The Politics of Food

Deep Fried Rodents and Other Foods We Just Don't Eat 'Round Here

Sure, we're all just totally grossed out at the video of the mouse scampering across the counter of the Whataburger in Bastrop. While the cashier was quickly offering diners their money back — but only with a receipt — one brave soul was trying to catch said mouse.

But for every solution there's a problem and poor little 'fraidy mouse was so traumatized by the predatory human that it jumped right, and right into the deep fryer.

As traumatic as it is for us to view this video, and for the customers and staff to have actually witnessed the demise of that mouse, there are other cultures where rodents are not only a protein, they're a sustainable one.

Cooked rats and rodents can be found on the menu, or from a street vendor, in China, Vietnam, parts of the Philippines and Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Ghana.

Foodies have mined that delicacy for the sake of ratings, flavor, cultural appreciation, or a combination of all three. Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern feasted on a "royal rat," or a gibnut, in Belize. "That's insane. It's not fatty or gamey tasting at all; it's very lean, it's very, very sweet. That really is a royal treat," reported Zimmern.

But the late Anthony Bourdain — who would eat just about anything — wasn't interested in dining on rats. Maybe it was all those years in the restaurant business.

Edible Rodents Around the World:

Eating rats in the Philippines: "Everything tastes like chicken."

Eating rats in Vietnam: "Delicious animals come in all shapes and sizes. So it breaks my heart when I see Americans eating only chickens, cows and pigs...."

Eating rats in Cambodia: "These are fresh right?" and "Needs more salt."

Eating rats in India: "It's a relative feast." and "The feet and tail become crispy."

Imagine being born into a lower caste and forever being pigeonholed within society, unable to elevate your circumstances. The Indian family shown here is making the best of a bad situation.

But why do we, as Americans, find it palatable to eat poultry, fish, cows and pigs, yet we turn our noses up at other proteins? We're repelled by the dog meat festivals in China, yet dogs are eaten in Nigeria, the Arctic and the Antarctic, as well as in other cultures.

And what if we had to personally kill what we ate; would we rethink what ends up on the dinner table? Even for Jack Handey, these are deep thoughts indeed. 
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney