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Cicada Mania--In The Kitchen

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KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, this is Earth Eats, and I'm your host Kayte Young.
JEREMEY CHASTEEN: I think that there's so much that this world has to offer when it comes to flavor and food and I think we miss out on a lot of it.
KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show we celebrate the Brood X cicada and speak with an organizer and chef for a pop-up event called Cicada Mania. Don't worry if you missed it, you can catch the next one in 17 years. Stay tuned for the conversation after the news. 
I'm Kayte Young and thanks for tuning in to Earth Eats. We'll start with some food and farming updates with Renee Reed. Hello Renee!
RENEE REED: Hello Kayte! A federal judge has stopped debt payoffs black and other minority farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had planned to start sending out the payment this month. USDA's Farm Service Agency had planned to pay about 16,000 farmers in two phases. The agency discriminated against black farmers for decades by denying them payments needed to build and maintain a farm. 
A conservative law firm filed the suit claiming the program violated the constitutional rights of white farmers. Zach Ducheneaux is the FSA administrator, he says under the new administration they're trying to change for the better. 
ZACH DUCHENEAUX: They have had an administrator of the FSA that has been in their shoes, nor have they had an administrator that has spent the last 20 years of their life advocating for producers just like them, getting producers in the door. 
RENEE REED: Ducheneaux says they are going to defend the debt relief program in court and are committed to getting the payments out as planned despite complaints that it would hurt smaller banks. The debt relief is part of a $5 billion dollar effort to support farmers of color. 
A consortium of agriculture business and healthcare groups are teaming up to try and increase covid-19 vaccination rates among rural residents. Harvest Public Media's Jonathan Ahl reports.
JONATHAN AHL: With vaccination rates in rural counties still lagging behind urban centers, there's more focus on changing a message to convince vaccine hesitant people to get a shot. The effort includes the American Farm Bureau. President Zippy Duvall says farmers and ranchers already know the benefit of vaccinations. 
ZIPPY DUVALL: We all understand that as farmers and ranchers that herd immunity really works but we have to get to that 70% or higher level before we can feel like it will get to that point. 
JONATHAN AHL: Duvall says it's important that rural communities hear encouragement from people they trust, namely local farm organizations, religious leaders, and businesses with a presence in rural areas. Jonathan Ahl, Harvest Public Media. 
RENEE REED: Addressing farm runoff into waterways is becoming a priority in more midwestern states. At the end of Illinois's legislative session, money was set aside to address the state's nutrient loss reduction strategy - a plan to reduce fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi river. Max Webster is the Midwest policy manager with the American Farmland Trust. He says while Illinois joined other states like Iowa was dedicated funding the money is only for one year. 
MAX WEBSTER: So we don't have that that long term dedicated funding like other states do. And so this this work is really kind of a foundation to build upon to try to get some of those resources in place. 
RENEE REED: He says the money will be used for everything from incentivizing cover crops to increasing nutrient monitoring in waterways across the state. Thanks to Harvest Public Media's Seth Bodine, Dana Cronin and Jonathan Ahl for those reports. For Earth Eats, I'm Renee Reed. 
(News theme)
(Signals, by American Pirates)
KAYTE YOUNG: If you live here in Indiana or really anywhere in the eastern half of the United States, you're probably quite familiar with the Brood X cicada phenomenon. These insects have been underground for 17 years thriving on tree roots sap, and this spring they emerged to complete their life cycle. And let me tell you, there are a lot of them. And it's been the topic of small talk conversation everywhere I go. They're hard to avoid with their screeching tree song, and their clumsy flight. Their eyes are red, their wings are beautifully articulated, and their discarded exoskeletons are serving as crunchy tree mulch underfoot.
Listeners you may have wondered, would we go there? Would Earth Eats do a story on cicada cuisine? The answer is yes, and this is that story. I attended an event - Cicada Mania at a Southside bar in Bloomington called the Sinkhole. The event was a pop-up restaurant by way of a borrowed food truck and a celebration of the Brood X cicada. There was an informative lecture geared for children given by Drury College Biologist Stephen Jones the father of one of the organizers, Aaron Jones. 

