I Ate Live Food from a Pet Store for a Week
Long story short: We need to find viable, palatable, nutritious alternatives to traditional meat.
With that in mind I decided to replace one meal per day for seven days with sources of protein that can be purchased alive from a pet store.
At this point I should note that I’m not some granola here to chew your ear off about how fucked up factory farming is. In fact, I eat a lot of meat myself. I’m from northern Michigan, where there’s only one day in the Christian calendar year when most folks will intentionally choose fish, and I’m the type of heathen who doesn’t even abstain on that day. So this little experiment was done for my own sake, to know what sort of animal-based dishes I can look forward to when hamburgers are enjoyed exclusively by the one percent.
Before beginning the diet, I consulted my doctor to make sure I wasn’t about to spark someContagion-type situation. As I told him about my plan he put his chin in his hand and nodded politely, but seemed pretty unconcerned.
“Isn’t there anything I should be worried about?” I asked.
He shook his head with an offhand warning against eating mice intestines. “Make sure to take those out.”
“Sure,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to eat their poop.”
After a pause, and without irony, he told me where in town I could find the best price on regionally raised beef tenderloin.
And so, with my doctor’s blessing, I drove to the pet store to buy some groceries.
Day 1: Crickets Pancakes
Nutritional Facts: 1 serving equals 100g of crickets. Each serving contains 121 calories, 12.9g protein, 5.5g of fat
4 cups of flour
1 cup of roasted crickets
Place your crickets in the freezer for 1-2 hours, then boil briskly for 1-2 minutes. Strain and cool. Place clean and cool crickets on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Remove antennae and legs gently; they fall off easily. Crush collected crickets using a rolling pin or mortar and pestle until they are ground into small brown specks. Insufficient grinding will result in their small faces peering out at you from the batter L. Use flour in pancakes.
Crickets smell fishy—an aroma no doubt exacerbated by their placement in my local pet shop in thick plastic bins against a backdrop of blue fish tanks. In an effort to outwit my better instincts I told myself that the shrimp-like aroma wafting from my hotcakes was actually almonds.
Crickets taste like almonds, if you think of almonds, and shrimp if you think of anything other than almonds. This flavor is subtle, but when you place it in a pancake drenched in syrup, it becomes amplified. I recommend incorporating the cricket flour into a savory pastry, instead. Like nuts, they add a satisfying crunch.
The Rôti Sans Pareil Is 17 Birds Stuffed Inside Each Other and It Is Delicious
To most people, the turducken, a solid slab of flesh created by stuffing a turkey with a duck, and that duck in turn with a chicken, epitomizes the egregious complexity and gluttonous obsession with meat that makes up a large part of modern American cuisine. But most people are pussies. In the historical world of engastration (stuffing animals inside other animals) and chimera (melding animals together) cooking, this 15-pound bird-block is about as interesting as a flaccid boiled hotdog. The true king of culinary absurdity comes from L’almanach des gourmands, an 1807 cookbook written by Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimond de la Reyniere, a man so outlandish he faked his own death to see who would attend his funeral. His creation was called the rôti sans pareil—the roast without equal—and it is everything that has made the half-dead art of engastration increasingly popular today: ambitious, ostentatious, and alluringly, inevitably delicious.
His recipe calls for a bustard stuffed with a turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a pheasant stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed with a guinea fowl stuffed with a teal stuffed with a woodcock stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a plover stuffed with a lapwing stuffed with a quail stuffed with a thrush stuffed with a lark stuffed with an ortolan bunting stuffed with a garden warbler stuffed with an olive stuffed with an anchovy stuffed with a single caper, with layers of Lucca chestnuts, force meat and bread stuffing between each bird, stewed in a hermetically sealed pot in a bath of onion, clove, carrots, chopped ham, celery, thyme, parsley, mignonette, salted pork fat, salt, pepper, coriander, garlic, and “other spices,” and slowly cooked over a fire for at least 24 hours.
We Need to Quit Our Obsession with Meat Before It Kills Us
On Sunday, March 9, Pitt Cue Co.—the meat mecca just off London’s Carnaby Street—hosted a special evening, a one-off “Highland Beef Night” that featured a nose-to-tail menu of beef dishes made from a pair of Highland cows the restaurant bought a year ago from a Cornish farmer. The animals spent two months dry-aging, their flesh and bones eventually finding their way into dishes like beef scrumpets, beef and bone-marrow pasties, and the king of all cuts, rib of beef.
All of it was fucking fantastic. Not many places in London do the things to pigs and cows that Pitt Cue does. But with everyone smiling at each other—lips slicked with grease, teeth like fence posts that live animals had been fired into—I couldn’t help thinking that there was something a bit culty about a group of humans gathering together to eat two specific cows.
