The now annual swarming of mayflies over the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge is a mostly unwelcome local phenomena, recently closing the bridge and blamed for several accidents. But one Columbia restaurant sees this event as an opportunity.
Cibum Aliena (Weird Food in Latin) opened at 45 Truman Street, Columbia, last August. Owners Jerry and Francis Harper describe their venture as “micro cuisine for the curious foodie”. Their tiny restaurant, formerly Dante’s Corner Store, seats 15 by reservation only.
“Our concept was to bring unusual dining experiences from around the world to Lancaster County” says business manager Francis. “Its been a slow start, but interest is picking up.”
Chef Jerry usually sources his ingredients from New York City or Philadelphia unless locally available, which brings us to the bridge.
“Entomophagy (bug eating) has been around since people first got hungry,” says Jerry. “It’s actually a really good, really abundant source of protein.” When Jerry and Francis first heard about the mayfly swarm they grabbed some shovels and wheelbarrows and hiked west on route 462.
“The police on scene looked at us a little funny, but we stayed on the sidewalk out of traffic so they let us be” said Jerry. They gathered about 60 pounds of mayflies in a little over an hour. “We could have gotten much much more if we had extra manpower”.
The next day was spent cleaning the mayflies of stones and debris, then grinding them into a paste. “They dont need much seasoning because of the ice melt salt already on the roads.”
Mayfly dishes will be available for about 2 weeks, or longer if the swarms persist. Cibum Aliena currently offers Deep Fried Mayfly ‘Chips’, Mayfly Tacos, Mayfly Bean Burgers and French Onion Mayfly soup, as well as Mayfly rhubarb sorbet for dessert, along with their standard menu that includes durian, gueduck and calves brains. Call 808-6228 for reservations.