Curiosity queen; writing science, history,
and everything in between
First, I thumbed through my recipe file mentally substituting bugs for a vital ingredient. Mushrooms stuffed with millipedes was out. (Most kids don’t like mushrooms.) I nixed beetle sausage, also. (Too much chopping and frying in a hot skillet.) Flipping to desserts, I chose toffee. I could substitute bugs for nuts.
After my trip to the grocery store for butter, sugar and chocolate chips, I visited the pet shop, and asked for a cup of mealworms, which are fly larvae (also known as maggots, but that’s not very appetizing). The man handed me a little carton that looked like a Skippy cup of ice cream. I wrote that down because I would need to pass that information on to readers who, like me, had no clue how to purchase creepy-crawlies.
With all the ingredients on the counter I recorded each step:
1. Separate mealworms from packing material. I tried several methods. Blowing on it worked, but when I blew too hard I got a face full of bran and mealworms. (I’d recommend a blow dryer set on low and cool.)
2. Wash mealworms. Use a strainer with very small holes, and pat dry.
3. Spread mealworms on cooking tray (one with sides so they don’t crawl off). Preheat oven to 200 degrees. (I’d have to add a note about parent supervision for young readers.) Roast until dry and crunchy.
After that, I was on familiar ground blending butter and sugar, and sprinkling chocolate chips.
I called my concoction Toffee Surprise, and taste-tested it in a large group setting where peer pressure encouraged full participation -- my mother’s birthday party! The verdict: The toffee was yummy, crunchy, and sweet with a subtle earthy aftertaste.
Although I don’t plan on cooking more edible vermin, I did learn some important rules for writing a recipe: Choose a food that is reader-friendly; be aware of your readers’ abilities and safety issues; record every step in order; pay attention to even the smallest details; and prepare it yourself so you can work out the bugs (no pun intended).
Peggy Thomas is the co-author of Anatomy of Nonfiction, the only writer's guide for children's nonfiction. To find out more about Peggy, visit her website. She also has a blog for writers, based on the book.
Monday is Martin Luther King Day. Tomorrow Amy Nathan will offer a post in honor of Dr. King.