The common cicada, as it looks just before you eat it
Unless you’ve been hiding underground for the last few months, you probably already know that New York City is due for a cicada invasion. Indeed, the cicadas themselves have been concealed deep in the dirt as they’ve undergone their 17-year life cycle, and are only emerging for the purpose of having sex with other cicadas – which might make the coming infestation seem even more gross. Imagine a sky darkened with flying pests, splooging indiscriminantly from the skies. What can you do besides hiding in your apartment and waiting for the cicadas to leave? Eat them!
Go ahead! Make an insect pizza.
Many have noted that, in the food-challenged world of the future, insects may become a primary food source. Indeed, there are few bugs more meaty than cicadas. Taxonomically speaking, they’re classified as Tibicen linnei of the order Hemiptera. Also commonly known as locusts, they have lacy, transparent wings, an elongated proboscis, and bug-eyes on either side of their heads. Cicadas don’t sting, but they often mistake human limbs for tree limbs, and can land on you and start sucking, though they won’t do any real damage. Over 2,500 subspecies have been identified so far, and all are characterized by the loud buzzing sound they make, which can drive folks crazy.
If you want to really freak out, consider this quote from the Bible, Revelations Book 9:
Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces…
In West Africa, cicadas are sometimes known as “desert shrimp.”
Nothing better than sauteed locusts and guac on a taco
The Jerusalem Post informs us that locusts are the only bugs both kosher and halal: God wants you to eat them. It goes on to note that the best way to cook them is by boiling, after which they can be incorporated into any recipe you want, including cakes or stir-fries. Talking about the place of cicadas in Hebrew history, Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, a senior science lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, notes: “Traditionally they were caught, or more accurately rounded up when they were stationary on the ground in the cool desert night. Those who are used to eating them think they taste really good.”
How to incorporate the flying nuisances into favorite recipes? Well, the easiest thing to do is put them on a pizza. First remove the wings and legs, which tend to get stuck in your teeth.
Here’s a recipe from Cambodia, quoted by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization:
“Take several dozen locust adults, preferably females, slit the abdomen lengthwise and stuff a peanut inside. Then lightly grill the locusts in a wok or hot frying pan, adding a little oil and salt to taste. Be careful not to overcook or burn them.”
A recipe for locust adobo originated in the Philippines:
“Slowly cook in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns, and brown in the oven or pan-fry afterwards to get the desirable crisped edges. This dish originates from the northern region of the Philippines.”
And finally, here’s a recipe for cicadas from Mexico:
(1) Roast 40 locusts for 10 minutes at 180°, then remove the wings, legs and heads and toss with the juice of 1 lemon, 2 cloves of garlic and salt to taste. (2) Mash 2 avocados and spread on 6 tortillas. (3) Sprinkle with locust torsos and enjoy. Serves six.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2013