Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Normality…

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.

4 comments:

Sunny said...

I've eaten Ostrich and it's really good....sort of reminds me of very richly flavored ground Turkey.

I've always thought Squirrel is too heavy a meat, but I'll be happy to cook you up some squirrel dumplings if you kill'em and clean'em.

I've eaten alot of exotic meats......the oddest was probably either alligator or rattlesnake. Both were really good.

The worst I have ever eaten has to be Calamari...to me it tasted like big thick slices of battered, deep fried Rubber bands. YUK!

Anamorph said...

It does make you think, though, what was going through people's heads when they first tried to eat eggs or drink milk. Someone, at some point in time, had to have really decided to squeeze a cow's teat and drink whatever came out without knowing anything about it.

I've had the distinct pleasure of living in two different cultures throughout my life and can agree that there is no over-all normal as far as food is concerned. It all really boils down to what the people in a certain part of the world have gotten used to eating, habits that get passed down from generation to generation and from family to family.

Now I'm tempted to go and try something new.

Scratch the hostile fay said...

Actually, I find the word "normal" to be an insult. You don't REALLY want to be normal. Normal=boring.

Next time you get a itchin' for some "tree rat", look up the recipie for "brunswick stew". I think it calls for squirrel. As well as chicken and a lot of other stuff.

I have had deer... deer is OK depending on how it's cooked. Fried it tends to be kinda tough like cubed steak.... But put it in a crock pot for a while... Them's good eatin'. ;)
Scratch

Evan 08 said...

Sunny, I'm with you on the calamari!