AARON JONES: Yeah I'm the artist in the family, the musician. And I have a love of nature which I slowly realized that's because my dad was very eccentric and loved animals and he passed that on to me. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Cicada Mania is the brainchild of Aaron Jones who also put together an album celebrating Brood X featuring original music from a collection of artists and field recordings of cicadas. 
AARON JONES: I think just in short, I think we should experience and eat the things that are around us in order to kind of be tied to nature in a way. 
KAYTE YOUNG: So your philosophy is it's just really good to eat what's around you, what's plentiful around you. It's not so much about the future of protein is bugs or anything?
AARON JONES: Yeah, that's not my agenda and I think having an agenda could be a good thing, but it also just kills the joy. When I was promoting this event I went to a graduation party, and I fixed up cicadas in the kitchen of the host. And I said, "Hey do you mind if I cook these up with some Cajun spice?"
And the kids were the first to go, and then the older people slowly started eating them, and then everybody's surprised "Yeah, they're kinda good. Taste like crawdad or a little bit of asparagus, there's this interesting cashew nut taste."
But what happened was I saw three generations of women and I didn't know them, and the oldest woman turned to her daughter and said, "Do you think I'll be around again when this happens again? Will I ever taste this again?"
And I was like that's it! That's part of the magic that happens when you discuss eating a bug like this, that is in the interrupting our lives and it's interrupting the lives of your dogs and cats too. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Ben Crumb was also part of the team, I stopped him to ask about the menu. 
BEN CRUMB: Yeah my name is Ben Crumb. I'm one of the organizers. So on the menu today we have a brisket taco, we have a pork taco, pork sausage which is a collaboration with Wagon Wheel here in Bloomington, Doctor Jones Chocolate Cicada Crunch ice cream - that's a collaboration with the Chocolate Moose, and a cake from Le Petit Cafe with cicadas in it and on top of it as well dipped in chocolate. And we also have street corn with a cicada seasoning on the top. Everything that I described has cicadas in it. The sausage has the cicadas obviously cooked right in there, there are actually whole cicadas in the sausage.
I've tried most of them. The chocolate dipped cicadas are actually really really good. And I've had the barbecued and smoked one really are amazing because they are dry roasted and then smoked, and they really do kind of crumble in melt in your mouth. So those ones are in some of the tacos. 
KAYTE YOUNG: What's your favorite of the dishes you've tried?

BEN CRUMB: Definitely the tacos, I had the pork taco and that really good. I'm really excited to try to brisket Taco. So Chef Jeremy is from Texas and brisket is kind of his... runs in the family. So we actually called it Papa Daddy's brisket taco. Papa Daddy is what they called his father, so it's named after him. It's a very traditional Texas brisket and so I'm really excited about that one. And I am not type of person who just goes around eating bugs, so this is an experience for me as well, and it's really amazing. Our chef Jeremy Chasteen has done an amazing job preparing all of this, and getting it for such a large crowd, it's really incredible. 
KAYTE YOUNG: The celebration was held outside of the bar on the covered walkway of the strip mall, in an outdoor parking lot seating area with umbrellas and festive banners. Given the somewhat urban setting, the place was crawling with cicadas. The trunks of the crabapple trees used in landscaping outside of the dentist office where I parked we're covered in adult cicadas, and they were landing on people in line and filling the air with their song.
The line for tickets snaked all along the edge of Winslow Plaza and on the sidewalk near the road. Folks waited in the hot sun for up to an hour for the chance to sample the dishes prepared with cicadas. And they were handed menus to look over while they waited. I spoke to a table of people who had already dug in. 
[INTERVIEWING] What is your name? 
MAYA FRASER: Maya Fraser. 
KAYTE YOUNG: What'd you have today? 
MAYA FRASER: So we had a taco with cicadas in it and also the cicada ice cream from the Chocolate Moose. So pretty different in how they tasted, the taco like you could really taste the cicada, and it was actually pretty tasty. But the ice cream just tasted like chocolate. 
KAYTE YOUNG: What else was in the taco? 
MAYA FRASER: There was brisket and onions and then like a salsa. 
KAYTE YOUNG: So you felt like you really tasted the cicada, it wasn't masked by the other flavors? 
MAYA FRASER: So I actually pulled out some of the cicadas to eat them separately, so I knew what it tasted like. But I don't know, it might have been masked if you didn't do that, it'd have been like a nice crunch. 
KAYTE YOUNG: So what motivated you to come out here and try this stuff? 
MAYA FRASER: I didn't try them 17 years ago, so I didn't want to miss out on it this time. 
KAYTE YOUNG: But it sounds like you were really interesting in actually tasting the cicada, that it wasn't just about to say you've done, you wanted to try it, you weren't squeamish. 
MAYA FRASER: I guess I've traveled a bunch, and so maybe it’s sort of a... like I want to try weird foods and yeah I just excited about it. Everyone says that insects are the next kind of protein frontier. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Anybody else? 
OLD MAN: My grandson couldn't wait to be here, he wanted to try it. 
OLD MAN: He had the ice cream.
KAYTE YOUNG: Did you like it? 
ELI ELROD: Yeah it was okay, I didn't like the texture. 
KAYTE YOUNG: But do you think it's gonna be a good story to tell 17 years from now? 
Grandma: Maybe even tomorrow!
KAYTE YOUNG: What's your name? 
Person: My name's Eli Elrod. 
KAYTE YOUNG: How old are you? 

