Event Version of the Buggy Snack Box

Yesterday afternoon the after school teen program I help make content for, Future Science Leaders, participated in SFU’s Young Innovator’s Crawl. Crawlers traveled around the city visiting “innovators” (in art, tech, anything) to see demonstrations, talks, tours, etc.. FSL Fellows (like me) worked with FSL students to make a crawl stop at Science World. There were several tables including a gravity demonstration, 3D printers, and an entomophagy table. At the entomophagy table we tried out a crowd modification of the Buggy Snack Box experiment, rounded out with additional cookies that were all made with mealworm flour so that everyone could taste an entomophagous cookie.

Like the box, the goal of this activity is to combat the preconception of “gross flavour” people sometimes make in association with “insects”. I.e., we’re trying to combat the “Ick Factor”. This time, I’ve scaled the experiment up to be used for an outreach event instead of a snack box for one person. I’ve also made a few small modifications to make the cookies work a bit better.

I made “Chewy Brownie Chip Drops” which are essentially chocolate chocolate-chip cookies with walnuts. The point of changing the recipe was the cocoa powder, which helped mask the colour difference caused by the cricket flour. We still added a bit of food colouring, but much, much less than when I made the peanut butter cookies.



Just like last time, I baked half using a partial replacement of cricket flour, and half 100% white flour. To save on cookie-top real estate, this time I used only 2 Smarties for unique IDs, including orange (more on that another time). That gives me 36 unique IDs; 18 for flour, and 18 for cricket. I reused the same 18 for the same type several times so that I could bake more than 36 cookies but still have 2 Smarties reliably tell me the content.

Two Smarties per cookie.

Two Smarties per cookie.

On the day I displayed several cookies on the table, half of which were cricket and half of which were regular so that attendees would have a 50% chance of selecting a cricket cookie. It would be better to assign cookies to attendee by flipping a coin, just in case the cocoa powder and food colouring didn’t mask the colour difference well enough. However, on the day, this piece of scientific rigor was trumped by how nice it looked (and how much faster it was with groups of people) to have a big spread of cookies. If I do it again and have enough helpers, I’ll do it properly.

I was also careful not to put two of the same colour combination on the table at the same time because then attendees could have guessed that they were the same. I slipped up a few times, but luckily only the FSL student volunteers spotted the discrepancy (as far as I know).

After tasting their cookie, each attendee would guess “Cricket” or “Plain”. One of the FSL students was on patrol continuously updated a simplification of the results on a big pad of paper as “correct guess” and “incorrect guess” bar charts. Next time I will remember my computer and have someone continuously updating and projecting the actual results.

Speaking of results, here they are! Scroll to the bottom of this entry to see how to do the analyses in JMP11, online with GraphPad, or with R.

Mosaic plot of the data.

Mosaic plot of the data.

Based on a Chi-Square (1, n=30)=0.54, p=0.46
Based on Fisher’s Exact test p=0.72

We can say that we have NO EVIDENCE to suggest the Young Innovator’s Crawl attendees who stopped at my table were able to correctly identify cricket flour in cookies.

Take THAT “Ick-Factor”!

If you give this activity a try, please write to me to let me know how it goes!

We want to see whether people attending this event could correctly guess if their cookie had or did not have cricket four in it. Our null is that they cannot tell.

Analyses with JMP 11:
Set your data up like so:

Data set up for JMP

Data set up for JMP.

In JMP select Analyze>Fit Y by X. We’d like to know if the Truth about the cookie (made with cricket or plain flour) predicts what people guess, so Response is Guess and Factor (AKA predictor) will be Truth. Remember that this is frequency data.

Setting up the analyses in JMP.

Setting up the analyses in JMP.

JMP will generate a Contingency Table, a mosaic plot, and show results of both the chi-squared and Fisher’s Exact test.

Output from JMP11.

Output from JMP11.

Analyses with Graph Pad
You can do the analyses online with Graph Pad, in which case you will need to enter your data into the contingency table as shown. I’m not sure if you can use it to generate your mosaic plots.

Contingency Tables for GraphPad.

Contingency Tables for GraphPad.

Analyses with R:
You will need your data to be a CSV with 1 row per observation (printed below for illustration).