Locavore obsessives will kick their hooves at this. Speak to any chef, food critic, restaurateur—whomever—and they’ll give you the eat-better-meat-less-often argument, droning on about where the animals lived, what they ate, how humanely they died, which artisan coffee they drank, etc., etc. All of that is irrefutable. If you’re going to eat meat, you can do your part by eating the best quality available and, when you can, consuming the animal’s less popular parts (neck fillet, onglet, cheek, trotters, that kind of stuff) and not just the common cuts.
Meanwhile, we’ve become increasingly obsessed with meat. If an event like Highland Beef Night had been touted even a few years ago, there’s no way it would have pulled in the people it did on Sunday. Meat is now highly fetishized, especially among young people. Burgers are the new tits—if you look at any social media platform, there are as many 20-something men posting photos of ground flesh covered in neon sauce as there are sharing that zero-gravity Kate Upton video. We’ve become a society of rabid carnivores, and it’s not just getting tiresome—it’s fucking killing us.
I had come to the rural town of Salmon, Idaho—population 3,000—to enter as a contestant in the derby. Over the course of two days in late December, several hundred hunters would compete to kill as many wolves and coyotes as possible. There were two $1,000 prizes to be had, one for the most coyotes slain and the other for the largest single wolf carcass. Children were encouraged to enter, with special awards for youths aged 10–11 and 12–14 listed on the promotional flyer. The derby’s organizer, a nonprofit sporting group called Idaho for Wildlife, advertised that the event was to be historic: the first wolf-killing contest held in the US since 1974.
Read our undercover report from the Idaho Coyote and Wolf Derby
How to Kill a Wolf: An Undercover Report from the Idaho Coyote and Wolf Derby
The best way to fatally wound a wolf without killing it instantly is to shoot it in the gut, preferably with armor-piercing ammunition. Unlike soft lead-tipped bullets, which mushroom inside the body cavity and kill quickly, heavy-jacketed AP ammo pierces the target and blows out the other side.
This has two advantages: The first is that, especially with a gut shot, the animal will suffer. It will bleed out slowly, run a mile or so in terrified panic, and collapse. Then it will die. The second advantage is that, if you’re hunting illegally (out of season, at night with a spotlight, or on land where you shouldn’t), there is little forensic evidence for game wardens to gather. No bullet will be found in the cadaver. Most importantly, the animal will have traveled some distance from where it was shot, so that tracing the site of the shooting is almost impossible.
I gleaned these helpful tips from a nice old man at a saloon in Salmon, Idaho, which last December was the site of the first annual Coyote and Wolf Derby. I had come to this rural town—population 3,000—to enter as a contestant in the derby. Over the course of two days in late December, several hundred hunters would compete to kill as many wolves and coyotes as possible. There were two $1,000 prizes to be had, one for the most coyotes slain and the other for the largest single wolf carcass. Children were encouraged to enter, with special awards for youths aged 10–11 and 12–14 listed on the promotional flyer. The derby’s organizer, a nonprofit sporting group called Idaho for Wildlife, advertised that the event was to be historic: the first wolf-killing contest held in the US since 1974.
this is actually a cool idea
Humans Have a Long History of Eating Each Other
People who eat people are generally not considered “good people.” If you have any doubts, spend an afternoon searching the world wide web and peruse the “Cannibal Top Ten Lists,” which are occupied by the Milwaukee Monster Jeffrey Dahmer, Japanese exchange student Issei Sagawa, and child-killer Albert Fish. And news of the insane and psychopathic hits our home pages on the regular, such as the recent story of a hotel restaurant in Nigeria shut down by police for serving human flesh as an “expensive treat.”
The dispatches we have from a pre-internet era are no different. With the torch lit by Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C., carried on by the likes of Captain Cook and his crewin the Pacific, and still not yet extinguished by those traveling through Africa in the early twentieth century, a significant portion of European history is dedicated to documenting encounters with the bloodthirsty man-eaters of the far corners of the globe.
Tinged with varying degrees of racism, many of these accounts are just xenophobic hearsay. A surprising number, however, have actually been verified as true.
The common provenance of qartaand chitterlings from within the intestinal tract does lead to similar problems with fecal smell or taste. Chitterlings often solve this problem through judicious rounds of blanching, followed more often than not by deep-frying (which, as This American Life recently proved, is a great way of hiding the stubborn flavors of pig anus). But in the case of qarta, one simply washes the rectum without removing the fat, turning it inside out to scrub down the interior. Although the chef has the option of smoking the rectum for 24 hours and/or drying it for 48 more, many have turned to simply boiling the tissue on a slow fire for two hours, cutting it into rounds, simmering it in meat bullion for half an hour, and serving it garnished with salt, green pepper, and dill. Believe me when I say that this short cleaning and cooking process hardly dulls the taste issues inherent in a lot of intestinal cooking. But Alma Kunanbaeva, a Kazakh nomadic food anthropologist at Stanford University, expressly cautions against over-stewing the rectum.
—I Ate Horse Ass in Kazakhstan