I had been known to fry grasshopper occasionally when i wasn’t feeding it to the chickens. I usually had to smash the grasshoppers to catch them but if it seemed especially intact or i managed to catch it alive i would save it for human consumption via the skillet. The grocery shortage of 2020 had sort of opened my eyes to the plentiful and free protein source hopping around the yard. Something had to run population control on the biblical amounts of grasshoppers eating everything in sight…why not me? Even though i was familiar with catching and cooking grasshoppers i had never gotten a chance at a cicada. I had watched television shows in which famous travel bloggers brought buckets of them to chefs who cooked them up in creative ways specially for the bloggers and their tv crews. I had printed recipes for cicadas over grits, fried cicadas, blackened cicadas, and cicadas in stew. I promised myself years ago that if i ever got the chance to purchase them in a market i would cook them and taste them; see what all the fuss was about. However, i never dreamed i’d get the chance to catch one in the yard.
One night i went out to water the plants in the mosquito net tent and i heard the buzzing of a large grasshopper inside. I thought, “great, i imagine the size of a hopper big enough to make that deep and loud a buzz indicates a catastrophic amount of damage the bug will have done to the vegetation in the tent so far.” I went into the tent with the mindset to catch the hopper for the chickens and survey the damage. However, as i trapped it between two plastic cups i realized, it wasn’t a grasshopper at all. It was a cicada! Oh happy days! I buzzed with excitement. I had caught such an amazing surprise! I would finally get the chance to taste cicada!
I set the trapped cicada in the kitchen and went about my evening chores. When everything was settled and put up for the night i returned to the delicacy sitting on my kitchen counter and began looking up recipes. It would be such a very little piece of meat and i would only get one chance to taste it. I decided not to over-complicate things and just use vegan butter, a bit of oil, and salt.
First i boiled the cicada in water for about 4 or 5 minutes.
Then i drained the water and added olive oil and a pat of vegan butter. I salted the critter and set it back on the stove to fry.
I fried it in the butter and oil another 3 to 4 minutes and then removed the bug from the heat. The wings and legs had become crispy. I pulled them off. I cut the head off. I also cut off the very tip which i presumed to be the butt. I was left with the torso.
I was so close to finally figuring out what the things really tasted like. Staring at the discarded legs, wings, and head, i wondered how crunchy it would be, if the insides of the bug would be chewy or liquid. I had a moment of hesitation. Then i got over it. I popped the bug into my mouth and chewed. The shell was crunchy but papery thin. The flesh was white and the texture of perfectly cooked shrimp, soft and not rubbery at all. It tasted like shrimp, with a peanut-like aftertaste that arrived a few seconds later. It was delicious. I wished i had a whole bowl of them. The gears in my mind immediately began turning, spinning up new ideas about how i could catch more of the noisy critters. It was like a crunchy snack; so juicy and so flavorful. I would have to taste it again. I would have to catch one again before i died. It couldn’t be a one-off. Shrimpy peanutty goodness with wings.