Jewish World Review May 25, 2004 / 5 Sivan, 5764

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

Guess what's coming to dinner? | Offering further evidence that Americans may be carrying this low-carb- diet thing a little too far, a Bloomington, Ind., man required medical treatment after eating nearly 30 sautéed cicadas.

Cicadas, possibly the only annoying pests on Earth that does not call Florida home, are emerging by the billions from their 17-year underground slumber over much of the northeastern U.S. and the Midwest.

If you are experiencing a cicada invasion for the first time, it's unlikely that you would examine the dozens of red-eyed, orange-winged creatures clinging to your T-shirt and say to yourself, "Wow! I bet these little beauties would make a great stir-fry with some crushed garlic and basil!"

More likely, your first thought is going to be, "This is it. Hell's gates have finally been flung open and we're all going to die."

Or at the very least go deaf.

Because cicadas are loud. Very loud. To compare the noise they make to singing is like comparing a train wreck to the sound of falling snow. Imagine enjoying a cool beverage on your patio while 10,000 chain saws are working in the background. That gives you some sense of the unearthly din.

And this isn't over in a day or two or even a week. Cicadas hang around for six weeks before burrowing underground for another 17-year nap.

But you've got to give them credit; they make the most of their time here. They ruin barbecues and outdoor weddings. They make holding a normal conversation impossible unless your definition of a normal conversation is cupping your hands around your mouth and shouting directly into your companion's ear. They clog pool filters and just generally give you the sense that you're swimming in a wriggling, buzzing insect stew.

Which brings us back to the topic of eating cicadas. Let me state at the outset that I am not one of those people who is horrified by the thought of eating insects. Insects, or at least insect parts, can be found in just about everything we eat. The federal government even has regulations stating how many insect parts can be contained in your Big Mac. (What did you think made it taste so good? The secret sauce?)

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Also, I grew up around Baltimore and anyone who eats crabs has no business screwing up his nose at other people's food choices.

So, if someone wants to pluck a handful of cicadas off his shirt and throw them in a skillet with coriander, ginger root and maybe a splash of soy sauce, I say have at it. (While cooking, it would probably not be a good time to recall how the dog reacted after eating a yard's worth of live cicadas.)

But before lifting that first succulent forkful of Shanghai Cicadas to your mouth (I recommend serving this dish with a nice, slightly chilled Pinot Grigio) it might be a good idea to check with your doctor to see if you're allergic to cicadas.

Otherwise, don't be surprised if the dessert course consists of a wailing, high-speed ambulance ride to the emergency room where they'll pump you full of antihistamines, steroids and maybe a shot of adrenaline for a nightcap.

Which is basically what happened to the Indiana man, who arrived at the hospital covered in hives head to toe.

For the record, the man said the cicadas didn't taste too bad, but his wife complained of the cooking aroma.

Personally, I think I'll stick with chicken nuggets.

Without the breading, of course.

Too many carbs.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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