January 18, 2014

Flesh! and calenture.

In the comments to that first post of the day today, the one about the caveman diet, St. George said:
Interesting how "trash" is used to make food and how it is marketed.

Would you eat a Chapul bar?

Dates, chocolate, walnuts, flax, peanuts, and protein flour..i.e. ground processed cricket flesh.

The smaller the animals people eat, the poorer the civilization.

The scam here is that it's being marketed to appeal to people as a politically-conscious "revolutionary" food choice that benefits the environment...and your body!
I said:
Do insects have "flesh"? Isn't "flesh" just muscle... and do insects have "muscle"... and if not, what do they have that enables them to move?

From Wikipedia's article on "flesh":
With regard to biology, flesh is the soft substance of a human or other animal body that consists of muscle and fat; for vertebrate, this especially includes muscle tissue (skeletal muscle), as opposed to bones and viscera. Flesh may be used as food, in which case it is commonly called meat.
So... for the invertebrate, what are we talking about? Lobsters have flesh, right? Is it muscle or something more akin to the goo that exudes from a stepped-on grasshopper?

I've never thought about this before, but I see that insects do have muscles:
Unlike vertebrates that have both smooth and striated muscles, insects have only striated muscles. Muscle cells are amassed into muscle fibres and then into the functional unit, the muscle. Muscles are attached to the body wall, with attachment fibres running through the cuticle and to the epicuticle, where they can move different parts of the body including appendages such as wings. The muscle fibre has many cells with a plasma membrane and outer sheath or sarcolemma. The sarcolemma is invaginated and can make contact with the tracheole carrying oxygen to the muscle fibre. Arranged in sheets or cylindrically, contractile myofibrils run the length of the muscle fibre. Myofibrils comprising a fine actin filament enclosed between a thick pair of myosin filaments slide past each other instigated by nerve impulses.
The sarcolemma is invaginated... There is so much I don't know.
I looked up "flesh" in the (unlinkable) OED and what caught my eye — and this is one reason there's so much I don't know: I go with what's catching my eye at the moment — was the separate entry for "flesh!" "Flesh" with an exclamation point had its own entry, definition 9(d): "As a profane oath, God's flesh! Hence in 17–18th c. in ejaculations, as flesh! flesh and fire!" Example:
1695   W. Congreve Love for Love iii. i. 52   Flesh, you don't think I'm false-hearted, like a Land-man.
Here's the full text of Congreve's "Love for Love," in which I also found:
Look you, young woman, you may learn to give good words... if you should give such language at sea, you'd have a cat o' nine tails laid cross your shoulders. Flesh! who are you?
Flesh, I believe all the calentures of the sea are come ashore, for my part.
Calenture. What is it? The OED says:
A disease incident to sailors within the tropics, characterized by delirium in which the patient, it is said, fancies the sea to be green fields, and desires to leap into it.
It's used in "The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe":
Yet even in this voyage I had my misfortunes too; particularly, that I was continually sick, being thrown into a violent calenture by the excessive heat of the climate....

In this distress we had, besides the terror of the storm, one of our men die of the calenture, and one man and the boy washed overboard....
"Calenture" can also be used figuratively to mean "Fever; burning passion, ardour, zeal, heat, glow."

A useful word, then, and a vivid exciting concept of madness, and yet we've lost it. I searched for it in the archives of the NYT and found little more than this "In the Woods" correspondence from July 16, 1866:
Why fix the date, my dear Editor, when the days of this torrid month lose distinction by fusion, and should be counted by calenture rather than calendar? Or why give you any place but that large suggestion of breezes and cafage? Enough to say that I write from a paradise of the fly-fisher — from one of those table lands above the reach of railroads, of which there are several yet unprofaned within the imporial limits of our State, from whose flanks...
Fleshly flanks, possibly invaginated...
... the streams run three several ways to join as many great rivers, springing secret and cold among forests whose skirts only the lumberman and the tanner have lifted.
Flesh! Do you feel a burning passion to speak and write with archaic locutions? The NYT correspondent infused writing about the landscape with sexuality, many years before we threw ourselves overboard into the seemingly green fields of direct talk about sex with real, human naked bodies and the porno films, "flesh flicks."


Schorsch said...

Hello from your very occasional entomologist commenter! I can confirm wikipedia, insects do have muscles. My work involves how they control these muscles to creep and crawl. I also poke around in their brains. People are often surprised to hear that they have those. Muscles, brains, hunger, lust, society, but no politics yet discovered, as of this writing.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Schorsch. What a great life, to be an entomologist. I wish I'd had the sense to learn about something so specific and real.

Do you specialize in any particular insect?

Also, can you answer the question, raised in the movie "The Fly," do insects have politics?

Paco Wové said...

Flesh! Dids't thou not read the poor man's very comment?!

Ann Althouse said...

Oh! Sorry.

"no politics yet discovered"

Thanks, further, then, to Schorsch, for remembering my concern about insect politics.

And thanks, too, to Paco, for his Schorsched Earth policy.

Michael K said...

Fruit flies have an enormous literature. 86,002 references on PubMed today.

Paul Zrimsek said...

As the Chinese get richer they'll stop eating babies and move up to adolescents.

Quaestor said...

Do insects have politics

According to Aristotle the answer is no. Ari was the first modern naturalist in that he reckoned Man to be a part of Nature -- just another animal, but one with special distinctions. Among other things Man is the only animal that lives in a polis, ergo Man is the only animal that has politics.

