I am a man of simple tastes, and so I prefer my cicadas without fanfare -- lightly sauteed in butter and garlic, then served on a bed of romaine lettuce along with a glass of white wine, a loaf of French bread and a tossed salad.

Sometimes I may garnish the salad with ground cicada wings sprinkled with paprika and bacon bits, but that's it.

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    How do you like to eat cicadas?

    How do you like to eat cicadas?

    • Marinated in teriyaki
    • As tempura
    • Crumbled over ice cream
    • Sauteed in butter
    • Raw
    • Other
    • Not at all
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In my opinion, too many spices only serve to mask the delicate flavor that, like the finest of wines or cheeses, has been 17 years in the making.

I like to eat this superb but simple meal by myself. A book of poetry. Oscar Peterson on the stereo.

My family understands.

Besides, I make it up to them.

On weekends, cicadas become a family project.

The children gather them up in brightly colored cicada baskets (available in most of the better department stores) while my wife and I stand in the kitchen, crisping them in the oven, then applying brown sugar and cinnamon with a liberal hand.

Then, singing traditional cicada songs from Europe, Asia and Africa, the whole family works together to preserve and can them for those long, bitter nights this winter when a late night snack will come in handy.

Yes, at long last, the cicadas are back!

As these bite-sized Rip Van Winkles emerge, yawning, from their underground berths, I have been bombarded with calls for cicada recipes.

The reason of course is that they look so appetizing, with their gently ribbed café au lait shells, their gossamer wings, their warm, sincere, red eyes.

But confusion reigns.

Should cicadas be stewed? Pan-fried? Or served sushi-style?

Do they go best with a red or a white wine?

Are they properly offered as appetizers, the main course or as a dessert?

The answer to these questions, most gourmets agree, is all of the above.

With this versatile insect, anything goes.

They are an epicurean's delight, their unique, indescribable flavor heightened by the fact that they appear only once every 17 years.