Monday, January 11, 2010


This past Saturday, the daughter of a friend let it be known that she will no longer eat fish (which she now refers to as "sea-kitten"). This in the context of her ideology, which I respect. She absolutely refuses to touch sea kittens.
Smoked varietal sea kitten with cream cheese on a toasted bagel is no longer part of her diet, gently poached sea kitten with cilantro and ginger is not in the program, and fried cumin-dusted sea kitten with lemon and sweet chilies shall never pass her lips. It is sad.
Sea kitten is the PETA-approved circumlocution for fish, to make you think warmly and fuzzily about the creatures - which will apparently make you not want to eat them.

[That leaves more sea kitten for the rest of us. Huzzah.]

Later that same day, a friend who spent several years in a South-American jail (for gun-running) dryly remarked that in the country where he was imprisoned the cats obviously did not get the high-quality canned kitty nibbles so common in the United States - this after I had stated that the problem with cats, from a culinary point of view, was that they ended up tasting like what they themselves had eaten.

Motzei Shabbes, upon reading a food-related post, Jonathan Becker left this comment: "fruitbat? that's disgusting."

I had unwisely admitted that I had eaten zebra, snake, alligator, fruitbat, and wildebeest.
Well, fruitbat wasn't disgusting at the time. It actually tasted darn good. After you've whacked a few out of a tree with a long pole, you must kill them, gut them, and pack them in mud, then set them to roast in a fire. When you crack the baked mud and peel off the shards, the fur comes along with it, leaving a nice steaming juicy serving for one. They're good with baked ubi.
Fruitbats are not disgusting - contextually, they are in fact delicious.

The taste of cat food is disgusting. Far far FAR worse than fruitbat. Trust me on this one.


I blame my omnivorocity on my unkosher upbringing.
I doubt that my mother would've known kosher if it came up and bit her on the leg.
No kosher whatever, not in our household.

Instead, we had my mother's meshune ideas about food to cope with.
The result was even more restrictive than kashrus.

To whit:"Herring is full of worms" - she had read about the herring nematode, and distrusted the local fish-merchants. My father, my brother, and I smuggled the delicious raw herring into the house and ate it without her knowing.
"Carrots and celery should only be eaten raw" - can I just say that I am still not fond of carrots?
"There is no nutritional value in cabbage" - this was her explanation of the ignorance of some of the local people; their brains had starved.
"Lobster gives you gout" - and so, of course, it was verboten; gout was something English which no one else deserved.
"Coffee stunts your growth" - this from a woman who was considerably shorter than either of her sons.
"Spinach is poison" - I cannot remember what the basis of her theory was.
"Sausages are no better than dog-food" - I don't think she liked Europeans; what is more European than sausage?
"That old Jew is going to kill you" - this was said every time Mr. Kater came by with a giant bag of fresh wild mushrooms that he had picked in the forest. My father and I would fress ourselves silly on mushrooms - seethed in butter, or sliced in omelets, drenched in broth or added to stew. They were very good. Her gloomy prediction has not yet come true.

[Her distrust of Mr. Kater was probably based on contract bridge. About which I know nothing.]

The variety of foods that she would allow into the house was very limited. Even with the three men of the household conspiring against her dictats, and trips to Brussels and Paris expressly for the food, there was much good eating to which I had not been exposed while she was alive.

I have been catching up ever since.


Alligator, antelope, bee larva, bison, cane rat, cape buffalo, cat, cicada, cricket, dog, dragon fly (fried with chilies), dwarf buffalo, fermented fish paste, fertilized duck eggs, fruitbat, goat, horse meat, lamb brains, pelanduk, sago grub, sea cucumber, shark, snake (several different kinds), springbok, tree possum, water buffalo, wild boar, wildebeest, zebra.

Much of it was quite good. No, not the cane rat, nor the cat. Cat tastes like whatever it has fed upon. The sago grubs were delicious. Sea cucumber absorbs flavour very well, and should be richly sauced for that reason.
Tree possum is impossibly greasy.

