Crickets, Ants, Hornworms, Superworms & Other Delicacies
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JUNE 11, 2019 – Contemplating a dish that featured tomato hornworms, teacher Jennifer Flanagan said, “I’m terrified of it.”
After all, she knew that, while tomato hornworms are known to be crispy on the outside, they are oozy and gelatinous on the inside.
Flanagan wasn’t going to let that stop her, though.
“I’m going to eat it,” she said. “It’s all about mind set.”
It was Friday June 7 – the day of the annual “Bug Bistro” at Hanes Magnet Middle when, for extra credit, seventh-graders made dishes that might include such ingredients as crickets, ants, grasshoppers, mealworms, scorpions, hornworms, and superworms. (Superworms! Doesn’t that sound appetizing?)
Sixth- and seventh-graders gathered in the gym to watch all four of the seventh-grade teachers – Jennifer Flanagan, Jim Weiss, Neveen Cross, Courtney Haas – and a couple of bold sixth-grade teacher volunteers – Morgan Walters and Patricia Prevette – sample dishes with such names as Red Velvet Cricket Cake, Hornworm Eggroll, Hoppin’ Hummus, and Antipasto (Get it?)
The day had a number of official purposes.
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, Weiss can tell you, insects are already a regular part of some people’s diets.
The morning also served to give sixth-graders a sense of what to expect next year in the seventh-grade. Along with watching the seventh-grade teachers in action, the sixth-graders would hear from current seventh-graders who would make short presentations in which they talked about what they had learned about how best to navigate seventh-grade.
The Bug Bistro was also about finishing up the school year in a fun way.
“Today is part of your end-of-the-year celebration,” Weiss said to the students.
Once everything got underway, there was much hooting and hollering.
At one point during the morning, “Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!” served as a sort of mantra.
For students Aiden Romeo and Christo Papaioannou, the day also provided an opportunity for a bit of sweet revenge.
For an earlier project, Flanagan had not given them the fabulous grade that they were 100 percent certain that they deserved. So, when they baked their Cricket Cupcakes, they made one especially for her that contained 68 crickets. The cupcakes for the other teachers had a more modest number of crickets.
“We decided to get her back – our idea of revenge,” Aiden said.
Flanagan was game and took it on.
Crickets don’t taste that bad, she said. The trouble with crickets, she said, is they don’t break down. You chew and chew and chew. Nothing much happens, and, eventually, you just have to swallow.
In what the current class of seventh-graders could have taken as a compliment, Haas said as she ate that the food this year was even more disgusting than the food from last year.
“This is clearly the grossest food I have had,” Haas said.
There was no question, the students had reached new lows, she said.
Weiss was clearly having lots of fun. He would stand right in front of the students on the bleachers and savor every bite.
Polishing off a long worm, he said with relish, “That was brand new for me.”
Cross took a quiet approach. From time to time, she would hold up one of the signs she had made. One said, “Help Me!”
Walters and Prevette took a quiet approach as well. Just watching them eat, you might think they were simply enjoying lunch in a restaurant. Didn’t mean they were enjoying it all, though.
The sweet potato bread was just fine and the cheesecake was good if you didn’t eat the cricket crust, they said, but many of the items were challenging.
The students got in on the act. Some would come down out of the bleachers and try this or that. Beforehand, Mahala Sherrell had announced that she planned to eat a hornworm eggroll, and, sure enough, once students joined in, she took it on.
From the expression on her face, it didn’t look as it would become a regular part of her diet.
For those wondering where you get such ingredients, it turns out that many of them are readily available online. Amazon offers many of them. Weiss has gone so far with his “sustainability” approach that he has started baking with cricket flour at home.
The seventh-grade teachers participating in the “Bug Bistro” were:
The sixth-grade teachers were: