Thomas Micolino, an ice cream maker from Baden-Württemberg, always causes a stir with his recipes. Whether gold leaf, gorgonzola or liver sausage - his ice cream flavors are anything but conventional. In his café in Rottenburg am Neckar, Micolino is now offering a new creation - not everyone is enthusiastic.
The man will definitely get straight to the point. "Do you dare?" Thomas Micolino asks challengingly when you enter his ice cream parlour. The question relates to the contents of the metal container that is waiting for customers at the far left of the counter. Four kilos of fresh, light brown ice cream lie there, draped on a green artificial turf, carefully separated from the rest of the usual varieties, Malaga, mango and chocolate.
Safety distance from the special ice - so that the guests are not disgusted. A mix-up is impossible anyway. The special ice cream is topped with brown insects. Dead crickets with prickly hind legs and long feelers adorn the ice cream. To make it clear that that's exactly what's in it: dried house crickets, Acheta domesticus, house crickets. In any other kitchen, you would call the exterminator after a short cry at the sight of this. With Thomas Micolino one hears the question: "Waffle or cup?"
Micolino, 33 years old, runs a rather unusual ice cream parlor in the middle of the market square in tranquil Rottenburg am Neckar, between the Swabian Jura and the Black Forest. Again and again he caused a stir with his creations. Once he made an ice cream with real gold leaf ("I had to stop again, four euros a scoop was too expensive for many"), and he also offered Gorgonzola and liver sausage as varieties.
Now he produces ice from insects. Why? Mainly because Micolino is now allowed by law. House crickets have been allowed to be used in food under EU law for a few days. The crunchy crawling creatures can now be frozen, dried or used as a powder, as can the larvae of the grain mold beetle. Similar rules already exist for locusts and flour beetle larvae.
Insects are considered nutritious and rich in protein, they are part of the usual cuisine in many countries. The Hamburg consumer advice center has so far spoken of a very small niche market. But insects can contribute to a sustainable diet because they can be bred in a relatively resource-saving manner. "This will play a major role in feeding humanity in the future," says the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann.
Micolino claims that he runs the first German ice cream parlor with insect ice cream, which is difficult to verify. In Munich, an ice cream maker is now advertising high-protein "buffalo worm ice cream". "Advertising with disgust arouses curiosity," says Benedikt Jahnke, an expert in food marketing at the University of Kassel. There is a certain group of consumers who jump at it, so-called "sensation seekers" who quickly get bored. Since Micolino keeps offering new creations, the strategy is consistent, says the researcher. "He takes what is currently being discussed controversially in society and converts it into an interesting action."
Ice cream maker Micolino is probably one of the sensation seekers. He was simply driven by the desire to experiment. He himself has tried insects on vacation, including snakes and crocodiles, he reports. "I get bored doing the same thing over and over." For months he tried around in his small ice cream factory in the back room, worked on the right composition with the crawling animal, refined the taste. He obtains the crickets from a local breeder and boils the powder again at 90 degrees. To make four kilos of ice cream, he needs 200 grams of cricket flour, plus cream, sugar, milk, vanilla, cookies and wild honey from the Black Forest.
But of course the ice cream seller is happy about the attention for his little shop. After an Instagram post about the insect ice cream, the local newspaper got in touch, and since then the journalists have been taking turns. He actually only wanted to offer his insect milk ice cream for a few days, but now he's extending the campaign due to the rush.
Customers vacillate between curiosity and disgust. An elderly gentleman walks into the ice cream parlor and introduces himself as Micolino's neighbor. "I found two dead mice outside," he calls out and grins. "Shall we make ice cream out of it too?" He himself prefers to eat schnitzel and spaetzle, he says. But the Micolino has courage.
Many customers want to try at least once. "Otherwise I can't have a say," says one, who is happily licking a portion of cricket ice cream out of a cone. He wouldn't go to the jungle camp, but he doesn't find a little insect ice cream disgusting. "As long as no eyes are looking at me," he says. It tastes nutty. "Oat flakes, a bit bitter," says another customer.
So far, no one who has tried has been disappointed, reports Micolino. But the reaction is by no means all positive. Outraged followers on social media have canceled their customers. He presents an angry email on his cell phone. "Do you have to take part in every sh...?" one writes to him. The ice cream seller can't understand that, after all he doesn't force people to do it, he says. "It's just a mind thing." Anyone who is against it should come and try it. Thomas Micolino even lures his customers with an offer: everyone who orders a scoop of insect ice cream gets a second scoop of their choice.