This article appeared in the May 07, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/07 edition

Cicada cuisine, come and get it

A dish of fried cicada sloughs is displayed at a home in Yangxin County, Binzhou city, China, in July 2019. The cicada, whose voice marks summer's arrival, is a highly valued insect in Chinese culture and has even become a delicacy.
Linda Feldmann
Washington Bureau Chief

The cicadas are coming. Time to pull out the frying pan? For those excited about the insects that will soon emerge from underground in the eastern United States – a once-every-17-years phenomenon – it’s an opportunity to tantalize the palate.

Yes, cicadas are edible, as are many insects – an excellent source of protein. Recipes are circulating online. Cultural norms are being reevaluated. And we’re all being encouraged to eat less meat to address climate change. 

“I know I’ll be snacking on a few,” retired entomologist Michael Raupp told the Monitor’s Dwight Weingarten as he reported a story on cicada “life lessons.”

Somehow, eating a creature that can offer life lessons feels wrong. But it’s really the “ick” factor that turns off most Americans from eating insects. When a college friend returned from a Peace Corps stint in what was then Zaire in the early 1980s, he brought back a big plastic bag of dried-over-a-fire grasshoppers.

“Try one!” Bruce offered. We hesitated and finally relented. Crunchy. Maybe a little bitter. I didn’t gag, but I also didn’t go for seconds.

Almost 40 years later, Bruce reminisces enthusiastically about all the insects he ate – crickets, termites, flying ants, palm beetle grubs “the size of your thumb” – and how he learned to overcome his bias.

“Much of the world finds bugs of one sort or another a great treat,” Bruce writes in an email. “It’s all in our heads, we Westerners.”

This article appeared in the May 07, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/07 edition
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