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Bio Luncheon Includes Nutritious Creepy-Crawlies

Manidibulata Lunch 3
Chris Paradise, assistant professor of biology, claims not to be much of a cook, but he prepared all the dishes served at Mandibulata Meal.

November 29, 2000
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

The biology department's Mandibulata Meal 2000 turned out to be as much a lesson in psychology as in biology!

Chris Paradise, assistant professor of biology, and his students prepared seven dishes containing insects and crustaceans as an final project for their "Higher Invertebrate" class, and invited the campus to lunch. The mood in the lobby of Watson Science Building was both lighthearted and nervous as individuals took a plate in hand and looked over the buffet. The situation gave a whole new meaning to the old phrase, "Let's grab some grub!"

The fact that 80 percent of the world's population regularly includes insects in their dietary mix was small consolation for Davidsonians facing their first bite ever of garlic and butter-fried mealworms and crickets.

"You've got to get over the visual factor..." said senior Bruce Bell.

Mandibulata Lunch 2
The garlic butter fried insects proved to be the dish that separated the curious onlookers from true dining adventurers.

Professor emeritus Dave Grant, smiling on the side of the crowd as he crunched a mealworm chocolate chip cookie, responded, "College is supposed to be an educational experience!"

Most people, like sophomore Matt Dixon, did eat at least a small spoonful of the fried bugs. And most were pleasantly surprised. "It tastes like onion ring crust," said Dixon. "It's just that after you see them crawling around in dead things and in the dirt, you don't exactly want to put them in your mouth."

Paradise assured diners that the food was safe and sanitary, and vowed that insects contain high nutritional value. Included in the posted material was a sheet on "Preparing Insects for Cooking.." "Rinse the insects in a colander and pat dry. You really don't have to clean mealworms, though you can chop off their heads. Cricket heads, hind legs, and wing cases can be removed according to personal preference; cricket legs tend to get caught in your teeth."

Mandibulata Lunch

Senior Blake McNaughton, a student in Paradise's class, said he wasn't bothered by the idea of eating something different. "I've eaten weird stuff before," he said. "As our culture keeps moving toward more healthy food choices, we'll probably see more acceptance of insects in the diet. People never used to eat seaweed."

Paradise explained that the range of edible insects is quite broad, including ants, beetles, caterpillars, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, fly larvae, maggots, honeybees, mealworms, mayflies, moths, and termites.

Paradise bought most of his raw ingredients at a biological supply company. However, his departmental colleague Karen Hales, who conducts experiments with fruit flies supplied those for the banana bread!

The term "mandibulata" is a biological reference to all crustaceans, insects, centipedes, and millipedes. The crustaceans on the menu were culturally acceptable and delectable--Spinach Crab Enchiladas with Basil Pesto, Cajun Shrimp, and Lobster Mozambique. The insect dishes were Garlic Butter Fried Insects, Fruit Fly Banana Bread, Mealworm Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Chocolate Covered Crickets. Paradise set only one rule--diners must try at least one insect dish for every crustacean dish they ate.

Paradise deemed the experimental meal a big success, and said he may make it an annual event. "Maybe I'll even go into the catering business!" he joked.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" magazine.

As a student in Paradise's class on "Higher Invertebrates," Charlie Shaw '01 helped prepare posters with biological information about the ingredients of each dish.

Students dined on lobster, shrimp, fried insects, and several tasty desserts.

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