This Bug’s for You

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bug-lunch

By Gayle Fishel

We’re all familiar with the Ploughman’s Lunch, and the Naked Lunch— but what about the Bug Lunch?

Gordon Gekko, bad boy protagonist of the 1987 film Wall Street, famously quipped, “lunch is for wimps.”

Not so for four enterprising Davidson biology students who chose to research a growing international trend that views insects as a sustainable food source. Their study, “Is Entomaphagy Sustainable: The Science of Eating Insects” culminated in the preparation of a deluxe three-course sampler, served up to 30 student volunteers who were brave enough to take turns eating what bugged them.

Research partners Philip Elias ’14, Laura Arnold ’14, Chris Polo ’14 and Lauren Parham ’16 whipped up an eclectic trio of comestibles featuring oven-roasted crickets and mealworms.

Arnold had never thought about eating insects before, but when she read a U.N. report about the likelihood that bugs would become an accepted sustainable food source within the next 50 years, she decided it was time to give it a try.

Biology professor Chris Paradise supported the idea. “Scientists say insects could easily become a sustainable food as the world’s resources become increasingly sparse and the population continues to grow. We already eat things that are very closely related to insects, like lobsters, and some of the evolutionary evidence suggests that insects are highly modified crustaceans.”

The highly-modified recipes the research partners concocted included a stir-fry made with crickets, green peppers, onions and a sweet sauce; no-bake “oatmealworm” cookies; and crickets dipped in chocolate sauce.

“We didn’t want to go crazy,” Arnold said. “And we wanted to use recipes that had a lot of flavor in them—beside the flavor of the insect—to tease people into trying insects for the first time.”

First year student, Alec Stachowicz, who attended the bug lunch along with many other volunteers, took an optimistic view and encouraged people to keep an open mind. “It feels like a normal food,” he said, “unless you start thinking about what’s really in your mouth.”

Classmate Catherine Schricker ’14 agreed. “We eat meat, and we eat dead animals all the time, so why not insects?”

Although Davidson has been making headlines as a proponent of local food production, generating wider enthusiasm for a local insect movement may be a harder sell.

“I think it’s going to take a really long time,” Paradise added.

 

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