Soup de Jour
WARNING: What is to follow is the grossest thing I have ever done and ever hope to do. Those with a weak stomach: do not read. Those currently eating or about to eat: do not read. Proceed with caution as you discover a possible low point in my life (ok, it isn’t that bad but this story is rather disgusting).
The other day, I did the grossest thing I ever hope to do. I made a soup out of smoked ‘bush cat’ meat. What is a bush cat exactly? I have no idea. My guesses range anywhere from a feral cat to some small wild cat, likely threatened or endangered. Making this soup, however, wasn’t the gross part. Since being in Burkina Faso, I’ve eaten bat, rat, caterpillars, termites, lizard, and snake. That is the list of odd meats I am aware of, as there are possibly a few others to be added, since one can never be sure what they’ve been served.
After visiting my friend Patrice his job as secretary at the Maison de Femme, he wanted me to come to his house for some meat. Patrice’s mother sells bush meat alongside locally made millet beer. I followed Patrice to his house, wondering along the way what I would receive. Upon arrival, he opened the smoker and pulled out a whole smoked animal. “What is that?” I asked. “It’s a bush cat,” replied Patrice. “Oh, what the hell. I’ll try it,” I thought. Patrice pulled out a cleaver, chopped the smoked cat in half, and handed me the hindquarters. “Clean it and make a soup,” directed Patrice.
I thanked Patrice and his mother for the meat and set off to the market to buy vegetables for the cat soup I apparently would be making for lunch. I purchased onions, garlic, tomatoes, cabbage, and tomato paste. I’d combine these with salt, pepper, a bay leaf, dried chili peppers, and a little cumin to make what I hoped would be an ‘ok’ soup. I was banking on chili and cumin being able to over power what I could only imagine to be the gamey taste of a smoked cat.
Once home, I first prepared the soup without the cat meat. I then started to chop up the meat. Inside, at both hip joints, I found maggots. Yes, maggots. A normal American would probably have vomited at this point. Actually, I assume that a normal American will never likely find him/herself dismembering a smoked cat. My reaction: slight depression at the fact that I’d be missing out on free protein. I took the meat out to my courtyard family and asked what to do with the meat (read: “Where should I throw this maggot filled smoked cat?). They replied with, “You want to eat it? Give it to us and we’ll clean it for you. Hot water will make them leave.” I handed over the cat.
As they cleaned it, I mulled over what I was about to do. Not only was I going to make a soup from bush cat, I was going to make a soup from meat that had maggots feasting upon it. In the end, I reasoned that, 1.) My family’s nonchalant reaction could only mean that I’ve eaten something of this nature before, and 2.) From my inspection it seemed as if these worms entered the animal after death and began to feed, they thus having a soft body that would easily be destroyed by a good rolling boil or quickly be disintegrated by stomach acid.
After the meat was clean and returned to me, I meticulously dissected the cat with more attention than I have ever given an anatomy lab. The meat was added to the soup and cooked at high heat for 15 minutes. The result was a gamey but pleasant cat soup. Best part? I had leftovers for dinner. Bonne appétit!