I question this reasoning in that politics go hand-in-hand with society. There are many social insects (ants, wasps, honey bees, termites, et al.) so the question of insect politics is problematic and not simply a matter of logic.

One thing we've come to associate with politics is social dynamism. We live in an age when the idea of a fixed society is so alien as to be almost inconceivable. However such fixity was the norm over the greater part of history, so evidently politics can function within the margins of variability (which wife of the pharaoh is foremost, who gets the vizier's post) of fixed societies, unless we want to limit politics to modern societies only.

Insect societies are rather firmly fixed, but can't be unchangeable because we know that social insects have a long evolutionary history -- from the Mesozoic at least. They could not have endured without change, consequently there's wiggle room for insect politics of some kind. Ants make war on other ants, take captives and make slaves of them. Clausewitz says war is politics by other means, so maybe the answer is yes, insects have politics.

St. George said...

Phew, Professor. Will there be a test on this?!

Twenty years ago I subscribed to "The Food Insects Newsletter," a publication for scholarly researchers. (At the time I was also getting literature from Alcor, too.) Read by anthropologists as well as others in the food sciences. It was clear then that lots of profs were studying how to mass manufacture insects for human consumption. Commonplace in other countries. There are scorpion ranches in China.

This candy bar is the model...Totally disguise the source of the protein. The next step will be to invent a new word or words to replace the words "insect" "grub" or "worm." May I suggest "minibeef" or "micropork" or "ecoshrimp"?

First, this stuff will be fed to prison convicts, then soldiers, then school children. If my parents told me I'd be strong like Popeye if I ate nasty tasting spinach, then why not tell kids they'll be tough as Spiderman if they eat "arachnuggets?" Nursing homes would be a good target destination for this food. Get a tax rebate for feeding the demented insects.

Paco Wové said...

"Fruit flies have an enormous literature. 86,002 references on PubMed today."

Flesh flies get over 235,000 hits on Google Scholar.

southcentralpa said...

as long as we're still on the edges of paleo v whatever, heh.


Quaestor said...

Do insects have "flesh"? Isn't "flesh" just muscle... and do insects have "muscle"... and if not, what do they have that enables them to move?

Wow. For someone who has spent so many years in academia, risen to a professor's chair at a prestigious university, gained a national following to ask such an elementary question of natural science is... surprising to put it mildly. Ever dined on lobster, Professor? If so what did you suppose you were eating? Granted a crustacean is not an insect, but they are both arthropods and are physiologically more alike than different.

The "goo that exudes from a stepped-on grasshopper" is mostly masticated plant matter and water, a lot of water. Just like us insects rely on water. It's crucial for their digestion, and they carry a lot of it in their bodies. Occasionally you'll see an insect drinking. They use an organ called a proboscis to drink, which can resemble a soda straw or a conventional mammalian tongue. They don't drink very often because they are much more efficient at water conservation than we are, but they need a sip now and then. Some of the goo is blood, but not much of it. Insects have blood (hemolymph, more properly) and circulation, however they oxygenate their tissues by direct contact with atmospheric air through a system of tubes call trachea. Insect blood is not used as a gas exchange medium, though some insects have hemocyanin (a copper-based analog of hemoglobin) in their blood. Muscle would be evident among the remains of stepped-on grasshopper if one cared to examine the corpse with a strong magnifying glass, though one would note that it makes up a small proportion of the insect's mass as compared to muscle in a vertebrate. It's part of the advantage of being small. Moving an exoskeleton from the inside appears to more efficient than moving an endoskeleton from the outside. However, exoskeletons are very heavy. The biggest land-dwelling arthropods are certain land crabs from the South Pacific, and they move very slowly indeed. Inspite of classic sci-fi movies like Them! an ant the size of a Studebaker would be totally immobilized by its own weight.

Quaestor said...

Would you eat a Chapul bar?

Yes, I'd eat a Chapul bar. I don't fear insects as food. However, I wouldn't buy one. Evah.

Chapul bars cost $22.26 per pound less shipping and tax. Fillet mignon costs less than $19 per pound delivered to my neighborhood grocer. The cost of going to the store and broiling it myself is less than the difference per pound, and the taste, texture and aroma of beef is far superior to any cricket, raw or processed. No contest, I'll buy fillet mignon very time. Furthermore fillet mignon is 24.7% protein, compared to the measly 14.8% protein of a Chapul bar.

"Feed the revolution" my ass. This Chapul bar crap just goes to show what hopeless morons vegans and other alternative eats monomaniacs are. Just push the right buttons and the clowns will happily spend more for one meal than an Sudanese peasant spends in a year for food, and feel morally superior to boot.

Crickets are a non-solution to the non-problem of beef. I've bought thousands of live crickets over the years, which I have mostly fed to crappies who have been in turn loathe to allow themselves to be eaten by me, the ungrateful little bastards. By the pound live crickets are more expensive than Big Macs.

Rockport Conservative said...

My son was in the Galapagos and posted a photo of the chitin pizza he was having for dinner. He enjoyed the meal and said it tasted a little like squid. I don't know if the truly indigenous people there eat chitin or not, these were about 3 inches long, and would probably be good protein.

tmitsss said...

Etymology and entomology a two for one post

Paco Wové said...

I've had mealworm cookies. They weren't bad... tasted like oatmeal.

Didn't like roasted crickets though. Legs got stuck between my teeth.

Paco Wové said...

Well, in truth they were oatmeal mealworm cookies, which probably accounted for the oatmeal taste.