STATESBORO, Ga. -- Najuana Dorsey's fork trembled and her lips pursed as she tasted the first bite of cake. It didn't help that she knew the ingredients: cake mix, eggs, sugar and one cup of something mom never used -- roasted crickets.
Dorsey wasn't chewing to be daring -- this taste test was for her grade.
To pass Frank French's field biology course at Georgia Southern University, French requires his students to prepare -- and eat -- a dish made with bugs, weeds and other wild things people might stomp or spray, but seldom swallow.
The cricket cake was just dessert.
Friday's meal started with dishes like dandelion fried rice, quiche made with catbrier vine instead of spinach and iced tea brewed from acorns.
Since most of the indigenous ingredients aren't found at the grocery store, most students plucked them fresh from the overgrown campus greenery. Ben Dukes waded into a lake to pick the cattail stems he served as cattail pasta.
"You can boil the fruit on the top part and eat it, like corn on the cob," Dukes said. "It's just a plant. It can't kill you."
Which is precisely the point, French said.
As his students learn to identify plants and critters in the wild, he also wants them to have a sense that some are perfectly edible. Even tasty to their teacher, who professes a keen palate for termites and beetle larvae.
"The reason they taste good is because they've got a real high fat content," French said. "In the old hunter-gatherer societies, when you got something with that fat in it, it was like dessert."
Not that bugs are necessarily easy to cook. For her cake, Dorsey bought 50 live crickets at a bait shop. She had to let them feed on an apple slice for a day to clean out their systems.
Then Dorsey froze them, baked them on a cooking sheet, removed their heads, legs, wings and antennae, and chopped them into small pieces.
"It's a lot of work," she said. "I'd much rather have used pecans."
The "Cricket Sock It To Me Cake" turned out to be the hit of the class cookoff.
"You got something that should have been a nut, but it was a cricket," said classmate Brooke Hawk. "But it was really good."
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Georgia Southern: http://www.gasou.edu/
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