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Eating dogs, cats, horses, etc.

I must apologize, but all these dog avatars on a food-related board remind me of our peculiar yet understandable aversion to eating animals that, in this part of the world, we normally regard as our friends and family members.

Though I adore my cat, I find pigs have just as much personality and lambs are equally cute (no, that was not an intentional reference to the "filthy animal" dialogue from Pulp Fiction).

Mostly though, I'd like to know if meat made from our more friendly animals is of much culinary value. If anyone's had, say, Chinese or Vietnamese dog/cat dishes or Italian horse meat, please describe the experience and tell me if it was any good.

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  1. I've had horse meat in Montreal, QC. I don't know if that horse was Italian, but it tasted like a regular steak to me. No real difference that I could detect.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Infomaniac

      "I once shot an elephant in my pajamas. What it was doing in my pajamas, I'll never know..."

      Had ground horse in Bologna in a meat sauce. As it was seasoned, I didn't make a mental note to compare it to cow burger. But it was good in context with a Chianti.

      Speaking of pets, some Aussies on here might keep a 'roo around the yard. Now those are yummy.

    2. I've eaten horse meat in France and found it sweeter than beef, much like buffalo or venison. It was good, well prepared but I don't see any particular reason to seek it out.
      Also ate cuy (guinea pig), another common American pet, in Latin America which is very good. Ate it fairly regularly while we lived there as it was considered a delicacy and we were often served it at dinner parties.
      Barely escaped having to go to a dog restaurant in China with some employees of my husband's company who were giving me a tour of "real Chinese restaurants." I was relieved because I just didn't want to get quite that authentic. They openly joked that the reason that there are no cats around in China is that people eat them. I didn't pursue that one.

      5 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        Thanks for the funny story and the lowdown on guinea pig. I wonder if I would have felt similar relief or, rather, some form of Chowhound-regret at missing the "experience"

        1. re: MakingSense

          The "cats" eaten in China are not the domestic variety, but a wild relative, the civet. I think serving civet has been banned because of their suspected role in transmitting SARS. They use to be an imprtant ingredient in a wedding banquet soup called "Dragon, Phoenix and Tiger" with snake representing the dragon, chicken representing the phoenix, and civet representing the tiger.

          1. re: Gary Soup

            I'm aware of the hubbub over civets (which are not, as you say, wild relatives of the feline--they are their own family of mammals). I'm talking about good old-fashioned housecat meat: http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20060620_1.htm

            I could be wrong, but I think the article's talking about Fluffy, not civets. Someone with more Asian food knowledge please set me straight.

            1. re: Gary Soup

              I don't believe the civet is the "tiger" in the soup. I've had the soup before in China and was informed that it was actually a cat. We also ate civet at the same meal. They have distinctly different names in Cantonese.

            2. re: MakingSense

              Had cuy here at a Peruvian place in Boston recently. Yummy. Have also had horse in Trieste, found it much like venison, but a bit too tough.

            3. As a city girl the horse thing just doesn't bother me in the same way, I'm sure I would feel differently if I were around them more. It's not common here in Toronto, but a couple of French restaurants serve it. So I've had horse tartare and steak here in Toronto. . one of the owner/chefs makes an interesting argument about why he chooses horse for tartare (pg 15 below)

              http://www.citybites.ca/archives/City...

              1. horse and moose are yummy. would never eat dog or cat though. ambivalent about rabbit--doesn't taste like much and the texture is meh.

                10 Replies
                1. re: foodslut

                  Thanks for the responses. Foodslut, I think you're overgeneralizing about rabbit (which is only a borderline human-companion to begin with); it's a fairly netural-tasting meat which can be prepared myriad ways (dare I say it.... not unlike chicken). I'm not sure what bland preparation you're referring to, but good stewed or braised rabbit (whether prepared Italian, Greek or French style) is really quite something

                  1. re: Yaqo Homo

                    i concur on the rabbit. their diets are so pristine it makes for a very delicate protein. but to yago homo, people freak out when they see rabbit on a menu. same with suckling pig. no doubt that same person has no trouble with a pork chop.

                    i found moose greasy and unpleasant. once was enough.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Yup rabbit is great. A bit spicier than chicken but otherwise very similar. My friends who had a farm preferred to raise rabbits as their primary "white" meat. Can't remember why now (can't ask 'em - there's been a falling out) but I think it was that rabbits are easier to raise and cleaner??

                      1. re: amyvc

                        "Can't remember why now"

                        Maybe someone can confirm this but I seem to recall that of all livestock, rabbits are the most efficient converters of feed into protein. They are also simple to raise - a small bank of hutches is easily accommodated by those with no acreage and the animals are quiet and clean.

                        1. re: DockPotato

                          I had rabbit once and hated the taste. I didn't find it neutral at all. It wasn't due to prejudice, because I didnt' know what I was eating until after I ate it. I'd never order it because of that.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        moose can vary in taste depending on the area you get it from, the vegetation etc. same with caribou. however, most people find it dry, and not oily, it's a very lean meat.

                      3. re: Yaqo Homo

                        Yes... done right, in some sophisticated, fatty gravy, it's gorgeous.

                      4. re: foodslut

                        (Apologies in advance to anyone who might, on a regular basis, participate in the behavior I am about to relate. I am sure you are a really nice person, and I'm sorry if my generalization is insulting.)

