A Freezer Menagerie

The carnivore's life

(Page 2 of 5)

Alligator jambalaya used to be a menu staple at the now defunct Cajun Bangkok in Old Town, Alexandria, and a cheese shop nearby sells ostrich steaks. Juicy, gamy buffalo/bison burgers are the specialty at the Cheyenne Diner on 9th Avenue in Manhattan.

In the near future, I might be able to expand my geographical reach without ever leaving home. Internet hunting, using a Webcam and remote-controlled rifle, could soon be a possibility. Providers would simply swoop in once the killing was done, butcher your prize, and FedEx it anywhere in the world on dry ice. The Delaware State Legislature is apoplectic at the thought, though I’m quite charmed by it. Even though no such service currently exists, they’ve passed a bill banning it: “What if someone started one of these sites in the six months that we’re not in session?” State Rep. Melanie George Marshall fretted to The Wall Street Journal on August 10.

***

The quest for strange foodstuffs is a fun way to make friends. I once wound up in a very serious discussion with a taxi driver about the best place to get goat in D.C. His firm belief was that his wife, who got her raw materials from the Florida Avenue Market in Columbia Heights, made the best goat in town. “You can get a big box of goat there very cheap,” he said. And he was right. Those unwilling to buy goat meat in bulk can find an outstanding curried goat at Montego Bay Café in Adams-Morgan.

My campaign to consume bits of increasingly bizarre animals led me to ExoticMeats.com, where I bought crocodile and fragments of several other strange beasts. My freezer became a veritable menagerie. Despite a somewhat racy-sounding name, the site is wholesome and Texan, and the staff very friendly.

Snapping turtle was available—boneless for $22.50 per pound, semi-boneless for $6 less—but I decided to give it a pass. Rattlesnake beckoned, but I quailed at the last moment. Everyone has her limits. Next time, perhaps.

After placing my order, there was some sort of procurement delay. To make up for the dreadful inconvenience of tardy delivery of bits of dead mammal, the fine people at ExoticMeats.com sent some extra kangaroo with my order.

I decided to pay the windfall forward by having a kangaroo dinner party, a fairly bold decision considering that there was a decent chance the meal would be inedible, either through native nastiness or ineptitude of preparation. To up the ante, I even invited a gen-u-ine Australian to the table.

I stocked up on cheese and crackers, made extra large portions of side dishes, plied my guests with (Australian) wine, and crossed my fingers. And lo and behold, the kangaroo was outstanding. The tender, extremely flavorful, appealingly rosy meat was wolfed down (apologies for mixing species) by one and all.

Discussion at the table revolved around whether a kangaroo was, in fact, a giant rodent and its status as a pest Down Under—all of which were basically efforts to keep ourselves from feeling bad about eating such a charismatic megafauna. (One friend wailed, “You ate Joey?” when she heard about the dinner after the fact.) Perhaps in a nod to this concern, some ranchers have proposed calling kangaroo “australus” when it appears on a plate, in the same way that we call cows “beef” and pigs “pork.”

Not every exotic meal can be as triumphant as the kangaroo dinner party. I hate to say it, but crocodile really does taste like chicken. Maybe chicken with a touch of the spongy fishiness of swordfish. But basically chicken.

Yak steaks formed another component of the ExoticMeats.com shipment, somewhat humorously labeled as New York Strips. In Tibet, the yak is central to life and to cuisine. A popular beverage is yak butter tea, a horrifying salty tea drink with butter made from yak’s milk churned into it. Far more delicious, though, are traditional Tibetan yak meat dumplings called momo.

Nepal also lays claim to these tasty dumplings, and I first tried them at Mt. Everest Restaurant on S Street in Washington. Their warm-spiced filling and slightly fluffy skins have haunted me ever since. Once I had actual yak in hand, another craving hit. It seemed serendipitous, so I made my first-ever foray into dough production in an effort to recreate the magic. Masked by spices and buried in dough, it was hard to discern any real yakiness about the final product, but the dumplings were delicious all the same.

***

But what about the answer to my original question? Why aren’t there antelope steaks in the supermarket meat case?

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  • ||

    Deja Vu all over again..

  • ||

    Yes Katherine, the Bible has lots of things to say, and some of them are really stupid. Stoning for adultery or genocide anyone?

  • emmajane||

    Aha! Sounds like you haven't tried cuy! Guinea pig, to us norteamericanos. A popular country dish in Ecuador, it's much like a very fat rabbit in taste. You can get it flattened, fried, and served with the head and feet or without......

  • Rigoberto (Resident Libertaria||

    emmajane, I'll stick with good ol' fashion lechon.

  • ||

    I love animals
    They're delicious

  • Episiarch||

    We need Mister Nice Guy's input on this.

  • ||

    Aha! Sounds like you haven't tried cuy! Guinea pig, to us norteamericanos.

