Scorpion Cupcakes, Ant Cheesecake & Worm Delight
For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record.
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JUNE 7, 2018 – If anyone asks sixth- and seventh-grade teachers at Hanes Magnet whether they have ever eaten a scorpion, they can say, “I have indeed.”
“I have also eaten earthworms, crickets, ants, silkworms, and the larvae of mealworm beetles.”
“I have pictures. Would you like to see them?”
When the seventh-grade teachers at Hanes got up on Wednesday morning, they knew that the morning was going to bring some exotic snacks that their stomachs might not be sure about. So they kept that in mind when it was time for breakfast.
For instance, Jim Weiss, who teaches science, ate plain oatmeal rather than cereal with milk.
The sixth-grade teachers had no idea what the day was going to bring. So they did whatever they normally do.
“So, what was this all about?” you might reasonably ask.
Well, as part of seventh-grade science, students study issues associated with “sustainability.” With so many insects and worms bounding or slithering about the planet, they could offer an alternative to cows and chickens for those looking for handy sources of protein.
In fact, in parts of the world, such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and China, insects are already a regular part of some people’s diets.
When Weiss was in South Sudan in Africa some years back, he once ate a live locust.
“I had to put my money where my mouth was and show I was man enough to eat it,” he said.
With all that in mind, Weiss invited students to – for extra credit – create foods that seventh-grade teachers would sample. Courtney Haas, who teaches social studies, and Jennifer Flanagan, who teaches English/language arts, were in.
Neveen Cross, who teaches math, had the brilliant idea of volunteering to take responsibility for making pictures and videos so she wouldn’t have to sample any of the “treats.”
The “Bug Bistro,” as Weiss dubbed it, was part of a morning program in which seventh-graders talked to sixth-graders about some of the things they had learned about how best to navigate seventh-grade.
After the seventh-graders made their presentations, Weiss surprised the sixth-grade teachers by inviting them to join them sampling the foods. Teachers Lori Byrd and Brian Lalonde hopped right up. Teachers Morgan Walters and Tricia Prevette took a moment or two longer to mosey over.
Students had had fun when naming their dishes. Set up on tables in the gym were “Choco Chirpies,” “Paleo Cricket Snaps (Gluten Free),” “Ant Cheesecake,” “Worm Delight,” and “Bug Trail Mix.”
“Bug Trail Mix” was the creation of seventh-grader Kaelyn Byrd. The recipe she had come up with included not only bugs – ants – but also worms. She found them in the garden at home where she and her mother, Krista, grow pumpkins, spinach, cucumbers and such.
To make her trail mix, she first put one cup of worms in the blender. She then added frozen ants. Before she was done, she had added peppermint white chocolate and coated the trail mix in coconut in hopes that those ingredients would make the trail mix more palatable.
(Later reviews indicated that eating it was still quite a challenge.)
In case you’re wondering, the ingredients for many of these creations are quite readily available even if you don’t have a garden.
You can buy worms in the bait department at Walmart. You can buy live crickets at a pet store. You can buy cans of crickets and cricket flour from Amazon. And you can buy all sorts of ingredients at Edible Insects.
That’s where William Thompson found the roasted Manchurian scorpions that he used to top his cupcakes.
The bait section at Walmart is where Lesly Blanco found the 30 worms that she used in her “Worm Delight.”
“I microwaved them to dry them out,” Lesly said. “I made dough so I could fry them.”
She added plenty of sugar to the dough.
And, yes, she did eat one – two, actually – when they were done. And, no, she has no plans to ever make them again. She does have plans to become a professional artist one day.
The class also included future pediatricians, neurosurgeons and engineers.
For her “Cricket Stir Fry,” Lurit Sasu bought live crickets at a pet store. She used a stir fry recipe that – with chicken and without crickets – she knows to be quite tasty.
Vincent Nocito offered a choice of silkworm delicacies – one with chocolate and one with white chocolate. And, yes, he tasted silkworms along the way.
“They’re OK,” Vincent said. “I’ve had better.”
When Flanagan came into the gym, she said that she was feeling nervous about it all. When they did this two years ago, it was easier because she didn’t know what was coming. This year, with memories of some of those foods swirling around, she could almost taste such abominations as a dish made with cricket flour imported from Thailand.
It wasn’t the taste that was so bad. It was the texture.
Not that she has ever poured water on Purina Dog Chow, mushed it into a pancake and eaten it. But imagining that, she said, will help you imagine the cricket-flour-from-Thailand dish.
To prepare herself for the this year’s challenge, Flanagan had been saying to herself over and over, “It’s for the children. It’s for the children.”
When Haas said came in, she said, “I am so dreading this. I have tried not to think about it, but it is all coming back to me.”
One of the tricky things about the experience last time, she said, was that, just looking at them, some of the foods looked quite tasty. To make her point, she pointed out some dishes on the tables that, if you didn’t know better, looked as if they would be a treat.
One example of the tasty-looking treat was the “Cricket Cake” that Suroop Marwah had made. She had covered it with icing that was blue.
“It’s my favorite color, and I thought it would hide the crickets,” she said.
Asked whether she had tasted the cake, Suroop said, “No!”
Asked whether she planned to have a slice later, she said, “No!”
She then volunteered that she had once eaten a caterpillar. As a food, it looked far more appealing than a cricket and it had turned out to taste OK.
Isabella Pan had made a “Spider Cake” that, if not for its ingredients, could have been – depending on the kid whose birthday it was – a big hit at a birthday party. The cake looked like a giant spider with green M&Ms for eyes and black licorice sticks for legs.
In fact, the cake was made with crickets from a can that Isabella had bought on Amazon for $9.99. She opted for the crickets themselves because cricket flour was more expensive - $14.99.
Some of the dishes were designed to be unappealing.
Once the sampling began, seventh-graders George Ftizgerald and Jeremiah Nickerson offered moral support to the teachers by chanting, “Puke your guts out! Puke your guts out!”
In fact, the last time, Haas had had a regurgitation misadventure. So she had made sure to have a can at the ready this year.
No such unfortunate mishaps marred the proceeding this year. From the expressions crossing the faces of some teachers, thought, it was clear that they were facing serious challenges.
“By the way, that tastes terrible,” Weiss said after he sampled a “Mealworm Rice Krispies Treat.”
As Byrd and Flanagan were eating who knows what, they talked about how they were chewing and chewing and chewing but nothing was happening.
“It keeps on going,” Flanagan said.
Every now and then, a dish would be a pleasant surprise.
That was the case with the “Cricket Guacamole” accompanied by chips dusted in fried cricket powder that Charles Richards had made. Based on the comments, he might be able to introduce the combination commercially one day.
Another hit was the “Cricket Almond Brittle” that Michael Farrell had made.
As the morning progressed Cross did sample a few items, and Principal Robin Willard dropped by and tried this and that.
But no scorpions – that’s where she drew the line.
Byrd wowed the sixth-graders by plucking the scorpion off of her cupcake, walking over to the sixth-graders and letting them look at it up close before popping it into her mouth. She was even enough of a sport to stick her tongue out to show the mush that a chewed scorpion becomes.
If Byrd was going to eat a scorpion, Flanagan felt as if she had to eat one, too.
Both Flanagan and Byrd agreed that scorpion was not the worst thing they had tasted all day.
When it was time to wrap everything up and for students to begin their regular school day, both said that they had had fun and offered the same review of the overall experience of the taste sensations:
“It was not that bad. It was not that good.”