                        On the subject of being ambivalent about rabbit: My sister-in-law's ex was something of an oddball in the family, pretty much a stereotypical redneck and an alcoholic bum to boot (not an alcoholic - an alcoholic bum). I'm not saying that lightly; he truly was a sad case. But he was very much the epitome of the stereotypes. If we were not convinced of the redneck part, the final argument was made one day when we were visiting my MIL & FIL, and my husband had the strange opportunity to ride with his brother-in-law out in the country where they lived. They were looking for a part for something - after these 15 or so years, I can't recall what - and drove down this road to a bar/lounge place to try to find someone who might have it. That person wasn't there, and they turned around and headed back the direction they had come. My brother-in-law stopped the car suddenly and turned to my husband and said, "Was that there when we went by before?" My husband hadn't a clue what he was talking about, and his BIL pointed and said, "That rabbit. Was it there before?" My husband then sees this dead rabbit in the road. Of course, he doesn't know if it was there or not and said so. So BIL backs up, opens his door, reaches down, and touches the rabbit. "It's still warm!" He grabs it and throws it in the car, right at my husband's feet. The BIL is pretty much beside himself at this point, and he high-tails it to another bar, where he walks in asking if some guy is there (someone he knows who will clean the rabbit). He produces the rabbit that he just found in the road. My husband said the entire bar made a simultaneous exclamation of jealousy!!

                        During all this, and not knowing, of course, what was going on, my SIL and I are trying to find the men (this is before the popularity of the ubiquitous cell phone). We finally spot the car at this bar on the main highway and pull in. My SIL went in to tell them whatever it was we were tracking them down to tell them. She came back out to the car, closely followed by her husband, who was carrying a sack of something, and my husband, who had a slightly peculiar look on his face. She got in the car, and he leaned in the window talking to her. They were talking about some rabbit that he wants her to cook for supper. I am not adventurous in my meat, and though I have politely eaten rabbit and sausage jambalaya before, I must say that I truly like to limit myself to beef, chicken, fairly typical seafood, pork, and lamb. The mere mention of rabbit for their dinner made me feel slightly sorry for my SIL, who was looking more than a little uncomfortable. (At this time, I do not realize exactly why, of course, because I have not yet heard the story of its "capture.") Next thing I know, there's a bag at MY feet with a skinned rabbit in it!

                        I can't ever pass a dead animal on the road without thinking of my ex-BIL and how disappointed he would be in me for just passing it on by without touching for edibility!

                        1. re: luv2bake

                          L2B, that's actually fairly common in rural areas where residents do a lot of their own hunting/skinning/trapping. I had a roommate in college who was driving home on break one year and hit a deer. She was OK with minor damage to her car, but the deer was pretty seriously injured. A truck passed by and then stopped, and the driver asked if the accident had just happened. She said that it had and he asked if she wanted the deer. She said no, so he pulled a rifle out of the cab, killed the animal, and loaded it into his truck.

                          Not much different than hunting, when you think about it in those terms, is it?

                          1. re: Suzy Q

                            That fellow was doing the only honorable thing. Kudos to him.

                            I've known many people over the years who have done the same thing, living as I have in the South for most of my life. I wish I had the skills to clean and dress game....

                      5. I'd like to know how possum or squirrel tastes.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: ML8000

                          I am not sure I ever want to know how possum tastes. They'll eat anything - and I do mean anything - and if you've ever been close to one you will never forget the foul smell.

                          1. re: jillp

                            That's why the traditional preparation is to capture them live and pen them for a week or so, feeding them nothing but corn or other bland, "clean" food, before slaughter.

                            1. re: HPLsauce

                              How do they taste? Like chicken?

                              1. re: ML8000

                                Sorry. Haven't had one, though I'd like to. My father's family lived for several generations in Kentucky mostly, and my great grandmother and great aunt wrote a cookbook together (published 1969); my father might have eaten possum in his youth; in any case he told me how to prepare it.

                                Anyhow, I'd be delighted if anyone more experienced can chime in re: taste of possums.

                                1. re: HPLsauce

                                  It has been decades since I had possum at a relative's table. It was stewed in gravy. Strong tasting and oily. I was a child and I was polite. I can live without it.
                                  Armadillo is referred to as "possum on the half shell" and I understand the taste is similar. Never eaten that.
                                  Nutria is similar to possum. Vile animals. I have eaten that as well and it was OK. I had a similar rodent in Argentina, called viscaza, that was prepared in an escabece. That was pretty good because the oil and vinegar dressing with a lot of onions cut the oilyness of the meat.
                                  These are not a few of my favorite things.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    That's like something some of us would see on a menu and have not a clue what we might be ordering... delicate sauteed viscaza in an escabece.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      From what I've heard, armadillos tend to carry leprosy, so I'm not sure I want to know how they taste.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        Is viscaza the same thing as capybara, the South American rodent that is touted as a giant rat at small carnivals and fairs.

                                    2. re: ML8000

                                      I've been told it's remarkably like sucking pig, provided they've been corn-fed for a week or so.

                                2. re: ML8000

                                  See above post for cheap & easy start to said entree!

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    I'm not proud of it, but I've had squirrel before. My aunt and uncle live in the backwoods of Vermont, and my uncle likes to play "guess the meat" on Thanksgiving. I'll try just about anything. He seasoned the squirrel, so it tasted mainly like seasoning. It wasn't aweful! I've also had moose, which was really good.

                                    1. re: VTtoMAtoCAfoodie

                                      The funny thing is, people who will eat squirrel won't touch rat, and they're very similar animals.

                                      My understanding is that herbivores taste better than carnivores, which is probably one reason dog and cat aren't more commonly eaten. As I type with my dog lying next to me, I can say I would never eat dog -- the idea makes me sick. I wouldn't even eat it to be polite -- I wouldn't expect a Hindu to eat beef just because hamburgers are a traditional, "authentic" American food, and I'd expect others to respect my food taboos in turn.

                                      I have no problem with rabbit or horse, or Guinea pig. I'd have to think about eating cat -- somehow that doesn't seem as cannibalistic as eating dog would be. Oh, and I'd never eat monkey. Ick!