MAYA FRASER?: Are you gonna try it as part of your reporting? 
KAYTE YOUNG: I don't know, it's a pretty long line...
[NARRATING] One of the guests offered me a sample of the sausage. 
[TO GUEST] Okay, you sure you don't want it? 
CICADA MANIA GUEST: (Inaudible) take it, take it. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay, okay. 
Pretty much tastes like sausage. So did they say the cicada was in the sausage as well?
KAYTE YOUNG: He suggested I try the roasted cicada solo... so I did. 
[TO PATRON] I mean... it just tastes kind of meaty. 
CICADA MANIA GUEST: I mean it's not exciting, they're just food. 
KAYTE YOUNG: What are your two names? 

BARBRA SPICER: Barbra and Joe Spicer. 
JOE SPICER: We're from North Vernon Indiana, came up just for this. 
JOE SPICER: We saw it on Facebook, we thought we ought to try that. We tried to do em at home, but we can't catch enough of them to do a stir fry. So we thought we'd come up here and try them. 

BARBARA SPICER: It was nice meeting you.
KAYTE YOUNG: Thank you guys so much for talking to me, I really appreciate it. I didn't catch your name. 
LENAYA: Lenaya. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Did you try them? 
KAYTE YOUNG: Did you like them? 
LENAYA: Yeah, it tasted good. Mostly like the spices and the carnitas but cool texture. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Alright well thanks again, I really appreciate it. 
[NARRATING] I decided to get in line for tickets. It was $7 per ticket and each item on the menu cost one ticket. It took about an hour to get through the ticket line and then the food line. I ended up trying the esquites which is a cup of Mexican style street corn featuring a cicada laden spicy topping. I brought the cicada smoked sausage skewers home for my family by sample. 

[AT THE EVENT] I am hot and tired. Cicadas are everywhere. I'm going home.
(People chattering in the background)
[Narrating] A few days later I sat down in the studio with Jeremy Chasteen, one of the organizers and the chef for this pop-up cicada event. Our conversation is coming up after a short break. 

Kayte Young here, you're listening to Earth Eats. I wanted to learn more about Cicada Mania, the ideas that drove the event and the details behind the menu. I sat down with one of the organizers and the chef. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: My name is Jeremy Chasteen and I'm one of the co-founders of All Creatures Yum. I help with pretty much all aspects of All Creatures Yum, but I focused primarily on the food. I have a history in catering and things like that and have always been obsessed with food, so it fit. 
KAYTE YOUNG: So you were the chef? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yes I was the chef. It was me, Aaron Jones and Ben Crumb. And it came from Aaron Jones, he's been a friend of mine for a long time. He's very creative, he's always thinking of something new and interesting. And one day he came up to me and was like, "We should do a pop-up restaurant serving cicadas." And I immediately was like, "I'm on board"
So we started meeting and started trying to figure out what would it actually look like to do an event centered around cicadas. And it kind of morphed into a more of like a festival than just a pop-up restaurant, where we were wanting people to come together and have an experience that they won't get to repeat for another seventeen years. And so that's really where it kind of came from, was Aaron's mind, and then he and I and Ben meeting in coming up with this plan to pull it off.
I grew up in Texas and my dad has always loved food and cooking. And he never was afraid of trying new and interesting things. He grew up on a farm, so you know they had cows and they didn't waste any of the cows. So I grew up in it with that kind of mindset. So approaching this I wasn't afraid of eating cicadas but what I really wanted to do with the event, is make something that would be really approachable to everyone. That there wouldn't be this like hurdle for people to actually eat a cicada. I wanted to make an approachable, I wanted to make it fun and exciting. 
We ended up collaborating with all whole bunch of people here in town from Phili's Tacos donated their food truck for us to use at the event, the Chocolate Moose made and ice cream with chocolate dip cicadas. Those chocolate dipped cicadas were made by Cup and Kettle Tea Company from downtown. The Wagon Wheel made us a pork cicada sausage. It became more than what we actually ever thought it was going to be, just with all of the people supporting us and collaborating with us. Le Petite made a cake for us. 

