, especially Western diets, is causing all sorts of Environmental problems. We eat only a handful of meats and a sliver of the world’s edible plants. That’s a problem.
In 2013 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) went so far as to officially suggest that countries should eat more insects in their diet. They take pains to highlight that many edible insects are in fact fantastic sources of protein with very little fat. For example, beetles are rich in proteins as are larval forms of bees and butterflies.
It’s not just about eating insects either. By most counts there are at least 200,000 edible species of plants on the Earth but humans only ingest roughly 200 of them. That’s a very, very small amount.
So how have our diets become so narrow? According to some experts, it comes down to ease of growing. Some plants just are not conducive to being produced on the large agricultural scale. The process of narrowing down our diets started thousands of years ago with the domestication process.
The domestication and farming of animals has become particularly troublesome. Industrial Farms pollute waterways and emit all sorts of greenhouse gases. That’s not even mentioning the animal cruelty involves. In theory, adopting protein-rich insects to our diet would go a long way to alleviating the environmental pressure factory farms puts on the environment.
Every time Bear Grylls graces our screens, he reminds us that insects and all sorts of creepy crawlies are in fact edible. While it might may seem like a gimmick, it’s anything but. What it really is is a reminder that we are eating only a portion of what is available to us and that increasing the range of our diets may actually go a long way toward saving our planet.
IMAGE CREDIT: National Geographic/ Ben Simms.