The only thing in the list above which truly is disgusting is the fertilized duck egg. It's called 'balut' in the Philippines, where it is much loved.
Though that may be a slight overstatement - it's more available at three o'clock in the morning after you've been drinking all night than at any other time, and I cannot remember seeing the damned things in day light, or while sober. You have to be plotzed to eat them.
That is what makes them good.

[The Philippines is also where I ate dog for the first time - up in the cordillera the locals make cocktail snacks out of them. Little fried doggy bits and chops, great with San Miguel Beer!
Oh, and by the way - do NOT insult your hosts by refusing to eat the food that they so thoughtfully provide.]

"Fruitbat? That's disgusting."

Most of the 'alternative' protein sources mentioned above make good curry. None of them are "sea kitten". But sea kitten also makes good curry. Fermented sea kitten paste in moderation could be added to all of them.
Just remember to avoid land-based sea-kitten equivalents ("farm kitten" or "forest kitten") with scarred lungs or signs of disease, and to cut their throats in one clean stroke with a very sharp unnicked blade, severing the carotid arteries and jugular veins.


Anonymous said...

Most disgusting post yet!

The back of the hill said...

Thank you!

jonathan becker said...

i just thought it would be funny, in the context of your list of sheretzdike edibles to point out fruitbat as being particularly disgusting.

truth is, if kashrut were not a concern for me, i'd take a shot at alligator or snake or anything that isn't too cute when it's alive. as my mom z"l liked to point out "just eat it. chickens are the stupidest creatures god ever made".

Kylopod said...

We recently had an infestation of floor kittens. My former true kittens offed some of them, and I pride myself in having successfully gotten rid of one of them by capturing it in a nonlethal trap and releasing it in a field. I was sure we'd have to call in the exterminators, but since then I haven't seen any sign of floor kitten detecting behavior from my former true kittens.

Anonymous said...

My children refuse fish as well. Although fish sticks are ok for two of the three; which I sort of understand as they don't taste like fish. In fact they require some sort of sauce as they have little taste on their own. I think the attitude stems from the Disney movie Finding Nemo. In that movie bad sharks are made good by being taught that "Fish are friends, not food". And so that is what my children tell me. Fish are Friends. I expect they will mature beyond Disney brain washing and with that their culinary sensibilities.

BTW - I have tried dog, gator (of course I live in Fla) snake, shark, armadillo (aka Hoover Hogs) neutra rat (Coon Ass girlfriend) & mud bugs. But I could not even get past the smell of the balut. The odor alone was enough to make me chunder.


The back of the hill said...


One can also serve fruitbat with a creamsauce...... But nevertheless, I would advise against eating it habitually. Research has shown that certain fruit toxins tend to get concentrated in the flesh, which leads to a greater incidence of insanity and mental failure among the elderly of some Pacific Island groups which regard fruitbat as a delicacy.

The back of the hill said...


Having former true kittens is a blessing. Floor kittens, on the other hand, not so much.

Can't stand the famous Disney floor kitten, by the way. Offensive big-eared demon.

The back of the hill said...


Never et nutria or armadillo. Nor mudbug.

Closest I've ever come to any of them is the stuffed armadillo behind me on the credenza. Which is also the closest I'll ever come to ever having a secretary.

Disney is treif in seven worlds. Find Nemo, then eat the little blighter.
Fish are food, not friends. Bon gusto.

Spiros said...

For your friend who won't eat "sea-kittens": might a suggest a nice rainbow trout?

Spiros said...

And to quote Werner Herzog:
"Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in this world."

Anonymous said...

Eat the eyes first!

Anonymous said...

Sweet Jesus you guys are a bunch of sicko bastards! You're talking about eating kittens! What is WRONG with you?

jonathan becker said...

penguin, i appreciate your advice regarding the habitual consumption of fruitbat but as i said, my acceptance of the bizarre and arbitrary commandments of the god of israel, and the general unavailability of fruitbat prevent me from approaching any such danger.

they also put me in other dangers, but that's another matter.

probably used tractor tires taste good in a nice cream sauce. or if that doesn't work and you insist on a diet of synthetic rubber, i reccomend deep frying. it's a tradition where i come from in the redneck wilderness, and it works with just about anything.

jonathan becker said...

btw those fuckers are the size of small dogs, so how is it you only get one serving out of a fruitbat?

