You call it bush meat, I call it Rat…
Apart from some limited exceptions such as hurling myself out of an aeroplane or sticking needles in my back and swinging from the ceiling, I will try anything once. This philosophy also extends to trying food. The way I see it, no good can come from eating creatures that can jump over 100 times it’s own body height or eating any part of an animal that has enough venom to kill a camel. But for most of the time, this leaves me with a wide selection of mammals, reptiles, birds and fish that I will gladly season and gobble up. Elephant, Komodo Dragons, Pelicans, Whales… I will give it all a shot in the name of “experience”.
Yesterday the menu of the day presented “Grasscutter” pepper soup. My inquisition demanded me to ask the waitron – What the hell is that?? Not happy with “It’s nice” as the answer or “the grass does not grow where it has walked” (because that was almost the clincher) – I turned to my trusty friend, google.
Internet access in Lagos is pretty good around here. EVDO technology enables you to have mobile, high speed internet access at very reasonable prices, almost anywhere. Most hotels these days also have some sort of wireless internet access, so being in Lagos does not mean you are cut off from the online world. For me, this was probably the biggest surprise since I got here … until my results returned from google.
What surprised me the most from my waitron was that she was more concerned with “The way I like it” rather than IF I would like it. How much pepper would I like with it? Do I like it with bread? All questions that made the assumption that I have A) eaten it before and B) eat this creature on such a regular basis that I have defined a specific taste.
This is the little brute, as shown above. Now you tell me what that looks like. I have seen creatures like this before and no one has called them anything other than RAT. There is no disputing it’s rodent qualities and to get an idea of the size of the beasts, the image below shows someone who has just freshly prepared a grasscutter for human consumption:
This is all very funny and it may appear that I am making a joke about it, but truth be told, I am not trying to ridicule the people or the nations that eat these creatures. Most of the people in Nigeria, as well as most of Africa for that matter, are desperately poor and live on less than a dollar a day. A concept that most people cannot fathom. One man’s vermin, is another man’s meal and the above puts things into perspective. When you consider such things like ‘all you can eat’ buffets that are enjoyed in wealthy nations across the world and you compare it to the above, it is embarrassing. Therefore I decided to opt for the pepper Grasscutter soup. You can’t knock what you have not tried.
The first thing you will notice is that it is in a bowl. I cheated a little bit here by opting not to have it served on a stick as depicted in the other photograph. But all in all it is the same creature. When trying it, I cowardly tasted the liquid first. Why I thought that this would be in any way a better idea, I have no clue. But upon tasting the fragrant, spicy soup I was really impressed. So much so that I continued and tried some of the meat. I scratched around to try and dig out the fleshiest part that I could find. I have no intention of eating the skin, bone, cartilage, ears, eyes or whiskers of any animal – beef or rat. Once tasted, I found the meat of this creature to be very soft and succulent. Believe it or not, the meat had the same tenderness and consistency of roast lamb.
Grasscutter exceeded all of my expectations and I was truly surprised that I actually enjoyed it. Western world perceptions would prevent any such dish as the one above from becoming a family favourite and just as well really. A little research revealed that these creatures are actually already under threat from over consumption and some of the methods of capture. A popular method is to burn down the whole area that is inhabited by grasscutters, in order to extract them. You cannot blame a hungry man for using any method he can to catch a meal and to try and stop the dwindling numbers, there seems to be efforts to try and promote the farming of these creatures. The idea of introducing farming is to promote sustainable grasscutter supplies for local markets and to also create an industry that can generate a relatively simple income and jobs – which can only be a good thing. Some information can be found here.
So the next time you are in Lekki and you feel a bit famished, I recommend you opt for some good old fashioned grasscutter.