The future of food is fermented, faux, functional and entomological. We’re looking for alternatives that create a smaller “foodprint” and promise good health. We aren’t just feeding ourselves; now we know we’re feeding our gut microbiota too. Each of us wants to eat according to our food sensitivities, blood types, genes—gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, paleo, keto—and we want to produce way less waste doing it. Farming, food production, packaging and, indeed, lifestyles are being scrutinized, and it can feel overwhelming, but it’s also a time of great creativity. We are looking forward, but we’re also looking back to the ways of our ancestors, and it’s all right here in our delicious past-meets-future picnic.
Makes 9 generous squares
Why “mega”? Because these moist and indulgent treats are also packed with three sources of protein: walnuts, peanut butter and, wait for it, crickets! True, bugs at a picnic is something we usually try to avoid, but insect protein is the future, so we’re inviting them onto the menu. Cricket flour is getting easier to find—it’s available at health food stores, online and at many large grocery chains—and, yes, it does taste quite nutty and earthy, which makes it an easy addition to baked, chocolatey things. Peanut butter powder is another innovation we love. Add it to smoothies and other recipes with ease for a protein boost without the oil.
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 free-range, room-temperature eggs
1/2 cup plain kefir; milk or yogurt will do as well
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cricket flour, a.k.a. cricket powder
1/2 cup fair-trade dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter powder, a.k.a. powdered peanuts
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup fair-trade dark chocolate chunks or large chips
1/3 cup chopped raw walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan; set aside.
In large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, mix butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds. Beat in eggs until fully combined and smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low; add kefir and mix until fully incorporated.
In another bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, cricket flour, cocoa powder, peanut butter powder, baking powder and salt.
With mixer on low to medium-low speed, mix dry ingredients into butter-and-egg mixture until fully combined, about 1 minute.
Transfer to prepared baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes. If cake tester inserted into centre of brownies comes out clean, it’s done; if not, return to oven for 5 to 10 more minutes.
When done, let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting to serve.
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or pack them up to enjoy as they are at room temperature.
Taking Out the Trash
Picnicking can be a trashy business, and plastics play a big role: plates, cutlery, cups, bottles, baggies, wrap, straws and paper napkins. But there are ways to take the trash out of your picnic, and here are a few of our favourite alternatives. Instead of new and disposable, think vintage, secondhand, reusable or compostable. We love the selection of innovative compostable and reusable products from Canadian company Green Munch (greenmunch.ca).
• Paper plates and cutlery—consider vintage enamelware and thrift-store silverware, compostable bamboo, or dishware and cutlery made from pressed leaves.
• Plastic cups or bottles—fill up jars, insulated flasks or a canteen from an army surplus shop.
• Plastic straws—bring along paper, steel or even hollow pasta or rice straws.
• Plastic bags and wrapping—go for beeswax wraps, brown paper bags, parchment paper, cookie tins, tiffins, reusable shopping totes and baskets.
• Paper napkins—real cloth linens (napkins and tea towels make the simplest picnic elegant).
Recipes, text and food styling by Signe Langford
Photographs by Tristan Peirce
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for such publications as: LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015. She studied Fine Art History and Humanities at the University of Toronto, and York University; she graduated with honours from OCAD University; she earned her Wine Specialist Certificate from George Brown College.