Mouse Cuisine

A few comments in the previous post raised the question of how anyone could know what mouse tastes like. I'm glad you asked...

Mouse and rat has been a staple of cities under prolonged siege since time immemorial.

Back in the days of wooden ships and iron men, the midshipmen of His Majesty's Royal Navy ate the rats on board after the meat ran out. They called them millers. Patrick O'Brian on multiple occasions takes great delight in pointing this out in his sea stories.

The Romans ate dormice. There's an old joke of ancient historians called the dormouse test, which I think was devised by Mary Beard:

The best way to judge a modern recreation of ancient Rome - in film or fiction - is to apply the simple "dormouse test". How long is it before the characters adopt an uncomfortably horizontal position in front of tables, usually festooned with grapes, and one says to another: "Can I pass you a dormouse?"

The basic rule of thumb is this: the longer you have to wait before this tasty little morsel appears on the recreated banquet, the more subtle the reconstruction is likely to be.

There was a book written long ago called Unmentionable Cuisine, by Calvin Schwabe, which was basically an attempt to gross out the reader. (Not that I could ever be accused of doing that...) . Unmentionable Cuisine includes a recipe for Grilled Rats Bordeaux Style, and claims that to this day much of the meat eaten in Ghana is mouse and rat.

And if you think it couldn't happen today...the Canadian biologist Farley Mowat gives this recipe for mouse in his book Never Cry Wolf:

Souris à la crème

Skin, gut and wash some fat mice without removing their heads. Cover them in a pot with ethyl alcohol and marinate 2 hours. Cut a piece of salt pork or sowbelly into small dice and cook it slowly to extract the fat. Drain the mice, dredge them thoroughly in a mixture of flour, pepper, and salt, and fry slowly in the rendered fat for about 5 minutes. Add a cup of alcohol and 6 to 8 cloves, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Prepare a cream sauce, transfer the sautéed mice to it, and warm them in it for about 10 minutes before serving.


This post was written while listening to Don't Fall In Love, by The Ferrets.


18 comments:

Stephanie Thornton said...

There is a delightful little restaurant in Vernazza, Cinque Terra, Italy that serves something with an English translation of "infernal doormice." The first time my husband and I went there, we thought it was hilarious. The second time we actually asked what it was. Turns out it was some sort of calamari.

Either way, I'll pass. I stick to the pesto and gelato instead.

David J. West said...

Good stuff I remeber that from Never Cry Wolf-read that when I was a kid and I still wonder at why he kept the heads on-other than to be a true Lycurgus I suppose.

Gary Corby said...

Wow, you mean you ate it the first time without knowing? You're braver than I am.

I don't suppose anyone out there has actually eaten a mouse?

Gary Corby said...

I don't know David, but I totally believe he did it.

Which proves the point it's at least possible to know that hemlock tastes a bit like mouse. Of course, this requires someone to have eaten both mouse and hemlock.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I rarely eat meat of any kind, but I find it fascinating that taboos vary from place to place and time to time. Why do we find it less repulsive to eat a pig or cow than a dog or rat?
There is a delightful and bizarre museum in California called the Museum of Jurassic Technology (it's a spoof) which had an exhibit in a little glass case of a mouse sandwich.

Amalia T. said...

See, when you say "tastes Mousey" I think "tastes like mice smell."

Now I see that I was just deluding myself.

Welshcake said...

Mouse would be tricky to eat, wouldn't it? All those little bones. Maybe they're soft enough to eat?

RWMG said...

So, did your ferrets enjoy the mice? On googling ferret recipes I found that most of the hits were for recipes for feeding ferrets rather than for eating them.

Gary Corby said...

Robert, I can't begin to imagine being hungry enough to eat a ferret.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Welshcake. I expect the bones get spat out. And if it were a tavern in Classical Athens, they'd be spat onto the dirty floor to join all the other scraps tossed there.

Gary Corby said...

We go for brutal reality on this blog, Amalia! It's a good thing I didn't say, tastes like goat droppings...

(And before you ask, no, I'm not likely to.)

Gary Corby said...

Tricia, dog is standard fare in Asia! Rat's pretty rare everywhere though I suspect, I assume because of what they've been eating. Though having said that...

The most exotic food I know of is civet coffee. You take coffee beans, feed them to a type of cat called a civet, wait for the cat to poo, then extract the undigested beans from the poo and use them to make coffee.

RWMG said...

Kopi luwak! I was reading an article about that a month or so ago which was interviewing somebody whose job it was to taste test the unwashed beans to make sure that unscrupulous farmers were not passing off ordinary beans as luwak.

Gary Corby said...

OMG Robert, I think you've just identified the worst job in existence.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Hmm, some of the above comments are grosser than the mouse receipe. My husband taught history before he retired and he had a favorite movie about China he loved to show with an open market with skinned rats hanging by the dozens for sale. Tails and heads still attached.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Susan, there are indeed some exotic sights to be had in Asian markets, but I claim the same can be said for the food department at Harrod's in London. The have a fresh game counter which has to be seen to be believed.

Loretta Ross said...

I thought the same thing Amalia did. You make me glad I've been a vegetarian for decades. *G*

The civet coffee is perhaps the most disgusting thing I've ever heard of. Of course, I have to work up my nerves to eat honey. Bee spit, you know.

Gary Corby said...

I've read that civet coffee is the most expensive in the world, so there must be some people who don't find it disgusting. But I confess I won't be lining up with my mug.

I guess the vegetarian equivalent would be to eat a Venus Fly Trap?