After a March piece that launched a thousand kale salads, Gotham luminaries have yet again turned their attention toward the culinary habits of our swampy homestead.
The New Yorker blog this week spotlights Louisiana's feral nutria population and the creative ways statewide officials have tried to make it a more appealing critter for the masses — outside of simply putting a bounty on tails. While its fur was once a prized commodity (Elizabeth Taylor was reportedly a fan), the majority of efforts have revolved around attempting to turn the orange-toothed rodent into a delicacy, according to The New Yorker. The article explained:
"When the program began, [the Louisiana Department of] Wildlife and Fisheries developed a parallel campaign to promote nutria meat for public consumption. It established USDA-certified facilities to inspect the meat, and marketed it by its French name, ragondin, as a lean protein that tastes like turkey. The agency sponsored a regional chef to showcase ragondin recipes; diners were enthusiastic until they realized they were eating rodent. Although the nutria-meat campaign never achieved success, the ever-hopeful Wildlife and Fisheries devotes a page of its nutria-control program site to a recipe for 'Heart Healthy 'Crock-Pot' Nutria.'"
I dined on my first nutria after the Golden Meadow Nutria Rodeo in 2011 and can say with authority that it is among the worst novelty wild game I've eaten. Nutria falls on the taste and texture scale somewhere between raccoon (which is much like gamey chicken) and squirrel (which should only be cooked down in stew).
Ultimately, it appears that recent innovations have proved nutria makes a better food for dogs than humans.