    Or it's relative, the only fur bearing, air breathing, milk producing fish on the planet.

  • ed||

    Is it Groundhog Day again?

  • ||

    When in Dallas, please visit:

    www.yoranchsteakhouse.com/home/home.html

    for some wild boar, or elk.

    It's pretty good!

  • Russ 2000||

    Not ONE mention of horse meat?

  • ||

    Elk.

    Elk is so delicious I was actually motivated to go out and get one my very own self.

  • ||

    If Katherine would like to go on a date with me, she can eat anything she pleases, steak or otherwise.

    Yes, I know she's married. She's not a picky eater, I'm not a picky dater!!

    Good work!

    Bill Walsh

  • MattXIV||

    You need to try mice Katherine. I don't know of any aspect of human cuisine that uses them, but pretty much every small predator eats them, so they can't be that bad.

  • the innominate one||

    if we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made out of meat?

  • TLB||

    I'm sorry, I started to scroll really, really fast after a few words. Other than the fact that many libertarians are a-holes, what was the point?

  • ||

    MattXIV - clearly you are not familiar with Roman foodstuffs; dormice used to be a delicious appetizer, along with garum, a tasty fermented fish paste.

    I love exoticmeats.com. I ordered the frogs, snapper turtle, kangaroo, and bear burgers and they were magnifico. I actually ordered them to cook my prom dinner, and terrified my date by serving her kangaroo kebabs, frog fricasee, bear burgers, and snapper soup. An alliterative, elusive feast.

  • ||

    Lonewhacko-

    If you're going to troll, might I suggest that you try being funny and/or provocative?

    Just a little hint for ya.

  • thoreau||

    Katherine, I love your culinary writing, and I apologize for being so harsh on you in the past.

  • ||

    Russ 2000,

    "Not ONE mention of horse meat?"

    When I lived in Japan I ate raw horse sashimi along with kujira, whale. I definitely see why the japanese keep ignoring all those animal rights people. They're delicioius!!

  • ||

    One has not lived until they have cut the tenderloins out of a recently deceased whitetail and immediately fried them up to go along side some pancakes with maple syrup.....

    And BTW, cleaning one of dem der snapper turtles is quite an adventure, lemmie tell ya.

  • ||

    Bravo for a great article!

    Momos certainly are delicious. The thrill is even greater when they're filled with beef and consumed illegally in cow-worshiping India's Saffron Belt.

  • ||

    What the hell was that?

  • ||

    Unfortunately, since market hunting is illegal, most, if not all, game meat sold in restaurants is farm raised. That is not necessarily a bad thing, except that deer meat shipped from New Zealand, say, will lack the freshness of something local. Of course, considering that most hunted deermeat ends up being frozen for months, it might not matter at all.

    I'm not sure how exactly the laws on market hunting work exactly. It is legal to give meat you have hunted away and I believe a restaurant can serve game and charge for it as long as it was obtained free of charge.

    Of course if your poor enough to go to a food pantry you can get yourself some venison donated to any one of several programs by hunters who have more than they can handle.

  • BC||

    ".....I actually ordered them to cook my prom dinner, and terrified my date by serving her kangaroo kebabs, frog fricasee, bear burgers, and snapper soup."

    Did you get laid?

  • ||

    absolutely not

  • ||

    "Did you get laid?"

    "absolutely not"

    Then why waste our time with the story?

  • Jumbie||

    I think that, for Randolph, giving her his meat was a lot more important than giving her his meat.

  • ||

    Based on the unfortunate inaccuracy of KM-W's previous culinary reporting (Belgian BBQ Tax remembered!), I pesonally doubt her ability to distinguish kangaroo from discount beef.

    But fiction can be amusing.

  • ||

    I'd say most guys here have tried beaver. But there's a restaurant near Richmond, KY that serves (or once served) big plates of fried turkey testicles. Better enjoyed if your buddies don't tell you what you are eating until after you've gobbled about 1/2 a plate.

  • ||

    "I can only assume that the main reason humanity domesticated cows, and not kangaroos, is that cows are easier to catch in the first place-and happened to be on the appropriate continents-since kangaroo is delicious."

    A good explanation for why some animals were domesticated and some weren't can be found in Jared Diamonds book "Guns, Germs, and Steel". There are six general traits that make a species a good candidate for domestication;

