Eating Insects

By Carolyn Belardo

In an interview published this week in The Guardian, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke about climate change and the effects of the global livestock industry on human-caused greenhouse gas levels. As an alternative to meat, he suggested raising insects as an animal protein source.

“Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat,” Annan was quoted in The Guardian. “They make up part of the diet of two billion people and are commonly eaten in many parts of the world. Eating insects is good for the environment and balanced diets.”

With this in mind and the Academy’s popular Bug Fest coming up in August, we were inspired to look up a recipe for cooking cicadas that former Academy entomologist Isa Betancourt got from her grandmother.

According to Betancourt, more than 1,900 species of insects are consumed by humans around the world as food. Cicadas are just one of them. These bite-sized critters are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. The act of eating insects is called entomophagy.

“Eating a cicada is not too different from eating seafood,” Betancourt wrote in a precursor to the Academy Blog. “Insects are members of the animal group Arthropoda; they have an exoskeleton. The crustaceans—shrimp, lobster, and crabs—also are in this group. Crustaceans are the arthropods of the sea, and insects are the arthropods of the land. We eat crabs and shrimp all the time, so why not eat their land counterparts?”

Here is Betancourt’s grandmother’s recipe for shrimp, but with cicadas substituted for the shrimp. Perhaps you’d even like to experiment by substituting another insect for the cicadas.

Isa Betancourt with a cicada.
Isa Betancourt with a cicada.

Nancy Milani’s Cicadas alla Griglia

1/2 pounds cicadas
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Several skewers

In a large mixing bowl combine the garlic, parsley, and bread crumbs. Add the olive oil and mix. Add the cicadas and stir gently until all the cicadas are coated with the mixture. Put the cicadas on the skewers, then place the skewers on a cookie sheet or any oven pan that has an edge about an inch high. Broil for 2-3 minutes, then turn skewers over and broil for another 2-3 minutes until the bread crumbs are browned.

Mark your calendar for Bug Fest, Aug. 8 and 9. You can purchase your tickets in advance by clicking here.

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