There are times when I don’t feel like a “real” missionary, and my reaction to bush meat is definitely one of those. Bush meat is basically any kind of animal that is caught in the wild and used for meat. Wild pigs, antelope, porcupine, monkeys, even monitor lizards (which my friend ate and later found out was endangered. Whoops.), snakes in some people groups and – gulp – rats are all candidates to be hunted, butchered, cooked and eaten.
And though many Nigerians and even missionaries love the taste of bush meat, I have to admit, in what is perhaps a very un-missionary like confession, that I have absolutely no desire to try it. I like the movie Ratatouille as much as the next person, but when it comes to eating them…. I mean, I lived in the inner city in the States, so the picture I have of rats is of large, disgusting, hairy creatures with long tails (Even typing that makes my skin crawl)… unwelcome rodents that would make occasional visits to my house and send me on a rampage to get rid of them.
Served on a skewer or cut up in stew, though…. Yeah, not a picture I have. Or even like, really. (And actually, those large, urban dwelling rodents are not ones that a typical Nigerian would eat, either, though some might. Just like in the States, those rats are viewed as pests. They even sell rat poison at some junctions in Jos so you can just pick some up while you’re out for a drive.)
But bush rat, and bush meat in general, is valued as a high protein treat here and in many parts of Africa (There are also lots of organizations that fight against bush meat being used for food, largely because in some areas of Africa animals like great apes have been hunted into almost extinction. That, though, is an entirely different matter….). You can buy bush meat in the market, and Sarah tells of “the bush man” coming to her door with a selection of smoked bush meat from which she can choose. Often, she says, they’re so charred that you don’t even know what kind of animal you’re getting when you buy it.
When I visited a brothel with my friend who does ministry there (Also a post for another day!), though, they were grilling a couple rats, and there was definitely no question about what animal was being served for breakfast THAT morning.
So in case some of you are braver than I am, here’s a recipe for bush rat – I don’t know who they’re fooling with the name “Rice Delight” – that is from one of our cookbooks, Cooking in the Tropics.
Just don’t invite this close-minded missionary for dinner. 😉
- 2 large (5 lb.) grass cutters
- 4 large onions
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 long skewers
- 2 c. uncooked rice
- ½ c. palm oil
- Mahogany fire wood
- Sharp knife
Remove entrails, head and tail of the grass cutters and rinse thoroughly. Singe the hair over the mahogany fire, insert the skewers through the grass cutters and wait for the fire to die down to hot embers. Cook rice in boiling water. Add palm oil to a skillet and heat until the red color starts to turn yellow. Add chopped onions and cook until onions are soft.
Locate four small “Y” shaped tree branches and insert two each a few inches into the ground on each side of the fire with the “Y” pointing upwards. When the fire has died down to hot embers, place the skewered rats into the branches, making a rotisserie and turn each rat slowly while cooking, being careful not to burn the meat. While the meat is cooking, add palm oil, onions and salt to the cooked rice. Mix well, then cover and set aside. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, remove from the skin and serve on top of a bed of prepared rice. Add hot pepper and other spices to taste.