Prep for skillet-fried cicadas. Photo by John Ellsberry.

The last hatch of Brood X prompted a reportorial feeding frenzy that lasted about 24 hours into the brunch hour, May 15, 2004. I’d rented a campsite at Patapsco Valley State Park and set up a campfire-cooking operation so my employer at the time, City Paper in Baltimore, could have provocative bug-eating material to grace its newsprint.

We delivered, my friends and photographer and I: skillet-fried cicadas (think jalapeño poppers but with an exoskeleton surprise inside), tortilla sandwiches holding together hot-sauced cicada pancakes, cicada gumbo, cicada omelettes made with the leftovers. The sensation of working hard to swallow a bite of omelette as an unforgiving cicada leg scraped along my gullet still makes me gag a bit.

Tenerals – the soft-shelled cicadas found clutching on the sides of trees just after they emerge from the ground, before the sun hardens their shells – make for good eating straight up (chaser recommended) after briefly pickling them in a vinegary preparation like Worcestershire sauce.

This time around I plan to dry-roast the buggers on cookie sheets in the oven and pound them into flour to use in baking. Maybe whip up some muffins or a cake to explore the sweet side – or maybe make pizza dough and toss on some pickled tenerals as toppings. Yes, cicada pizza sounds about right.


Skillet-fried cicadas: It’s what’s for dinner. Photo by John Ellsberry.