A generation ago, tourism and state officials attempted to solve the problem of Louisiana's invasive nutria rat by coming up with a campaign to get people not only to shoot the critters, but to eat them
But what if nutria were to become in the 90's what redfish was to epicures in the 80's? Redfish was nearly wiped out in Louisiana when the New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme started preparing it with a dense pepper char. Scientists only hope as much could be done for the nutria.
If the situation is eat or be eaten, that is where Dr. Thomas comes in. He is the father of the annual ''Nutriafest,'' a campy event that features a cooking contest designed to encourage consumption of the rodents. State officials say Dr. Thomas was the first person who came to mind when Louisiana received a $2.07 million Federal grant to help eradicate the pest by increasing its commercial potential. The taste is most often compared to rabbit.
Yeah, you can say "tastes like rabbit" all you want, but most people can't get over eating a swamp rat-beaver with pumpkin-orange teeth, even if you try to rebrand the rat as "ragondin"
and come up with recipes like "Ragondin à l’Orange" — which is why it's puzzling that a new "personalized nutrition coach" service has launched calling itself "Nutria"
This "Nutria" is some combination of online diet plan and DNA test, in which you provide the company with a sample of your DNA and it comes up with nutritional recommendations for you, a process it calls "nutrigenomics."
"Every day Nutria helps you to find the right food choices and coaches you along your wellness journey," the website guar-an-tees
But come on: They had to know what a nutria is. Nutria.com
still refers to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, and its helpful recipe for "Heart Healthy 'Crock-Pot' Nutria," which I have yet to see on local menus. Nor has the nutria made an appearance on any charcuterie boards with which I'm familiar.
food writer Sarah Baird wrote
, "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 ever eaten." And a 2010 nutria-fur fashion show
at the AllWays Lounge didn't exactly change the course of American haute couture
I tried to call Nutria to ask them about nutria, but only got some smooth-jazz "please hold" music.
So: what's good, Nutria?