A self-confessed picky eater who was plagued by food intolerances, has become a fully-fledged gastronome after she began cooking with bugs.
Joy Nemerson, 24, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, compares ant eggs to caviar, and rustles up flavoursome food such as cricket pizza, mealworm stir fry and fried grasshopper in the kitchen.
While her family and friends find the 'ick factor' too hard to palate, Joy, who works for a recycling company, is a massive advocate of creepy crawly cuisine, which is now a part of her staple diet.
Speaking as new research has revealed that eating crickets could be good for the gut, helping to support the growth of beneficial bacteria and reduce inflammation, Joy explained: 'I do completely understand that staring a mealworm in the face and biting down on it can feel a little weird, but I've got over it very quickly.'
She continued: 'I grew up as the pickiest eater in the world, but now I eat bugs at least twice a week.
'To me, it's a really exciting movement and once you're in, you're hooked.'
A fussy eater in her youth, Joy said this was partly due to a number of food allergies she developed in her teens to wheat and several different vegetables.
But, with age, she says this has pushed her to seek out 'new ways of eating.'
Then, in 2017, she met with the CEO of Chirps Chips, a company which makes crisps with cricket protein, at a conference, and the pair started chatting about cooking with bugs.
'I tried a chip and it actually tasted really good. It had an earthy, nutty flavour,' said Joy.
'The more I heard about edible insects, the more interested I was. I wanted to get started right away.'
Also attracted by the sustainability benefits of eating bugs, Joy sees it as an excellent way of helping to improve the future prospects of our planet.
She continued: 'You read all these stories and reports about how we're running out of the world's resources, so this is a far more sustainable way of eating.
'Insects are rich in protein and iron, just like meat – but without using anywhere near as many resources.
'When you think you can get similar health benefits from a handful of crickets as you can from raising a whole cow, eating insects seems a much better option for the future of the planet.'
Inspired by her conversation at the 2017 conference, when Joy went on holiday to Mexico City soon afterwards, where insect cuisine is commonly served, and she soon developed a passion for eating bugs.
She recalled: 'There were so many amazing options. I tried a fried grasshopper, which really did just taste like a barbeque crisp, as well as mealworm crackling. It tastes exactly like bacon – what could be better than that?
'I also tried ant egg tacos. They're quite salty and sort of pop in your mouth like caviar.
'My favourite insect to eat has to be a beetle. They have this amazing smoky flavour and are seasoned really well.'
Back home, Joy was keen to continue on her creepy crawly culinary voyage, so she began to look for local places where she could buy insects to eat.
As the trend is still in its early stages in the USA, she mainly ordered items online – but also managed to discover an organic market which sold bags of bugs by the pound.
'I bought a huge tub of cricket powder, which is almost like a protein powder and can be mixed into most things – brownies, cakes, muffins, even smoothies,' she said. 'That cost me around $35 (£26.60) but will last me ages.
'It's a little more expensive to buy the bugs whole, around $5 (£3.80) per ounce, so I don't do it as much.
'I'm always keen to educate people, though. Last time I was at the market, I could see people looking at me buying the bugs, so I stopped to explain how healthy and sustainable they are.
'I even managed to convince a couple of people to try them,' she added.
Earlier this year, Joy decided to set up an Instagram account dedicated to her bug eating.
There, she shares recipes, tips and snaps of her latest creations, which have included beetle canapes, cricket gnocchi and a special pizza which layers three different types of bug.
'There's cricket powder in the dough, which some people find a little easier to start with as they aren't staring at a whole bug while they eat,' she said. 'Then, I make this great sauce which has mealworms in, and I'll sprinkle chilli-lime crickets and mealworms on top of the cheese.
'You can taste bugs in every bite, it's delicious.'
Now sharing her story to encourage others to give insects a try, Joy told how, as a birthday gift, her co-workers allowed her to film them trying a bite of a bug each – and, to her surprise, many of them liked them.
She laughed: 'Many people find it completely disgusting, but the most unexpected characters are really up for trying it.
'The thing is, there are already traces of insect in so many of our foods anyway, like vegetables, and even coffee. You might as well take control and be aware of what you're eating.
'It's thought that two billion people worldwide eat bugs as a regular part of their diet, and there are almost 2,000 known edible species.
'Wherever you are on this planet, it's guaranteed there will be something to eat right next to you. Talk about locally sourced.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.