> library(MASS)
> library(vcd)
> cookiedata <- read.csv(“YOURDATALOCATION”, header=T, as.is=T)

> cookiedata
Guess   Truth
1  Cricket Cricket
2  Cricket Cricket
3  Cricket Cricket
4  Cricket Cricket
5  Cricket Cricket
6  Cricket Cricket
7  Cricket Cricket
8  Cricket Cricket
9    Plain Cricket
10   Plain Cricket
11   Plain Cricket
12   Plain Cricket
13   Plain Cricket
14   Plain Cricket
15   Plain   Plain
16   Plain   Plain
17   Plain   Plain
18   Plain   Plain
19   Plain   Plain
20   Plain   Plain
21   Plain   Plain
22   Plain   Plain
23   Plain   Plain
24 Cricket   Plain
25 Cricket   Plain
26 Cricket   Plain
27 Cricket   Plain
28 Cricket   Plain
29 Cricket   Plain
30 Cricket   Plain

> cookietable <- table(cookiedata)
> cookietable
Guess     Cricket Plain
Cricket       8     7
Plain         6     9

> mosaic(cookietable, shade=T, legend=T)
> chisq.test(cookietable)

Pearson’s Chi-squared test with Yates’ continuity correction

data:  cookietable
X-squared = 0.1339, df = 1, p-value = 0.7144

Mosaic plot generated by: > mosaic(cookietable, shade=T, legend=T)

Mosaic plot generated by:
> mosaic(cookietable, shade=T, legend=T)

Buggy Snack Boxes

When I talk to adults, teens, and older children about entomophagy, they often seem to see the benefits (nutritional, sustainability, etc) but hit a wall made of insecurities about insects. People think they’re scary, gross, weird – and this somehow translates into expectations for scary, gross, weird flavours. However, I’ve also noticed that when people are nervous about trying an entomophagous snack, they’re more willing to try smoothies or muffins made with insect flour because the insects are invisible.

One of the activities we did within other recent outreach events was to have people (typically kids) write down what they expected the entomophagous treats to taste like, and then what they actually tasted like. Their expectations were along the lines of “gross”, “vomit”, or just “bad”, regardless of what kind of snack they were going to try. However, they consistently wrote that they ended up tasting like “muffins”, and “sweet” when the flour was mixed in with other things, or “salty” and “crunchy” when they had seasoned snacks.

By mixing ground insects in with other recipes, we can sidestep people’s skin-crawling reaction of seeing little legs going into their mouths, but still have to contend with the idea of “it will taste bad”.

To celebrate my supervisor’s retirement I put together an entomophagous snack box activity. Because, what better way to celebrate a career in science than with more science?! The idea is to have a completely self-contained science experiment that you can give away as a delicious, fun gift. The activity implicitly teaches a little bit about entomophagy and the scientific method. Most importantly, it will also combat the “it will taste bad!” reflex for entomophagous snacks!

Hypothesis: The recipient can identify cookies baked with cricket flour.
Alternate Hypothesis: They can’t identify cookies baked with cricket flour.

I mixed peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough, but split the batch into two before adding the last 20% of the flour. To one half I added regular flour, and the other half got cricket flour.

The cricket flour is the dark flour.

Split the dough, add regular flour to one and cricket flour to the other.

Cricket flour is darker than regular flour; the dough was obviously different. With a bit of colour theory help, food colouring made the doughs nearly indistinguishable.

Adding food colouring to make the doughs almost indistinguishable.

Adding food colouring to make the doughs almost indistinguishable.

Once the dough was ready I randomly assigned a combination of 3 colours to every cookie and pressed 3 smarties into the tops so that every cookie had a unique ID. I didn’t use orange smarties because orange flavour is added to the chocolate. Which cookie (cricket or flour) ended up with each colour was recorded.

Time for delicious but unique IDs!

Time for delicious but unique IDs!

Then I baked them and packaged them up into a tin containing half of each variety. A list of all the colours was included so that the recipient could record their guess (cricket or flour?).

Unbaked (left) and baked (right) cookies with IDs.

Unbaked (left) and baked (right) cookies with IDs.

If you’re giving this as a gift and want it to be completely self-contained, also include an envelope with the answers so that they can score themselves at the end, but don’t accidentally look at it. Also make sure they know they shouldn’t score themselves until they have finished; absolutely not after every cookie, otherwise their results could influence their behaviour on the next cookie.

Their results will fall into a 2×2 grid:

Stats Stats Stats

Contingency Table for your Chi-Squared test.

Depending on how many cookies your recipient ate, they will wither do a Fisher’s Exact Test (low sample size) or a Chi Squared (larger sample size). You can do the tests online with Graph Pad.


I haven’t gotten any formal results back on this activity, but I can say that informally, people seem to be able to identify a difference pretty consistently – but they can’t always tell which is which. I.e. people will consistently say “cricket” when it’s actually flour! And vise versa.

Regardless of whether your recipient can tell if it’s cricket flour or not, you just got them to eat 1/2 a box of cookies baked with cricket flour. Entomophagy outreach success!

If you decide to give this activity a try, please let me know! I’d love to hear about how you and your recipients perform.