Maybe shipworms will be the next calamari, but all the same, I’ll pass | Kathryn Bromwich

News that scientists are setting up a ‘naked clam’ farm is wonderful. If only they didn’t look so unpalatable

A team of scientists at Plymouth University is hoping to set up the world’s first shipworm farm. The marine pests, which they have renamed “naked clams”, are nutritious, high in vitamin B12, and require only wood and water to grow.

It’s wonderful news. We desperately need sustainable sources of protein: meat is responsible for nearly 60% of greenhouse gases from food production, while industrial fish farming has huge environmental costs.

For a number of years in the mid-2010s, my partner became obsessed with the idea that over the course of our lifetimes we would all end up eating insects. He had read an article about a London restaurant that served crickets, and sounded thrilled by the prospect, although for one reason or another we never made it there. This didn’t stop him from expounding the benefits of tail-to-tentacle eating to anyone who would listen.

This all changed when we went to Thailand earlier this year. We visited a night market that served a selection of local delicacies: fried grasshoppers, scorpions, stag beetles on sticks. To my horror, he returned from the stall with a paper tray filled with oily, glistening crickets. “It’s the future of meat,” he said. “It’s lean protein.” The moment he crunched on the first one, his face froze. “It’s very… insect-like. There’s no meat on it. All you can taste is legs and wings.” He struggled through a third of the portion before admitting defeat.

Maybe naked clams are the future. Perhaps with the right recipe and flavour pairing they could become the next calamari rings. The pictures, unfortunately, are not appetising. There is a reason why most cultures have a taboo around eating insects, and why we pay despicable politicians millions of pounds to eat camel udders. We can intellectualise it all we want, but food also needs to be appealing. It will take some real ingenuity from chefs to make worms palatable to the public. In the meantime, pass the vegetables.

Nepos everywhere

Monarchies are not the only hereditary businesses guaranteed to bring riches and renown. Nepo (nepotism) babies are everywhere in the world of film and music, and they are now turning their sights to finding viral fame online. First there was Martin Scorsese’s 24-year-old daughter, Francesca, who roped him into charming TikTok videos in which she quizzed him about the meaning of slang phrases (“The King of Comedy was ‘slept on’ ”). Then there was Sofia Coppola’s teenage daughter, Romy Mars, whose video about getting grounded for trying to charter a helicopter promptly went viral.

The latest addition to the genre is Susan Sarandon’s son Jack Henry Robbins, who has made a meta Instagram reel titled “Day in the life of a nepo baby” (sample line: “Every day I like to wake up and sell a show to either HBO or Netflix, based on my mood”). In fairness, at least two videos out of three are surprisingly good content. But is there no arena of public life they won’t be taking over? AI might not be coming for your job, but a nepo baby is.

Totes annoying

A new study by the research agency Perspectus Global claims to have identified the 25 most annoying words in the English language. These tend to fall into four distinct categories: infantilising repetition (nom nom nom, din-dins, hanky-panky); Americanisms (lolz, awesomeness, nookie); recreation-based (Chrimbo, holibobs, happy Friyay); and patronising man-speak (wifey, methinks, no offence, but).

All featured words are undeniably atrocious, but there are a few phrases missing from the list: “just to play devil’s advocate”, “this is less of a question, more of a comment”, and the all-round nightmare that is “eat out to help out”.

• Kathryn Bromwich is a commissioning editor and writer on the Observer New Review


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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