Waiter! Theres a fly on my cicada

May 13, 2004|By Kevin Cowherd

WITH THE godless cicada hordes already emerging from their little hell-holes, I have taken a number of sensible homeowner precautions: boarding up the windows, laying in a month's supply of bottled water and canned goods, dragging the bio-hazard suits out of the closet for those dashes outside to collect the mail or put out the garbage.

Even the famous Tom Tasselmyer shrine in our home - regular readers know of my family's devotion to WBAL-TV's crack chief meteorologist - has been temporarily closed to deal with the cicadas.

Yes, the velvet kneelers were placed in storage, the candles and incense cleared from the altar, the life-sized cutout of Tom in front of the Doppler radar map, gesturing at a mass of cold air sweeping down from Canada, moved into my office for safekeeping.

But the purpose today is not to elaborate on my own security precautions for the cicada onslaught - I'm sure you're taking similar measures to ensure the safety of your family.

No, the purpose today is to answer the many readers who have called and e-mailed to say how freaked out they were by the last column that appeared here on cicadas.

If memory serves, all I said was that millions of them would be arriving in our yards, and that things were going to get louder than the first row at a Metallica concert.

And I pointed out that these cicadas can't fly too well, and that they crash into more things than Billy Joel on his way home from rehearsal.

Apparently, this upset some people.

"My wife has been reduced to a quivering mass of nerves since reading that column," began a typical phone call from a Mr. R. Pollack. "Now she just stares out the blinds at the back yard, waiting for the cicadas. She won't go outside without a broom for protection.

"She is totally overreacting. And I blame you."

Overreacting, Mr. P?

Well, that's your opinion.

Personally, I think the woman is showing uncommon good sense, and the kind of vigilance all of us should be displaying.

If anything, I would think about replacing that broom with a more formidable weapon, a 33-ounce Louisville Slugger or something along those lines, for when the little buggers try to jump her as she's getting in her car.

By the way, you may be interested to know that I actually participated in a cicada-tasting event arranged for The Sun yesterday.

I did this because if the 30-day supply of canned goods in our home runs out and the air is so thick with cicadas that the highways are shut down and the airports closed and the supermarkets are unable to replenish their stocks, we may well be reduced to eating cicadas.

And I wanted to know what they taste like.

To sum up briefly, I was part of a three-person panel that tasted cicadas sauteed with garlic and butter and served as hors d'oeuvres on a cracker, on a stick with tomato and basil, and wedged in snow peas garnished with garlic and chives.

We also tasted cicada tacos and cicada cookies.

I wish I was making this up, but, unfortunately, I'm not. You have editors with a lot of free time on their hands, these are the kinds of stories they dream up.

Anyway, as to the central question - what do cicadas taste like? - let me say this.

In the past, I have read that cicadas taste like cold, canned asparagus. Or that they taste like crunchy noodles. Or like almonds, but with a grittier flavor.

Well, trust me. They don't taste like any of those things.

What they taste like is cold, dead bugs.

Normally, I would need to have many beers swishing around in my gut to even think about eating four tiny cicadas staring back at me from atop a soda cracker.

But in this case, all they gave us was Diet Coke to wash the little critters down. And we needed something way stronger than that.

We needed Diet Manhattans, or something.

Believe me, the next time they ask for volunteers to taste insects, I'll be leaving the room so fast you'll see a vapor trail, like in a Road Runner cartoon.

In any event, you can read more details about the cicada-tasting in my buddy Rob Kasper's column in the Taste section of next Wednesday's paper.

(Kasper, he was like an animal wolfing down these cicadas! He's probably one of these guys you could drop in the wilderness for six months and he'd survive on roots and grubs and stuff.)

Let me end on this note: In the middle of our cicada-tasting event yesterday, we took a break - you tend to need a lot of breaks when tasting cicadas - and wandered out into the back yard of our host's Roland Park home.

And there, perched on a peony bush, was a cicada. He had a beautiful green back and translucent wings and fiery red eyes.

Now let me say this: He may have been dormant for 17 years.

But he sure looked ready to party.

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