Scratch's comment on yesterday's post (where I selflessly ate squirrel for your entertainment) started me thinking a little bit. The part of her comment that inspired this post was:
"I'm afraid I'd have to draw the line [at eating squirrel] though. The oddist thing I've ever eaten was goose. Which tastes like really greasy chicken!"
One of the things about moving to a new country is that you start to see the things you eat and drink in a whole new light. You suddenly realize that there really is no such thing as 'normal', there are just things you're used to and things that you aren't.
For example, as a Brit, I drink my tea hot with milk in it. Not only do the vast majority of the people I know here in SC think it's really weird that I drink it hot, most of them turn green and damn near throw up at the idea of drinking tea with milk in it. Of course, if I went back to England and started drinking iced tea, most of my family there would look at me like I'd grown an extra head.
As I said, there's no normal and abnormal, just things you're used to and things you aren't.
Now, if you want to see just how weird some of the things we consider to be totally 'normal' can be, imagine explaining eggs and milk to someone who's never heard of them:
"Ok, there's this big fat flightless bird, and what we do is we get a male to have sex with a bunch of females, because when they get pregnant, instead of the fetus staying inside the bird, the bird pushes a sort of self-contained womb out its vagina. Then we gather up these 'mobile wombs', so we can cook them… fetus, placenta and all…they're really good fried. If you're thirsty after that, you can wash it down with a white, fatty liquid that we squeeze from the underneath of pregnant cows."
Basically, it all comes down to that mental disconnect. We eat eggs because we were first introduced to them as food, and we think of them as coming from our grocery store's refrigerator in those nice cartons. What we absolutely don't do is
think of them as calcium-coated bird-wombs that were squeezed out of a hen's vagina. In the same way, we'll drink cow's milk because we were introduced to it as a delicious white drink in a plastic gallon jug.
Think about it…we even say 'Beef', 'Pork' and 'Venison' instead of 'Cow', 'Pig' and 'Deer'.
My point is this: if we'd always been able to go to the grocery store and buy a bag of pre-butchered squirrel meat, no one would think there was anything even slightly weird about it. If people had to hunt and butcher their own chicken or pork, fewer people would eat it and WAY fewer would be willing to try it.
The basic rule of thumb is this: The more people who are aware of something as an actual animal instead of just as a type of meat, the weirder people will think it is. If I just say 'Chicken' to someone, there's about a 99.9% that the first thing that will pop into their head is food. When I say 'Squirrel' to someone, there's a 99.9% chance that the first thing they think of is the bushy tailed creature running up a tree trunk.
Basically, the meats we consider to be normal tend to come from animals that we domesticated early, or were abundant and cheap and easy to harvest when we move to a new area…which is why squirrel is relatively (and I use 'relatively' very deliberately) 'normal' as a food here in the south.
Basically, when it comes to 'exotic' food, meat or otherwise, there's almost no 'line' for me to draw, because as I said in a reply to Scratch's comment, what if my favorite thing of all time is something I haven't tried yet? As I mentioned yesterday, I thought squirrel was delicious…and if getting, preparing and cooking squirrel was as easy as pulling a bag out of the freezer at the grocery store, I'd choose it over chicken every time.
The simple truth is that if our history had turned out ever so slightly differently, I could have shot a wild chicken yesterday, tried it for the first time and people's comments would have been more like: "Ugh, chicken? No thanks. I tried it once and it just tasted of really bland squirrel."
…then they would have headed out for dinner to Kentucky Fried Squirrel or gone to McDonalds for an Ostrich burger.