The back of the hill said...

my acceptance of the bizarre and arbitrary commandments

But that still leaves lots of sea kitten! Specifically, sea kitten which possess both snapper and kaskeses! Yum!

Note: by kaskeses are not meant kaskeses which are embedded like those of reptiles or small buggy things (sheretzim), but clearly visible kaskeses which can be easily scroped off with a knife, the test being that one can be pulled off without ripping or damaging the skin. This per both the Rambam and the Rema.

If your fish vendor has skinned the fish, there is no way to ascertain whether it was kosher, EXCEPT in the case of salmon. Most rabbonim hold that the appearance of the flesh of salmon is a siman muvak sufficiently indicative of the exact type of fish, and hence, a heter that one may eat it, even if there are no evident scales and gills. Presumably though, only if the fishmerchant can be assumed to be an honest person who does not deal in treif - a question of chezkas kashrus, again.

The back of the hill said...

... the size of small dogs, so how is it you only get one serving out of a fruitbat?

A) Depends on the type of fruitbat - some are not quite as large as the archetype flying fox.
B) Without wings, tails, feet, and head, there really ain't that much left.

Some of the South-East Asian species are really not very large in any case - about three or four inches long. Even the very largest flying foxes will seldom weigh in at more than two pounds - a large part of which is inedible (fur, eyes, bones, guts, etcetera).

That last datum probably explains why they aren't raised for food.
Not a good yumminess to weight ratio.

The back of the hill said...

If your fish vendor has skinned the fish ......
a siman muvak sufficiently indicative of the exact type of fish..........
fishmerchant ......

"If your sea kitten vendor has skinned the sea kitten ......
a siman muvak sufficiently indicative of the exact type of sea kitten ..........
sea kittenmerchant ...... "

There. All better.

jonathan becker said...

thank god i can shop in the jerusalem open marked (shuk). i can't remember the last time i bought sea kitten without scales. i see it (unidentified fillets) sitting there in their plastic bags and i just wonder "who knows what the hell that is? might be sea kitten, might not." brrrr.

i'm glad to hear the chachamim were bright enough to exempt salmon. i have yet to see any bright orange sea kitten without scales that isn't salmon. those guys are really really, like, smart. or something.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Who cares what Jews eat! People don't eat animals!

The back of the hill said...

My dear anonymous, you are confusing herbivores with people. If you would but remove yourself from the pasture, you would see that people are actually humans.

Cows, on the other hand, are remarkably stupid. And sometimes French.

The back of the hill said...

Jews eat fewer animals than other humans.
Possibly they make up for it with greater gashmius and ruchnius.
Boruch Hashem.

The back of the hill said...

And of course, good condiments go a long way towards making the enjoyment of a nice piece of pasture-kitten or farmyard kitten utterly orgasmic.
Again, boruch Hashem.

The back of the hill said...

Vegetables do not understand such things.

Spiros said...

As I type this, my roommate has a t-shirt on the clothesline sporting the legend: "Vegans taste like chicken".

The back of the hill said...

As I type this, my roommate has a t-shirt on the clothesline sporting the legend: "Vegans taste like chicken".

Is she a good cook?

And does she rub them all over with garlic and olive oil?

Mmmm, garlic......

The back of the hill said...

Crispy skinned tarragon vegan. Yum!

Anonymous said...

All very amusing. Thank you and good night. I have to get my kids who are still friends of fish.


Anonymous said...

True Kittens: A Tuscan Delicacy

Italy's state-run RAI TV has suspended popular cooking show host Beppe Bigazzi for an unspecified amount of time after he called cat stew a Tuscan "delicacy," the Associated Press reports.

The 77-year-old said on-air:

Cat, soaked for three days in the running water of a stream comes out with its meat white, and I assure you I have eaten it many times ...

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