Even if you consider yourself an adventurous eater, it’s likely that you’ve never tried squirrel or earthworms or South American swamp rats. But all three happen to be invasive species in parts of the U.S., making them in theory a more environmentally friendly choice than the usual chicken or beef. And a new photo series aims to make them look just as tasty.
In Invasive Species, food stylist Michelle Gatton, photographer Christopher Testani, and art director Mason Adams carefully arranged recipes made from earthworms and nutria, along with other invasive species like lionfish, wild boar, and a type of snail called periwinkles. Even the garnishes were made from invasive ingredients like autumnberry and white mulberries.
Gatton was inspired by restaurants like New Haven-based Miya's Sushi, which actually serves a full invasive species menu.
Despite the beautiful styling, not everyone has been a fan. "With this project, what's surprising me the most is the response of just knee-jerk disgust from some," says Gatton. "The photos are meant to be a beautiful depiction—if you are a carnivore—of introducing possibly new ingredients into your eating repertoire. More importantly, to balance out the ecosystem, we should be eating them."
Gatton points out that the truth behind more commonplace foods isn't necessarily that pretty either. "Unless you eat locally and sustainably, and you know your farmers and butchers by name and have even taken that extra step to see your happy well-lived cow or chicken butchered, it might not be a bad idea to study further into what you are eating on a daily basis," she says. "The squirrels might not look so bad after what you find out about big company food."