Could you eat a bullfrog? A snail? How about a carp?
Today, in a world where food comes easy and choices are endless, most of us would probably hesitate at the idea of such non-traditional dishes. The reasons behind our reluctance are many – theses species are foreign to us, in some cases they’re ugly and, most importantly, there are seemingly “better” options just around the corner.
Why would we push past our culinary comfort zones when familiar fare such as chicken, beef or salmon is plentifully stocked at our neighborhood supermarket?
Sadly, none of the species above are as selective as we are when it comes to choosing their next meal, and in a figurative sense, have been “consuming” us for decades.
The American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), the brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum) and the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are all listed as invasive in my home state of California, part of a growing list of species that destroys ecosystems, displaces native species and cost an estimated $120 billions of dollars in economic damage, according to recent study by Cornell University.
Every year, state and local governments spend piles of cash on eradication efforts, while the simplest solution may be sitting right in front of us.
Let’s eat them.
Before you tune out to the idea, know that I’m not suggesting a handful of hunters and anglers suddenly targeting these species will make even a dent in their overall populations, nor and I saying that the problem can be solved by the fork and knife alone.
But it could be a start; a change in attitude toward these species that’s desperately needed.
The way I see it, the problems with the pursuit of invasives currently falls into two camps: Either you’re pursuing them with no intention of eating them, leading to a perception of wanton killing amongst non-anglers/hunters, or you’re so totally disgusted by the idea of eating invasives that you would never pursue them to begin with, essentially taking the one effective predator of these species out of the system altogether.
This is the problem that Invasive Eats seeks to address.
We should be hunting these species, and when we do, can we begin to treat them not as repulsive aliens, but as ingredients which deserve the same level of preparation and care as the finest game quarry?
And will they be any good?
To be honest, I don’t know the answer to this question, but it’s one that I think is worthy of examining.
For me, Invasive Eats will be a personal journey, one that requires me to put aside some of my own culinary prejudices and dive fork-first into species I had previously viewed as inedible. There will be misfires along the way, that much is certain, but I’m sure that there will be successes as well; dishes that cause myself and others to re-evaluate a species’ usefulness as food.
There's an old Norman Vincent Peale quote that starts, "Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution," and in the case of invasive species, I think it rings especially true.
In our rivers, forests and even backyards, these invaders pose problem, but in the kitchen and on the plate, a remedy may be waiting.
Let’s just hope it’s a delicious one.