Monday, September 5, 2022

Rant: Would You Eat A Rat?

Would you eat a rat? 

Back in 2014, I first met Chef Bun Lai, formerly of Miya's Sushi in Connecticut, and found him to be a genuine person, down-to-earth, and extremely passionate. He truly is concerned with doing his part to make the world a better place, from helping those in his community to setting an example for others. He is devoted to sustainability, and trying to educate others on that vital issue. Yet he remains humble, and that humility is definitely sincere. 

Recently, he hosted a farm-to-table dinner titled Why Not Eat Rats? On Facebook, he stated, "I’ll be serving wild and farmed rats three ways: a recipe inspired by the Musahar of India, a marginalized and suppressed group of desperately poor people forced to eat rats, a food that both defines them and separates them from the rest of Indian society; and a couple of preparations of rat that are American classics that usually feature beef, pork, or poultry. It’s worth noting that most of the world that eats rats chooses to, even considering the meat to be gourmet."

For most Americans, the idea of eating rats might disgust them. However, others around the world eat and enjoy rats. Why don't Americans do so? This revolves around a greater question: Which animals are acceptable to eat and which are not? And why? 

Americans primarily eat three animals: cows, pigs, and chickens. Approximately 10 billion animals are slaughtered in the U.S. annually, and almost 9 billion of them are chickens. Most Americans have boring palates, restricting most of their consumption to such a limited choice. A far smaller amount of Americans eat lamb, goat, rabbit, deer, seafood, and other such animals. 

A hundred years ago or so, Americans were more adventurous with their palates but that has been changing over time. We need to return to that prior time, and consumer a greater variety of animals, especially those which are more sustainable. It's a very arbitrary decision as which animals are acceptable for consumption, one which changes over time. It has a cultural element as well, although that can be overcome if you are willing to do so.

Rabbit is very sustainable and nutritious, as well as tasty and versatile. However, many people have a psychology aversion to consuming rabbit, as they see it more as a pet than a dinner item. The same with guinea pigs, which are hugely popular in Peru, but in the U.S., it's a rarity, generally found only in Peruvian restaurants. Insects are another sustainable and nutritious food, and which used to be available at Miya's Sushi. Insects don't remind people of pets, but the idea of eating them seems disgusting. I love rabbit, and have also enjoyed guinea pig and insects. 

I've never eaten rat, but would be willing to try it. How about you?

People should break through their psychological barriers and try some of the less commonly eaten animals, especially if they are concerned about sustainability. Many of these proteins are not only delicious but also good for you, good for society, and good for the environment.

No comments: