First of all, I want to apologize about the sink-trap basket full of desiccated insect wings you found in the kitchen when you came home.
Secondly, I'd like to beg forgiveness for the Tupperware container full of risotto that, on first glance, looked like it might make for a quick and easy dinner for you and the kids, but that on second glance looked like the grill of a Buick after a long trip.
Thirdly, I'd suggest you not look inside that aluminum foil packet toward the back of the fridge. Yes, those are tiny eyes staring back at you from between grilled tomatoes, zucchini spears and asparagus stalks.
But let me be clear as I extend my humblest apology: I'd do it all again. I cannot tell a lie. I love the taste of cicadas.
And I'm not alone. I arrived at work late last week certain that I'd make a believer out of someone. Anyone.
So I put out the all-call on the office intercom. In the arena of strong opening statements, there aren't many openers much stronger than "Who wants to eat some bugs?" And like plucking a newly emerged cicada nymph from the ground before its wings dry and afford an escape, I snatched up my fellow Richmond mag writer, Harry Kollatz Jr.
Before he could reconsider, I whisked Harry to our kitchen, handed him an alcoholic beverage and entrusted him to safeguard a cooler full of about 100 creepy-crawly bugs recently procured from a West End neighborhood, while I prepped the rest of the ingredients.
There's really little effort needed to make a meal out of cicadas. When lightly refrigerated, and if captured while the early morning dew clings to their still-gossamer wings, they hardly resist as you pluck them clean.
Harry, though initially repulsed, soon shared my enthusiasm, especially after consuming a hard ginger beer or two. Plus, a little salt fixes anything. And in the case of cicadas, it doesn't just fix the dish, it provides a flavor revelation. Cicadas, in case you're not aware, are known by those of more refined tastes as the "shrimp of the dirt."
Though after having become enlightened myself, I'd have to amend that and suggest "soft-shell crab of the dirt" might be more appropriate. Or maybe "soft-shell crab with gentle undertones of roadside boiled peanuts of the dirt."
And precedent is on my side. The ancient Greeks ate them even as they helped birth the world's first democracy. In Asia, they remain prominent in herbal medicine. If only you could see my way, I just know you'd come around. Lucky for you and for your kitchen, the next buggy bloom is a long 17 years away.
Till then, this couch makes for a remarkably comfortable night's sleep.
Your loving husband, Chris
Cicada and Saffron Risotto
(Serves 4 — or 2 if Harry Kollatz Jr. is with you)
12 to 15 cicadas, wings plucked
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of Arborio rice
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
4 to 5 strands of saffron
In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the onions and celery. Sauté until soft. Add the Arborio rice. Coat in the olive oil and lightly toast the rice. Do not brown. Add chicken stock to cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and stir constantly until the liquid begins to absorb. Add more stock a little at a time and continue to stir and reduce the mixture until the rice becomes tender. After half of the stock is used, add the saffron strands and continue stirring and adding more stock. When the rice is nearly done, add the cicadas. Contemplate life and death as the cicadas briefly crawl around in risotto before succumbing to their now slightly creamy fate. Add any remaining liquid and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed, and the cicadas appear parboiled. Remove from the heat, and carefully stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve.