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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

We tasted the dining hall’s bug-infused food so you wouldn’t have to

Creamy+Mac+and+Cheese+topped+with+crispy+baked+mealworms.+Photo+credit%3A+Emily+Neria
Creamy Mac and Cheese topped with crispy baked mealworms. Photo credit: Emily Neria

Bug protein is the secret to a sustainable future. The only thing holding us back is me, you and a nationwide aversion.

I tried four dishes at Sutter Dining’s “Bug Night,” and each, by all accounts, was perfectly delicious. Yet, not many students, myself included, jumped at the chance for seconds.

It takes a lot of mental energy to enjoy something with bugs in it. No matter how delicious it is, there is always a nagging gag reflex lurking at the back of your throat.

Take the creamy macaroni and cheese topped with crispy baked mealworms, for instance. It tasted…normal, better than normal if you’re used to Kraft.

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Crispy cricket tacos and meal worm mac and cheese. Photo credit: Emily Neria

The mealworms were sprinkled on top, adding a crunchy layer like many macaroni and cheese recipes have.

Unfortunately, mealworms bring to mind a lot of nasty images — the kind I don’t want when I have a bunch of slimy noodles in my mouth.

It may be true that “up to 80% of the world’s nations eat insects,” but the fact remains that bugs are a mental hurdle for most Americans.

“I think it’s disgusting,” Sophia Berzella said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Lauren Wilson, who tried a cricket taco, said, “I mean, it didn’t taste gross or anything…I’m not opposed to it, but I wouldn’t do it on a regular basis if I wasn’t forced to.”

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Crispy, crunchy, cricket tacos with pico de gallo, cotija cheese and cilantro. Photo credit: Emily Neria

For me, the crispy crunchy cricket tacos with fresh pico de gallo, cojita cheese and chopped cilantro were one of the easier dishes to enjoy.

Tacos, after all, are supposed to be crunchy.

Student Juliana Palmas, who ate the cricket tacos, seemed to agree with me. “It doesn’t taste bad because it doesn’t taste like anything. And you’re still getting the same amount of protein.”

Palmas was one of the few students I talked to who said she’d be willing to eat bugs regularly for the sustainability aspect of it.

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Juliana Palmas (left) and Savanna Escobedo (right) eat some bugs. Photo credit: Emily Neria

“On the menu, they said it’s better for the environment and stuff, and I feel like realistically I could switch over to this,” Palmas said.

For me, the cricket tacos wouldn’t cut it on the day-to-day. However, there was one item on the menu that I could see myself eating again.

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The double chocolate brownie with caramel and Chinese black ants was actually really good.

The brownies were placed on plates and drizzled with caramel. Whipped cream was spread across their tops and the featured ingredient, ants, were sprinkled on top like flakes of chocolate.

Unlike the other dishes which sought to disguise the insect flavors, the sweetness of the brownies paired well with the faint but tangy ant-flavor.

So well, in fact, that when I asked one guy if I could take his picture while eating the pile of ant brownies on his plate, he replied, “What do you mean, ant brownies?”

If that’s not a testimony to the ants belonging in the dish, I don’t know what is.

On the other hand, the scorpion and wonton appetizer did not seem to belong there.

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Scorpion Korean wanton dish Photo credit: Emily Neria

The appeal of the dish was pure novelty. While the wonton and mix of spices and shredded beef tasted really good, the scorpion was just sort of… there.

Aiyana Singh likened the taste of the scorpions to salted peanuts. “It’s salty,” Singh said. “And then it’s just really crunchy.”

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Aiyana Singh eats the scorpion wanton dish. Photo credit: Emily Neria

To be fair, while the dish didn’t show off the flavor potential of insect dishes as the brownies did, it did generate a lot of hype and positive buzz.

If Americans are going to take advantage of insect diet sustainability someday, the change will have to be cultural first. Everyone knows the fastest way to this nation’s heart is sensationalism.

All in all, I think Sutter Dining accomplished exactly what they wanted to with their second annual “Bug Night.” At the end of the day, I’m more open to the idea of eating bugs than when I first walked in on Thursday evening. If sustainability is the way to the future, I think my willingness to change and anyone else’s is a great step in the right direction.

Emily Neria can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Emily Neria, Staff Writer
Emily would like everyone to know she’s trying her best... just at too many things. Caught between her many passions - media arts, journalism, creative writing, and paying rent - Emily often wishes she had more time. She hopes that in a few years, she’ll be able to throw herself into a project free of distractions, but in the meantime delivering news to the student body is certainly a priority. Working for The Orion allows Emily to hone her writing skills and explore real-world storytelling. Incidentally, these are two endeavors she hopes to pursue all her life.

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