Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"They Actually Eat That:" Mice.

After insects getting the spotlight several times, are you really surprised mice ended up here? After all, they are at least as common as insects, a good source of protein, and follow too-omnivorous humans wherever they may go. They were bound to wind up on the menu eventually.

Eating mice goes way back. People have been eating mice since prehistoric times because, hey, they were around. The ancient Romans ate stuffed dormice on a fairly regular basis, to the point that there is a species of mouse called the "edible dormouse." Then people in Europe finally went, "ew, that's gross and not even a challenge. Let's eat innocent songbirds instead."

(Ortolan says hi.) 

Some poorer nations in Africa and Europe still eat mice, but, largely because of the rodent's reputation as unclean, eating them is considered taboo in many parts of the world. They're adorable, too, but when has cuteness ever stopped someone from eating an animal? Should you wish to try mouse meat, there are still plenty of places in which to eat them; not many of them are well-off countries.

Oh, except for China, Vietnam, and Korea. (We could debate about how poor or not they are until the cows come home; Korea and China are industrialized, at least.) What, are you guys going for some sort of "Place With the Weirdest Food" record?

China and Korea make the ancient Romans look like wusses for eating cute, fuzzy dormice. Besides using mouse meat in several dishes, they put regular mice on skewers along with snakes, lizards, and scorpions. This bizarre buffet is usually found in Chinese-style night markets. Take your pick of odd eats there. Name it and if it is small enough to put on a stick, they have put it on a stick.

It gets worse/better, depending on how you see these entries: Do you know what a pinky is?

Not THIS Pinky.

If you are not in the reptile or bird of prey trade, a pinky is a baby mouse no more than 2-3 days old. It is furless with closed eyes and no more than an inch or two (a few centimeters) from head to skinny tail. Pinkies are commonly used to feed baby snakes and other small carnivorous animals in captivity. In Korea, they are also put in wine.

Korea takes eating mice the extra mile by taking not just one, not two, but a whole mountain of baby mice and drowning them in wine. The resulting mixture is left to brew for a year. It supposedly tastes like gasoline and, according to Korean folk medicine, can cure asthma, liver problems (cure or cause, guys?) or...well, anything else that ails you. Baby mouse wine is a common health tonic there; I have heard that China does this as well, but Korea remains more notorious for it for whatever reason.

Congratulations, Korea: You have officially won the "Place With the Weirdest Foods" award. Take a bow; you deserve it for swallowing baby mice to cure asthma.

Next week: Enough about Korea. There's plenty of gross stuff in the States, too.

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