And so the day of we were at we had all these people supporting us. And the Sinkhole offered his venue as a place that we could have it, and it came together really well. We were able to collaborate with all these other businesses. At the beginning we thought you know okay we're going to get a 100 people may be interested in eating this bug. And the event comes and over 600 people show up at the Sinkhole for 4 hours, I mean it was it was insane. It was a lot more than we expected. The enthusiasm was awesome. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Could you say more about the Sinkhole, where the event was held?
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah so the Sinkhole is this craft beer bar off of Winslow. And McKinley's made this place. It's like your hometown bar, a place that you can go to and feel at home. And he does once a month, the first Saturday of the month, he does a food truck event. And so actually Aaron had gone there to an event when he had a lobster truck and he had tons of people there. And Aaron ended up talking to McKinley for a little bit, and McKinley was like, "Let's do it together! I'm in."

And he was a perfect partner, he believed in the idea from the very beginning, and he really helped tremendously with the logistics. I mean from providing porta potties to helping us have enough space for people, and he ran the point of sale, and all of that stuff. It was just great to collaborate with him as well. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Why don't we get into some of the details about the food that you make. You were in the truck. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yup, yup, I was in the truck for four hours or more, and it was a very very hot day. It was 90+ outside and inside the truck I think it was over a hundred degrees.
When I first got approached by that about this idea, I'd never tried a cicada and I've never actually seen Brood X, I grew up in Texas this is my first year to ever see Brood X come up. And so probably the first week that they were emerging here in Bloomington, Aaron I were able to get some, and I was able to roast them and actually taste the flavor. And I thought it was amazing, it's very nutty and a little bit of a vegetable quality to it as well. But I knew that it was going to be a hurdle for people. It's a bug, and we're Americans, I guess we're privileged enough to not have to eat bugs. That's (how) most of the people I guess would look at it, but most of the world does. 

And in thinking about that, first of all I wanted the people to experience cicada in different ways. I wanted them to experience the fact that it doesn't even... I mean it can be on something and simply be a texture. So we had tacos with smoked or grilled cicadas. And you don't really taste them on there, it's more of just a texture. And I find that that's that's usually the easiest way for people to handle it, is if they don't have to have the whole bug right in their face, but then it works so well as in deserts as well, it can go both ways. And I've experimented at this time, at this point with I mean I've roasted, I've smoked, I've pickled cicadas. I've done almost everything you could possibly do with them. And I find that they really take on the flavors of what they're made with, they're not overpowering whatsoever. 

We had a cake from Le Petite. I roasted some and dried them out for her so she could grind them up and use them the same way that you would use cricket flour. We chocolate dipped them which was in the ice cream, and it's like I mean it's like... it was basically a crunch aspect to it. Almost like a peanut, like a chocolate covered peanut in an ice cream. Just provides this really nice texture. 
When it came to the sausage that Wagon Wheel did, they ground up cicadas in the sausage with the pork as well as leaving some whole so you could actually see and get that experience of tasting the cicada in there. And we did esquites which is Mexican street corn and in that, we kind of (used) the same method as Le Petite, we ground up the cicadas, dried them out and use them in the Tajin as a spice. So it added a little bit of a nutty flavor to the street corn itself. I think that that's all of the food we had there. 

We had a VIP event that we were able to kind of experiment a little bit more with cicadas. This event, we wanted to keep it more approachable cause we knew like tons, or we were hoping that a lot of people would come out. At our VIP event that we did kind of launching All Creatures Yum, we also had this really nice salad where we candied the cicadas and put them on top of the salad. And it was basically like a fresh summer salad with candied pecans, just really lovely. I think if people would get over the idea that it's a bug and be adventurous enough to taste it, I think that they would love it. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Let's talk about that a little bit more, because you said that maybe we're privileged enough that we don't have to, but that people all over the world have been eating bugs. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Like I said I grew up in Texas and my dad was always encouraging us to eat things that most people wouldn't. I can remember going, as a kid, going to my grandparents Christmas celebration, and a roasted cow head was on the table. But here in America, it can't just be any cut of meat, it needs to be these specific cuts of meat. It' can't be a bug, it's gotta be pork, fish, or chicken. 

