Friday, December 08, 2006

A lives in B, eats C, tastes of D

Consider this:

Humans (carnivorous ones like me anyway) eat a variety of other mammals and birds. The vast majority of these species are herbivorous (I'm taking care not to fall into the anthropomorphic trap of saying "vegetarian") ones. Now this may be because humans don't relish the taste of carnivorous animals, but it's more likely to be for the very sound evolutionary reason that a small puny caveman wielding a javelin and chasing a lion is highly likely to get eaten instead of ending up with a plate of juicy lionburgers. To put it another way, those who did have a taste for carnivorous flesh and an overwhelming desire to hunt it got taken out of the gene pool early on, leaving the gazelle-eaters to inherit the earth. So we tend to focus on things like:

  • Pig
  • Sheep
  • Cow
  • Rabbit
  • Zebra
- etc. etc. It's very much the same story with birds: we eat the nice placid harmless ones like:

  • Chicken
  • Goose
  • Guinea fowl
  • Partridge
  • Pheasant
  • Ostrich
- but not the stroppy sharp-beaked ones like sparrowhawks, eagles and vultures who would have your eye out as soon as look at you. Actually, there is another good reason we don't eat vultures: they smell of wee.

Now (I'm working towards my point, though it might be a minute or two yet): we also eat fish. And while some fish no doubt browse on seaweed and other non-meat products like watercress, tofu, sponge fingers, that sort of thing, most of them eat other fish, or at least other sea creatures like krill, shrimp, etc. etc. And fish taste of, well, fish.

So my question is: given that there are a substantial number of both mammals and birds which live in the sea (or near it, in the case of the birds) and eat, predominantly at least, fish, two questions spring to mind:
  • Why don't we eat any of them?
  • What do they taste like?
I have a feeling there are some people up in the Faroe Islands somewhere who eat puffins, but apart from that I'm not sure I can think of a seafood-eating bird or mammal that humans commonly eat. I guess the Inuit probably chow down on the odd seal from time to time, and the Japanese probably fry up the odd whale steak as a by-product of their whaling activities, for "research" purposes of course, hem hem.

So does piscivorous mammal taste of mammal, or fish? And if, say, porpoise tastes of fish, is that because it eats fish, or because it's been marinated in seawater its entire life? To put it another way, does fish taste of fish because it eats fish, or because it is fish?

I think I see a gap in the market for:

Dave's Dugong Deli and Diner

While you're touring the Great Barrier Reef, why not stop in at Dave's and sample some delicious dugong? These big blubbery oafs aren't called "sea cows" for nothing - no, it's because you can cut them up into steaks and chargrill them over a barbecue. Enjoy a medium rare dugongburger as the sun goes down. Also available: manatee madras, whale rarebit, walrusdorf salad.

Speaking of dugongs, have a look at this, it's quite amusing.

No comments: