Editorial: The sound you hear, the food you eat

How best to describe that sound now bringing the Rappahannock hills alive? Humming? Droning? Whirring? Buzzing? Whining?

It could be – but it’s not – the sound of our representatives in Congress 60 miles away loudly arguing about the nation’s farm bill, which has taken almost a year to get out of committee. Rather, it’s the sound of something more in the natural rhythm of things:

The so-called Brood II cicadas, which emerge from their underground hermitage every 17 years to propagate. The sound you hear is the chorus of thousands upon thousands of males wooing potential mates.

For serious foodies, of whom there are an ever-increasing number here in Rappahannock, the cicadas offer a rare delicacy. Or so I’ve recently discovered. At first I thought my neighbor was surely joking when he compared the crunchy arthropod to Cajun shrimp, Maine lobster or Chesapeake crab – all fellow arthropods (as are Rappahannock’s ubiquitous ticks).

But it turns out there’s even an online cookbook called “Cicada-Licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas.” The author is an entomologist named Jenna Jadin, who compiled the recipes while a University of Maryland graduate student.

When eaten raw or boiled, cicadas apparently have an asparagus-like flavor. Blanched and tossed like chunks of chicken into a leafy green salad, the bugs can be especially yummy. Sauteed or candied, served in a craft cocktail or mixed in a cake batter are other tasty possibilities.

When roasted, cicadas are said to take on a “nutty” flavor, mixing well with spicy sauces – which in turn pair well with either red or white wine or even a good craft beer.

Most important, cicadas are low in fat and gluten-free. Plus they provide a good source of protein – about the same amount per pound as red meat.

Maybe we should mix up a nice batch and take it down to Capitol Hill to cater Congress – and, who knows, maybe even get an agricultural subsidy. If tax dollars can copiously flow to Big Ag’s corn and sugar, why not a trickle to little family farmers’ cicadas?

Walter Nicklin