And I think that that really limits us quite a bit on what the world has to offer when it comes to flavors. And you look at me look at the rest of the world... I mean I've loved Oaxaca cooking for a long time, and they use mealworms, and grasshoppers and crickets in many of their dishes. And I do think that it does come from the fact that were a very wealthy country and most people don't have to go outside of their comfort zone in what they eat. Which I think it's a shame. I think that there's so much that this world has to offer when it comes to flavor and food and I think we miss out on a lot of it.

KAYTE YOUNG: I don't know if I agree with you about the about the privilege, and don't have to eat bugs. I really think that it's a cultural thing. I think that there are things that we eat that some cultures might find really gross, and there are plenty of people who would never eat a shrimp because it's like a bug. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yup, you're right, yeah. Yeah I do think culture plays into it, I do think though that that Americans when it comes to food that we do waste a tremendous amount. And I do think that there's something to be said about the idea that that this world has much more than what we use. And we push our resources to the limit because of it. I think that there's good arguments to be made for the sustainability of certain insects in our diet. There's a there's a reason why the UN pushes for mealworms now to be... they're just a very sustainable source of protein for the world. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Well and in this moment they certainly are plentiful, the cicadas, in this place, and this time. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yes, yeah, right now, yeah. When it comes to cicadas, we warn people not to eat them if they have shellfish allergies because the FDA has warned about that. It also is similar to other shellfish in that it contains trace amounts of mercury so not something that people should just be eating tons of every day. But I think for this moment right now it's a good way to celebrate and enjoy this this unique thing that we're not going to be for another of 17 years.
KAYTE YOUNG: If you're just joining me my guest is Jeremy Chasteen. He's a co-founder of All Creatures Yum and the chef for the Cicada Mania event which took place in Bloomington Indiana on June 12th. After a short break we'll have more from our conversation including an explainer on the best time to harvest the cicada for culinary purposes, and why. Stay with us. 
(Signals, by American Pirates)
Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, this is Kayte Young. I'm speaking with Jeremy Chasteen who organized an event celebrating the Brood X cicada which emerges on mass every 17 years. He's the chef who developed the recipes for the Cicada Mania event and in the process he learned a lot about Brood X. 
[Interviewing] A question I have is at what stage did you harvest the cicadas?
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah so we had a team of people who Aaron Jones worked with, his dad whose a biologist and we talked to a chef who 17 years ago had had used to cicadas. And so we did our research with biologists, entomologists, and then chefs who had actually worked with them before. And what they told us is that the best time to harvest them is when they are first emerging from the ground as a nymph. So harvesting them when they're coming out of the ground, or when they first have come out of their exoskeleton, this takes like literally minutes. They come out of the ground, they crawl up a tree, or find a place where they can latch onto, and then within seconds they're starting to emerge from their exoskeleton and then flapping their wings to kind of harden out.
And so anytime between that period is when we would harvest them. The adults, you can eat the adults but if someone has a hard time eating the nymph, they're really going to have a hard time eating the adults. They're much bigger at that point, their flavor is much more intense, and they are a lot crunchier if that makes sense. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Did you try them at that stage, do you know the flavor difference? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: I did, yup yup. 
KAYTE YOUNG: I was just curious because you had said that they don't have a really strong flavor, but I was wondering since you had tried and it had a more intense flavor, what is that flavor like? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: It's hard to explain. I guess I would say that the adult is a little bit more, because I have heard people talking about cicadas tasting like shrimp. I don't get that taste at all from the nymphs. I mean I get the nutty flavor, but I don't get that shrimp. But with the adults I can kinda see that. It's just a little stronger.
And so when they're nymphs, when they're first coming out, you don't really have to worry about whether it's a male or a female because they both still have what looks like soot in their bodies, and that's what they're eating for 17 years. But when they are adults, the female has the eggs, the male is hollow, and his hollow body is what he uses to make the noise. So all the noise that you hear from the cicadas is the male basically like, a drum beating, so that he can signal to the females to come. So really if you were going to eat the adult, you'd really have to try to find the females because the males are just, it's just hollow and doesn't have much in it at all. 

KAYTE YOUNG: What do they eat? And when? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah so, I don't know the exact name for it, I was told it many times. But it's basically the way I look at it is that they're eating the sap from the tree, the roots. And it's actually fairly interesting, when a tree puts on its buds, when it starts to leaf out after the winter, that signals into the tree to send this stuff into the root system and that's what the cicadas not only eating, but also tracking time with, at least that's what they assume. Which is why you sometimes have, like four years ago, some of Brood X came up a bit early. And it was because we'd had warmer winters, and some of the trees had a false bloom, and so they signaled in their heads "Oh it's 17 years! Let's go guys!" 
But they are basically eating the nutrients that are in the roots on the tree. They're not like locusts, they don’t have teeth, they're not gonna go and eat your flowers or your garden or anything like that, they have no teeth. They're actually pretty defenseless animals. They're clumsy flyers as you know if you've been walking around Bloomington at all, and they hit you in the face as you're walking. So they don't really have much of a defense system. They're fascinating creatures, I loved it. 

