Fleur-de-BugAppetit

The poster caught my attention: The words Bug Appetit with a drawing of a giant grasshopper.

I was looking forward to a Penn State version of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels) tackling the United Nations’ proposal that we Westerners start thinking of insects as protein-packed food. Last school year, the VUB cafeteria offered worm burgers to adventurous students.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization 2013 book Edible Insects: future prospects for food and feed security reports that 2 billion people eat insects regularly, cooked or raw, and they are packed with protein, fiber, good fats, and minerals. Of the 1,900 edible insect species, hundreds are part of the diet in many countries; it’s only in Western nations where the “ick” factor bars them from the dinner table.

ant-lollipops

Ant Lollipops

But what I found at Bug Appetit was a watered-down, candy-coated attempt of making eating insects “cute” with a Pestaurant that offered chocolate-covered insects, sugar-dipped crickets, and ant-crystalized lollipops.

All was not lost. My mother loved the cockroach races. We stood there for a good 15 minutes, watching the youngsters as they opened the lids on the cockroach containers, dumping the critters down a chute and into the PVC racetracks. Off they went! And who could resist the Monarch Tent where you walk with the butterflies as they flitter and flutter past your eyelashes.

iron-gall-ink

Writing with oak gall ink

For me, the magic of the PSU Department of Entomology’s Great Insect Fair event was the gall table.  I’ve known that wasps or other insects feed or lay eggs on the leaves, stems, or twigs of plants, causing deformities. The plant cells respond to the chemicals from the insects by going crazy, enlarging and surrounding the egg or larva with some strange looking galls. Sometimes, galls look like raised warts (of assorted colors) on a leaf. On a rose cane, galls look like tumors. On oaks, galls can look like tan Ping-Pong balls or “oak apples” on twigs and branches. These oak galls are rich in tannic acid.

What amazed me was learning that from the 4th Century through the Renaissance and up until the middle of the 20th century, oak galls, created by wasps on oak trees, were THE source of ink for the written word. The Magna Carta and well as our Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution were all written using iron gall ink. It was so easy to make, and it was permanent and water-resistant. As recently as 1945, the U.S. imported 550,000 pounds of oak galls from Turkey to make ink. But also around that time, chemically produced inks (and ballpoint pens) were invented, and the use of oak gall ink fell by the wayside.

Iron Gall Ink Recipe

6 oz. powdered oak gall

6 oz. ferric chloride

4 oz. gum Arabic

6 pints water

Mix ingredients and use a quill pen to write your own Magna Carta. Laurie Lynch

Written In Iron Gall Ink: “I’m obsessed with insects, particularly insect flight. I think the evolution of insect flight is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of life. Without insects, there’d be no flowering plants. Without flowering plants, there would be no clever, fruit-eating primates giving TED Talks.” –Michael Dickinson

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