The variety of worlds science fiction accustoms us to, through imagination, is training for thinking about the actual changes—sometimes catastrophic, often confusing—that the real world funnels at us year after year. It helps us avoid feeling quite so gob-smacked.

A Little Cricket Diary Entry

You order your crickets online from a cricket farm, like Fluker Farms or Armstrong Crickets. Their websites are jarring but the purchasing experience is relatively easy and simple. It is slightly disconcerting that you will be eating the same insects that are raised to be fed to people’s pet iguanas.

You preemptively set up the home for the crickets, needs to be escape proof, have plenty of hiding spaces, food, water, and ventilation

When the crickets arrive a few days later by mail the box will be marked LIVE CRICKETS all over it. Depending on the size/age of the crickets, the box might also be chirping.

You would think the crickets would be in some kind of container within the postage box, but they are not. They are just IN the box. 

You cut through the tape holding the box closed, and slowly peel a flap open. 

And then shut it very quickly because at least 3 crickets try to make a mad escape.

You realize you will need to put the box inside of the home you built for them in order to transfer them without having loose crickets all over your apartment. 

You then realize you will need to flip the box over to get the crickets out. This takes a lot of maneuvering but eventually they all fall out in a pile of wings and legs and egg cartons. 

You quickly close the home and secure it to make sure there are no escapees. One still manages to get away into the floorboards. Depending on your country of origin, finding a lone cricket in your house can mean anything from a pending windfall of money to impending death. Choose the myths you believe in wisely.

Over the days you observe your crickets, they seem to chirp incessantly. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, something isn’t right. Oh, it’s the chirping. It won’t stop. You put on a white noise playlist on Spotify hoping that will drown out the sound. At some point during the night your boyfriend turns it off. 

Said boyfriend doesn’t seem to have a problem with the chirping. He thinks it is quite nice. It reminds him of being outdoors back home. 

You think about cooking the crickets and just getting it over with so you never have to hear them again.

Over the next few days you realize something has changed. The crickets haven’t stopped chirping, but you’ve stopped hearing it as a noise outside of your usual living experience. They have embedded themselves into your aural diary of city sounds. 

You’ve been agonizing over what to feed your crickets. There isn’t much research on the subject

You decide on a mix of chopped fruits and veggies from your CSA with nuts and ground flax seed for protein. They need protein, you know at least that. 

They drink water from a wet sponge. If you fill a bowl with water they will simply drown. You discover you added a little too much water one day when you find a drowned cricket under the sponge. RIP little guy.

At first you are constantly wondering if they are eating. The food supply never seems to dwindle and you can’t catch them in the act. As they get bigger everything changes though. They devour the food in a couple of hours. 

You think about other things you might feed them that might make them taste better. Like honey ants, a delicacy in some parts of the world, you want to make your crickets taste like the food they are eating. You are not sure if this is going to work. 

The crickets are getting bigger and you need to start preparing them for their final act. You place a small container of dirt in their home, before you cook them you need them to reproduce to keep the system going. 

You keep checking for eggs, you are told they look like little white seeds and they are buried a little under the soil. When you finally discover them, you have to move the soil box from the container with the adults to a separate “safe place”. There they will incubate and hatch in about 3 weeks. 

You learn the entire lifespan of your crickets is about 10 weeks.

You are finally ready to cook your first batch of crickets. Everyone has been asking you what you are going to make with them. You’ve decided on tacos, you’ve already been exposed to them at Mexican restaurants, and tacos are one of your favorite foods anyways. Plus, all those condiments - hot sauce, pico de gallo, cotija, guacomole, onions and cilantro, crema… if it tastes bad at least you can drown them in all of this.

So, I keep having these panic attacks about what exactly I am doing for thesis. It has been a bit of a roller coaster… The hardest part has been connecting the dots from the bigger ideas to the more tangible experiments. I’m hoping this little intro will help ground the two together:

Currently, there is a lot of talk about the future of our planet. One of the biggest concerns is what the future of our food systems will be. Existing production methods are unsustainable and wreaking havoc on our environment, the demand for food is growing as populations increase exponentially, and there is an increased competition for arable land for food production (amongst other issues).

Knowing that the world’s problems won’t be solved by a single interaction designer, and wanting a way to filter out the noise, Home Grown takes the approach of encouraging the people that encounter the project to begin thinking about their food differently and taking action amongst themselves, a form of intimate activism. The project is both a guide and living example of how people can begin to do this. Every person who experiments with the idea of Home Grown acts as a “Public Amateur”, a non-specialist practicing in a world of unknowns, navigating the issues that are important to them.

Home Grown starts with a set of principles called ‘A Thoughtfulness Guide for Living With Your Food’. By following these guidelines, users are asked to nurture their food and think about its entire lifecycle from seed to adult. This process allows for complete transparency in the food system, as well as a connection to food that is now lost amongst most urban dwellers. 

The first project introduced through Home Grown is a home cricket farm. Crickets are small, efficient sources of protein and are outside the societal norm of Western culture enough that the concept can encourage critical thinking through defamiliarization. Through this cricket farm project I am portraying my own experience as a public amateur, as well as providing a model for others to experiment with insects in their cooking vernacular.  

Other experiments and projects will be introduced through Home Grown including frameworks for discussion in online platforms and in small, social settings. This isn’t about reaching the maximum number of people at a time, but about organic growth of ideas and sharing of insights and information.