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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rats: A New Delicacy?

Gotta hand it to the Chinese. They're really taking advantage of the saying about every cloud having a silver lining. I'm sure we can all recall the famous line from the Simpsons (because that's more likely than knowing the fact without The Simpsons as guidance) that "the Chinese use the same word for 'crisis' as they do for 'opportunity'." All that aside, it really boils down to another age-old adage:

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Well, the lemons being handed to the Chinese all started when a Hunan lake flooded, possibly as a result of the Three Gorges Dam project. This flooding displaced the home of a few billion rats, who are now plaguing areas in central China. And staying as true as possible to that adage, they're making lemonade - by selling the rats as a delicacy to Guangdong restaurants in the southern part of the country.

"Recently there have been a lot of rats ... Guangzhou people are rich and like to eat exotic things, so business is very good," the China News Service quoted a vendor as saying, referring to the capital of Guangdong province.

Some vendors had asked people from a village in Hunan province, near Dongting Lake, to sell them live rats, the Beijing News said today.

"The buyers offered 6 yuan for a kilo, but as to where they will sell the rats, they would not say," the newspaper quoted a local resident as saying, adding that villagers had to catch the rats live.

Yes, I suppose that's the REAL catch of it all - the rats they're catching have to be caught alive. No, not for some purpose of cooking them while they're still alive, but I guess it's more along the lines of "the fresher the better" - akin to giant lobster tanks in fancy restaurants so the customer knows his dinner delight wasn't made from frozen meat or something like that.

Maybe they've got nice big cages writhing with rats in these Guangzhou restaurants?

As for the 6 yuan for a kilogram of rats (about $0.79 in USD), the villagers have no problem with that price, since they claim it's easy to catch up to 150 kilos of rats in a night. There's just that many of them, destroying 1.6 million hectares of crops and possibly spreading disease. And the consumer end of the deal? The restaurants have been advertising "rat banquets" and charging the inflated price of 136 yuan per kilogram of tasty rat meat (almost $18) to the people of Guangdong.

And for those who can't get to a restaurant to enjoy this delicacy? Oh, the Chinese media has reported that citizens have posted several recipes for rat on the internet.

I hope a rat version of "lemonade" is one of those recipes...

The delicious original article

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