And that was the other thing I forgot to say is that for me one of the biggest reasons I did this event with Aaron and Ben is I have a 5-year-old and an eight-year-old, and they're going to be in their twenties the next time this Brood X comes out. And I just them sitting there thinking I want them to remember this year, I want them to remember what happened. And it's just the sweet thing that you can kind of measure your life by, brood X. I'll be almost 50 the next time they come out.
There's this lovely quote by an entomologist in the 1800s, and he was much older, he's probably in his seventies or eighties but he talked about hearing the last notes of the cicadas, he had this melancholy thought, "Would I live to hear them again?" And I just think that there's this romantic, poetic, aspect to the cicada which lends itself to both took to all forms of art and creativity which includes food in my mind. 

KAYTE YOUNG: One of the things that I've heard people talking about is how there are so many of them and that's kind of their survival strategy, and that everything is eating them. I mean all the birds and squirrels or whatever are eating them. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah my cat catches them, but she doesn't really eat them. And that after a while even the birds and these other animals get kind of sick of them. But I've also noticed the effect it's had on the ecosystem around here because I'm a berry forger, and last year we had a late frost and killed a lot of the blossoms and so there were many things that we didn't have that we normally have from fruits to nuts. And it really limited what the birds had to eat and probably squirrels as well. And so they were eating things that they don't normally eat. T hey were devouring cherry trees and devouring service berry things. Things that did produce they were completely getting all of it. And this year they've had so much to eat like Serviceberry trees are untouched. That's just something I've observed from my own need of world of food that is as has been interesting to see. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Well and it makes sense, when else do they have this endless supply of food like this? And as far as I understand a pretty decent form of protein for them. No it is interesting to watch nature do these kinds of things. It's really fascinating and amazing, the beauty of it all. 
One of the things that I enjoyed most about it was that it wasn't something that I could just look up and be like, "Where's a recipe for this?" I actually had to use my... like actually had to try and be creative. With this I was able to just try and use things that I'd learned throughout my life and flavors that I liked. And so I think that the creativity side of it was something that I loved, being able to test my skills and my knowledge with something that I still think that there's plenty more that I could do with cicadas. I've still got ideas floating around in my head.
I think that that was probably the most enjoyable part of the food was just trying to figure out ways to use the cicada that would be pleasant, and good. And I have had a bad plenty of successes and plenty of failures with the cicada. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Can you with them that you were not happy with?
JEREMY CHASTEEN: So this one I have mixed feelings about, is the pickled cicadas. I think it's the most... I don't know how to put it. It was the hardest one for me to eat. Like the roasted cicadas, they were they had good texture, their flavor was good. The pickled ones they tasted fine, but I don't know I guess maybe it's just the idea of eating a pickled bug is off putting in my mind. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah or maybe the texture, because a pickle is not dried out. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah, and it wasn't crunchy anymore. It was like... imagine a boiled peanut, you know.
KAYTE YOUNG: Which is an odd texture already. But I think that that is one that really comes to my mind because it's a way to preserve them, and so you could have the 17-year. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: I mean I still do, I have probably 5 or 6 cans of pickled cicadas right now with just different trying out different mixtures and things like that. I have a kimchi with cicadas in it. I used it as kind of a... mixed with the chili powders and things like that. I haven't tried it yet. I think it's going to be good. I don't think that it's going to be overpowering at all. I imagine that the kimchi will completely take over any cicada flavor that it has.
Besides having burnt cicadas most of them have turned out, most of them I've enjoyed. There was a brittle that I did with a whole cicada that wasn't good at all. You have to be careful about how you cook them. And you learn it as you go, because like I said there's not really a cookbook online for how to cook cicadas, but I've told people that the best way that I've come up with for doing it simply is to brine them, make sure they're washed very very well. They're coming out of the dirt, so they've got dirt on them. Often times if you're picking them up, you'll have leaves and grass and stuff like that. So you just want to make sure that you clean them very very well, get all of that stuff off of them. 
I'd also say make sure what I did, and this was recommended by other entomologists as well as but do be mindful of where you’re harvesting them from. Try not to harvest them too close to the city or places that they use pesticides and things like that on their trees. And so we did it all in forests. We tried to stay away from places that were likely to have any kind of things in the soil. I don't know how much that would affect the cicada itself but in my mind it was important for us to do that.
So make sure you clean them, brine them in just a very standard brine. Then I boil them, dry them out for about 20 minutes, and then roast them at like you know 375 or 350 for about 10 minutes, and enjoy. 
KAYTE YOUNG: And so you have to be careful to not overcook them, is that what you're saying, to not burn them? 
KAYTE YOUNG: What's the kind of...? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Like I was saying, if you did a kind of a cross section of a cicada you can see what looks kind of like I guess their version of fat. It's just looks like soot, like what you would feed your birds inside of them. And if you do it too slow that melts out, and so then you're just left with a bunch of hollow cicadas on your pan. If you do it too hot, they're gonna burn really really fast, especially the outside of them. So there's this ideal temperature where you can actually cook them, and that soot won't run out and that's best. But it took a lot of practice before I realized what was going on and kind of figured out the recipe, the best way to cook them. 
