Annals of edibilia: Hissing Cockroach, Severed Genitals

(Warning: There will be simulacra of unpleasant creatures, sexual body parts, and excrement.)

Through Facebook friends, links to the work of Katherine Dey at Deviant Desserts (in Victor NY, near Rochester) — Facebook page here, website here — beginning with this remarkable creation, Dey’s Madagascar hissing cockroach:


Not a creature, but food — though many people won’t touch it because of the way it looks.

The inner, eminently edible, cockroach revealed:


Background: Madagascar hissing cockroaches. From Wikipedia:


The Madagascar hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa), also known as the hissing cockroach or simply hisser, is one of the largest species of cockroach, reaching 2 to 3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) at maturity. They are native to the island of Madagascar, which is off the African mainland, where they are known to be found inside of rotting logs. It is one of some 20 known species of large hissing roaches from Madagascar, many of which are kept as pets, and often confused with one another by pet dealers; in particular, G. portentosais commonly confused with G. oblongonotaand G. picea.

Unlike most cockroaches, they are wingless. They are excellent climbers and can scale smooth glass. Males can be distinguished from females by their thicker, hairier antennae and the very pronounced “horns” on the pronotum. Females carry the ootheca internally, and release the young nymphs only after her offspring have emerged within her. As in some other wood-inhabiting roaches, the parents and offspring will commonly remain in close physical contact for extended periods of time. In captivity, these insects have been known to live up to 5 years. They feed primarily on vegetable material.

As the common name suggests, the Madagascar hissing cockroach is characterized by their hissing sound, which is produced when they forcefully expel air through the specially-adapted respiratory openings (spiracles) on the fourth segment of their body, though spiracles are found on all segments of their abdomen. The Madagascar hissing cockroach is only one member of a group of roaches that can hiss; this exact mode of sound production is atypical, as most insects that make sound do so by rubbing together various body parts (“stridulation”), such as legs. Some long-horned beetles, e.g., the giant Fijian long-horned beetle, hiss by squeezing air out from under their elytra, but this does not involve the spiracles. In hissing roaches, the hiss takes three forms: the disturbance hiss, the female-attracting hiss, and the aggressive fighting hiss.

(You can buy a sexed pair from for $9.50.)

Background: Deviant Desserts. From the company’s website:

Katherine founded Deviant Desserts to combine her love for art, anatomy and science, and desserts. Her creations are not only delicious, they are hand crafted works of art. Her work typically elicits strong emotional reactions from her   customers and fans – from adoration and love to repulsion and disgust. She uses her cakes and chocolates to push boundaries, reveal the unseen, and challenge the status quo.

(There’s an online store, which is closed during spring and summer because of high temperatures; it reopens in mid-September, in time for Halloween.)

There are more icky creatures, for example, the raspberry tick truffles:


You can also get cakes that are simulacra of roast turkey and baked ham, plus a set of faces of world leaders. But the spécialités de la maison are anatomical. For example, this vanilla brain cake, with spinal cord:


Similarly, a heart cake (white chocolate shell, two layers of red velvet cake with chocolate buttercream); eyes (white chocolate eyes with ganache and mixed berry filling); and severed fingers. And then there are sexual body parts: chocolate nipples (with marshmallow cream filling); and vagina cake (with Bavarian cream filling). (There’s a high-ouch video in which both of these are sliced open to reveal their fillings.)

And of course, not just ticks (#4), but also dicks: chocolate penises (dark chocolate with caramel peanut filling, white chocolate with marshmallow cream filling). Actually, what Deviant Desserts offers is little castration cakes: bloody severed genitals, penectomy and orchiectomy achieved in one slice:


Hissing Cockroach, Severed Genitals. The title of this posting, a play on a movie title. From Wikipedia:


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a 2000 wuxia film, conceived and directed by Ang Lee. It features an international cast of Chinese actors, including Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. The film is based on a novel of the same name that is part of the Crane Iron Pentalogy, a wuxia series by Wang Dulu.

On the genre, from Wikipedia:

Wuxia, which literally means “martial heroes”, is a genre of Chinese fiction concerning the adventures of martial artists in ancient China. Although wuxia is traditionally a form of fantasy literature, its popularity has caused it to spread to diverse art forms such as Chinese opera, manhua, films, television series and video games. It forms part of popular culture in many Chinese-speaking communities around the world.

A step beyond.  Katherine Dey pushes boundaries, but playfully, thoughtfully, and with artistry, and there seem to be subjects too tasteless for her: excrement, in particular. Cake bakers, however, will attempt pretty much anything, so they’ve been willing to wade into the metaphorical shit. Among other things, there’s a Pinterest board “Poopy Cakes and Turdy Food”, with a broad range of edibles, some quite realistic in their depictions, some whimsical (rainbow unicorn poop), and some stylized, relying on fairly abstract visual allusions.

Rainbow unicorn poop in food from the site


Two stylized examples from the Pinterest board:

(#9) Chocolate cake

(#10) Chocolate-hazelnut meringue kisses

The visual allusion is to the appearance of any soft solid extruded through a nozzle and coiling in a pile — as in soft-serve ice cream (focus on the chocolate, on the right):


The shape in #9 and #10 is further conventionalized in the poop emoji: 💩

A similar shape occurs in nature and in human artifacts. In nature, in the turban snails. From Wikipedia:

(#12) Phasianella ventricosa, a turban snail of Australia (NSW, Western Australia, Tasmania)

Turbinidae, the turban snails, are a family of small to large marine gastropod molluscs in the superfamily Trochoidea.

… The common name turban snail presumably refers to the shell’s similarity in appearance to a turban.

(#13) A men’s turban

However, the scientific name Turbinidae is based on the genus name Turbo, which is Latin for spinning top, a child’s toy. The word turbine has a similar derivation.

(#14) 19th century boxwood spinning top

(#15) Rainbow spinning tops from Bella Luna Toys


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