    * Diet - To be a candidate for domestication, a species must be easy to feed. Finicky eaters make poor candidates. Non-finicky omnivores make best candidates.
    * Growth Rate - The animal must grow fast enough to be economically feasible. An elephant farmer, for example, would wait perhaps 12 years for his herd to reach adult size.
    * Problems of Captive Breeding - The species must breed well in captivity. A species having mating rituals prohibiting breeding in a farm-like environment make poor candidates for domestication. These rituals could include the need for privacy or long, protracted mating chases.
    * Nasty Disposition - Some species are too mean and nasty to be good candidates for domestication. The farmer must not be at risk of life or injury every time he enters the animal pen. The zebra is of special note in the book, as it was recognized by local cultures and Europeans alike as extremely valuable and useful to domesticate, but it proved impossible to tame. Horses in Africa proved to be susceptible to disease and attack by a wide variety of animals, while the very characteristics that made the zebra hardy and survivable in the harsh environment of Africa also made them fiercely independent.
    * Tendency to Panic - Species are genetically predisposed to react to danger in different ways. A species that immediately takes flight is a poor candidate for domestication. A species that freezes, or mingles with the herd for cover in the face of danger, is a good candidate. Deer in North America have proven almost impossible to domesticate, and have difficulty breeding in captivity. Horses, however, immediately thrived from the time they were introduced to North America in the 1600s.
    * Social Structure - Species of lone, independent animals make poor candidates. A species that has a strong, well defined social hierarchy is more likely to be domesticated. A species that can imprint on a human as the head of the hierarchy is best. Different social groups must also be tolerant of one another.

  • ||

    For exotic game cooked Churrasco Style, I suggest "The Carnivore" in Nairobi Kenya. I ate what they claimed to be Giraffe and Zebra. This was several years ago as a first stop on a safari with the family. I hope that the it is still there and still great.

  • ||

    I also ate horse meat in Kazakstan. It sucked because it was boiled, maybe one day I'll try it with a better method of cooking. The pepper vodka was good though.

  • jack||

    Wow! Congratulations! You are really something!

    Your passion for long-distance internet cuisine has given me the courage to go out and eat dogs and cats! And humans! Since we humans, cows, pigs, and antelope are all physiologically and neurobiologically almost identical, why not?

    The Bible says we can!

  • ||

    EB, I entered the comment thread intending to mention The Carnivore. I grew up in Nairobi and have plenty of childhood memories of eating Crocodile, Zebra and all sorts of other game. I got a taste for exotic meats early on in life.

    The Carnivore is still around, but I hear that a number of laws now forbid them to serve the game they once did.

  • ||

    Perhaps in a nod to this concern, some ranchers have proposed calling kangaroo "australus" when it appears on a plate, in the same way that we call cows "beef" and pigs "pork."

    There's a downside to this practice. I was in a less than fine dining eatery a while back and ordered the special "Pig Meat". It was mighty tasty. When I walked out, I saw on the small chalkboard that the special of the day was "Pigmy". Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    Internet hunting, using a Webcam and remote-controlled rifle, could soon be a possibility.

    Actually, internet hunting is now banned in most states (I think it's banned in all states).

    My campaign to consume bits of increasingly bizarre animals

    The animals you're eating aren't bizarre, they're normal food in other parts of the nation/world. They're just different fare than is typically served in your area. You want bizarre? Try the road kill stew in Louisiana but don't ask what's in it.

  • Greg||

    Katherine - You might check out The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, a book by Steven Rinella. In the course of a year, he hunts or scavenges all the main ingredients for a wild feast, drawing inspiration and recipes from the pages of Escoffier's food bible, La Guide Cuisine.

    With just the right hint of hubris and a fair dose of hilarity, the book becomes truly inspiring with Rinella's characterization of self-procured foodstuffs.

  • ||

    Great article! One correction: foxes are canines, not rodents.

    I agree with your friend that Springbok is one of the best meats I have ever tasted. I had mine on safari this Aug. grilled in the bush right after harvest. Giraffe is also superb when cooked immediately, although it is considerably tougher.

    Among other African species Gemsbok (Oryx), Kudu and Warthog were delicious and mostly unlike any domestic animal's flesh. Warthog is considerably better than its stateside analog the wild boar.

    If you get a chance try Elk - truly the food of the Gods.

  • ||

    This was the best article I've read anywhere this year. You have made me want to go out hunting for something tasty and exotic. Where is my laser mouse? ...click, click.

  • Bob||

    Boring. Why haven't you eaten rat? It's not exactly hard to come by. Or dog for that matter?

  • A.G. Pym||

    Best meat I've eaten is Musk Ox, at the Northern Territories pavilion restaraunt at the 1986 World's Fair in Vancouver, B.C. Better even than Moose or Ostrich.

    There's a good-sounding recipe for rat (as "Millers") in "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels (Patrick O'Brian) by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman, Lisa Grossman Thomas, and Patrick O'Brian.

    --AG

  • ||

    This is not meant to be an exercise in double meanings, so relax. I can recommend beaver as an edible meat, we had a friend of the family who trapped them out of the small creeks they would dam to make lakes for their lodges back in the sixties when I was growing up. Not being one to waste much, he gave the carcasses to my mom who baked them over onions, carrots and potatoes in the old granite pan usually reserved for capons or the occasional large pork roast. The meat was a bit greasy and was actually quite filling. It tasted like a really large rabbit or a bunch of squirrels except the bones were a lot larger.

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