KAYTE YOUNG: That's really interesting that sounds like a good challenge. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah it was, it was a lot of fun. 
KAYTE YOUNG: And that you had to find it out through trial and error. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah, cause I've had grasshoppers, I've had crickets, but I don't know how similar they are. I've never roasted my own grasshoppers, it's always been already done. I've never harvested in my own grasshoppers. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Well one of the things that I was really impressed with pop-up event, so you guys aren't an established restaurant. You didn't know how many people were going to show up, and it seemed like you had plenty to go around, and that you didn't run out. I mean there's some of the things may be ran out faster than others but tell me if I'm wrong, but you were probably pretty much able to serve everyone who came. And how did you plan for that? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah so like I said I've done catering for the last 8 years, so I kind of have a good idea when it comes to tell me 400 people are coming, I'll have plenty. What I did was I just I just estimated how many people that I thought were going to come. I thought in my head that the realistic number was 400 but there was also this part of me that was like, "It could be a lot more than that." So I made enough for the amount of people that were coming, or that ended up showing. At the end of the day, had we stayed open 30 minutes longer though we would have ran out of everything on the truck. We were getting really really close. Thankfully though we made it until 8.
I mean I had never worked on a food truck before, I'd never done that kind of... catering is completely different than a food truck. And then running a food truck is completely different than running a food truck for 600 plus people. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah it was a steady stream of people, it didn't stop at all. So it's not like you're hanging out, and you get a little time, somebody comes up and places an order. It was nonstop. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN:  Yeah I think I got to step off the food truck once at 4:45 just to go and get everybody some water, and there was maybe a little bit of a hold up getting people to the point of sales. But soon as I got back on the food truck, after that it was non-stop. It was amazing though. I felt very blessed in the way that it happened and was overjoyed with excitement to see it go as well as it did. I mean when I saw the lines, I was just like, "Okay, I'll say a prayer and get going."
KAYTE YOUNG: One thing that I observed that really I've been thinking a lot about since I was there, before I left my house, I was sort of dreading that I would probably have to try some. Because I just feel like that's a role that I need to play. But I didn't want to. And I was wondering if I could find a way out of it. Once I got there, I mean I really wasn't there 15 minutes before I was ready to pop one of them in my mouth and it wasn't something I was cringing or squeamish. It was just... it was what was happening in this space. And it to me that just speaks to the power of culture and that what culture does is it normalizes things. And so suddenly I was in this environment in which what was happening was cicada eating. And so since that's what everyone there was doing the expectation was so powerful that I was just ready to do it. And I did it, and it was no big deal. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: That's interesting. 
KAYTE YOUNG: And it was interesting, and I was interested. I wasn't like, I wanted to actually get the full... what does this taste like? What is the texture? I wasn't just trying to say, "Okay I did it, but I didn't really taste it."
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah, that's interesting. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah so you guys created this created this little mini culture in a very short period of time. 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: Yeah, that's really interesting, I hadn't thought about that. But I do know that a friend of mine came and she brought her sons, cause she knew that they would be into it. But she and her daughters were not going to eat them, but she ended up doing it and she ended up liking them. And so I think you're right, that's interesting I hadn't thought about that. But it does almost, like when you have that big of a group together and it's all centered around this one thing, it does normalize it and make it less scary because you're doing it all together. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah, and I think it would sort of be, I'm sure that there were people who ended up there like you said that the people you were talking about that weren't planning on eating it. You would sort of feel like, "Man I had this chance to do this thing that I could talk about later and I didn't do it." So the pressure of it. Do you think you'll be doing more pop-up restaurant type things or was this really just about the cicada? 
JEREMY CHASTEEN: So that's interesting. I told my wife, as I was going into it, I was just ready for that day to be over, and then I woke up Sunday morning and I was sad it was over. I mean I do think that it has to do with the creativity. I run a business and I can write you a business plan, but I can't write you a novel, I can't write you a poem, I can't play an instrument, but I've always been good at cooking, and I think that it is the way that I can express my creativity. And so I don't know, I hope to do some more things. I've been thinking about it. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I would like to do more things. 
This world is filled with flavors that we can enjoy, and I think that it's fun to explore them and be creative with them. Some of them are new and scary, but yum none the less. 
KAYTE YOUNG: You've been listening to a conversation with Jeremy Chasteen. He's one of the founders of All Creatures Yum and an organizer and chef for the Cicada Mania event in Bloomington Indiana. The song you're hearing now is signals, cicada Brood X 2021, by Aaron Marshall from the album Little Lamb, Little Cicada, put out by Aaron Jones the band American Pirates. Find links to this work at
(Signals, by American Pirates)
RENEE REED: The Earth Eats team includes Eobon Binder, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Abraham Hill, Payton Knobeloch, Josephine McRobbie, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Special thanks this week to Jeremey Chasteen, Aaron Jones, Ben Crumb, Maya Fraiser, and Lenaya, Barbara and Joe Spicer, Eli Elrod, and Derk Fraiser.
RENEE REED: Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artist at Universal Productions Music. And for this episode by Aaron Marshall. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.


