This is for all you aspiring entomophagists.
How’s the quality of Brood X? Crunchy enough? Too squishy?
Or are you having trouble even finding enough to round out a meal?
Those of us who were relieved to learn that the cicadas did not crawl out into Western Pennsylvania this 17th year may be forgetting our entomophagist neighbors – those who see the insects as not just a crawly nuisance, but as food.
Depending on who is eating them – and how they’re prepared – cicadas taste like popcorn, roasted chickpeas, shrimp or, most expectedly, other bugs. According to entomophagist accounts (which abound these days on social media), cicadas are best eaten shell-on, seasoned beyond recognition, and cooked at high heat until crispy (better to reduce the chance of a squish, and just writing that brought a shudder).
Other cultures have embraced the bug, but we Americans have not. Perhaps it’s because most of us are afraid of or at least are creeped out by them, and have been willing to poison them out of our yards and homes and off of our bodies. Growing up, I was told a chirping cricket in the basement is good luck and can stay. All other insects must die.
Turns out crickets are a good source of protein. You can buy the cricket protein flour a young entrepreneur pitched on TV’s “Shark Tank” a few years ago. The “sharks” wrinkled their noses as they took tiny bites of the sample baked goods. They were probably reacting more to the display of glass jars crawling with crickets than to the actual taste of the snacks.
In that case, the bugs were cultivated for food. The cicadas, though, are being caught as they roam around looking to hook up with other cicadas. One article featured a photo showing the cicadas lined up on skewers, sizzling on a grill. They looked burnt to a crisp, which the article’s writer suggested was the best approach. Even then, there was an off-putting “tiny leg” that lingered on the tongue.
Forgive me if you’re eating breakfast as you read this.
Not having an especially adventurous palate, I don’t think I’ll be seeking out a cicada to try. But if someone would offer me one that’s burnt beyond recognition, and if it’s well-salted and also small for the breed, I might give it a go. After all, I enjoy fried shrimp, and what is a shrimp but a swimming cicada? They have the same translucent, crispy shells. And I know people who think the shrimp shells are the best part.
I’ve found no cicada shells on my property this year, but the trunk of the magnolia tree still has a few abandoned shells from the last cicada brood. That one drove the dogs nutty trying to chase them. I can’t say I’m sorry to have missed this go-round.
The next time these little guys crawl back up into the world, I’ll be 17 years older. I hope to have grandchildren then. I think it would be fun to roast a few of the bugs and dare the kiddies to try them. But maybe by then all kids will be carrying cicada snacks in their school backpacks, and eating a bug will be nothing unusual. Maybe by then, we Americans will have evolved past our squeamishness and will be popping bug protein snacks like we do Crunch ’n Munch now.
All those insect-friendly countries can’t be wrong. Let’s all eat a bug.
I’ll wait until the next time around.