close up of a taco with purple onions, green leafy herbs, brown bugs and a lime wedge

Roasted cicadas were featured on two varieties of tacos at the Cicada Mania event held outside of the Sinkhole Craft Beer Bar in Bloomington, IN. (Jeremy Chasteen/All Creatures Yum!)

“I think that there’s so much that this world has to offer when it comes to flavor and food and I think we miss out on a lot of it.“

This week on the show, we celebrate the Brood X Cicada, and we speak with an organizer and chef for a pop-up event called Cicada Mania

Don’t worry if you missed it. You can catch the next one in 17 years! 

view of an outdoor seating area for food with white canopies and colorful banners. a food truck is visible in the disance and a sign on the building says "The Sinkhole Craft Beer"
A once-every-seventeen-years-event, Cicada Mania offered guests a chance to sample dishes made with cicada nymphs. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

If you live here in Indiana, you are probably quite familiar with the Brood X Cicada phenomenon. These insects have been underground for 17 years, thriving on tree root sap (xylem), and this spring, they emerged to complete their life cycle.

They’re hard to avoid, with their screeching tree song, and their clumsy flight. Their eyes are red, their wings are beautifully articulated, and their discarded exoskeletons are serving as crunchy tree mulch underfoot

You may have wondered...would we go there? Would Earth Eats do a story on Cicada cuisine? 

The answer is yes.

A Pop-up Restaraunt and Cicada Festival

I attended an event --Cicada Mania at a southside bar in Bloomington called The Sinkhole. The event was a pop-up restaurant, with a borrowed food truck, and a celebration of the Brood X Cicada. 

Cicada Mania is the brain child of Aaron Jones, who also produced an album, Little Lamb/Little Cicada, in honor of Brood X, featuring original music from a collection of artists plus field recordings of cicadas. 

He joined forces with Ben Crumb and Jeremy Chasteen and together they founded All Creatures Yum! The group enlisted a host of partners and sponsors to organize an event that they hoped would capture some of the magic of these periodical creatures. 

Dury College Biologist, Dr. Stephen Jones (the father of Aaron Jones) kicked off the event with an informative presentation geared for children.

blurry shot of a man in a gray shirt with a cicada image, inside of a food truck with two other people, in action
Chef Jeremy Chasteen developed the recipes for the pop-up event, and managed to crank out enough cicada-laden food for 600 people.(Aaron Jones/All Creatures Yum!)

I saw t-shirts, cicada wing earings and other cicada-themed art for sale, but the main attraction was the food. I sat down with chef Jeremy Chasteen in the studio a few days after the event. You can hear our conversation on this week's show. 

You can learn more about All Creatures Yum!, Cicada Mania and all of their sponsors and partners on their Facebook page. 

Some of the recipes Jeremy mentions can be found here. 

Music on this episode:

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Aaron Marshall

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