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Eating cat


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Older editions of the Larousse Gastronomique (though not THAT old: mine was bought new in the 1970s) used to contain an illustration showing the difference between cat and rabbit carcasses so that diners who ordered the latter would know if they were being sold the former. This suggests that, at least in post-WWII France, cat meat was not highly esteemed.

What sorts of recipes do your Iberian sources give, Adam, and from when do they date?

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This recipe is from Libro de Guisados (1529), which in tern is the Spanish translation of the Catalan Libre del Coch (1520). Translation was by Robin Carroll-Mann and the original file can be found at Stefan's Florilegium.

Obviously it is an older recipe, but I have seen another recipe for cat with migas and another for cat in tomato sauce.

GATO ASADO COMO SE QUIERE COMER

You will take a cat that is fat, and decapitate it. And after it is dead, cut off the head and throw it away because it is not for eating, for they say that eating the brains will cause him who eats them to lose his senses and judgment. Then flay it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well, and then wrap it in a cloth of clean linen. And bury it beneath the ground where it must be for a day and a night; and then take it out of there and set it to roast on a spit. And roast it over the fire. And when beginning to roast it, grease it with good garlic and oil. And when you finish greasing it, whip it well with a green twig (99), and this must be done before it is well-roasted, greasing it and whipping it. And when it is roasted, cut it as if it were a rabbit or a kid and put it on a big plate; and take garlic and oil blended with good broth in such a manner that it is well-thinned. And cast it over the cat. And you may eat of it because it is very good food.

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In my readings, I've run across several literary references to eating cat (mainly in 16th and 17th century lit, if I remember correctly). I probably have something specific in my notes somewhere that I could dig up. One professor that I had mentioned offhand eating cat in Zaragoza (this would have been in the sixties or seventies, I believe). If I remember correctly, some diseases or ailments were associated with ingesting poorly or undercooked cat.

I think the expression dar gato por liebre refers to the culinary uses of the animals... Cat obviously being the less desireable of the two.

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Excellent article on the subject - CATS - FRIEND OR FOOD?

So many foods have fallen out of fashion over the years. In the UK, rook (crow) is one such example. I was fascinated to see Gordon Ramsay in the last series of "The F Word", shoot and cook up a rook in an attempt to repopularize the dish. Maybe he'll do the same for cats in the next series :biggrin: However, such is our affection for the animal... :wub:

Edited by I8U8 (log)

Regards,

Peter

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Eating rooks (young rooks were eaten, why Ramsey would shoot and eat an adult is beyond me) makes a certain amount of sense, they compete for grain and it is relatively easy to harvest large amounts of young rooks from the a rookery.

Eating cat doesn't make much sense. The kill vermin and as carnivores they would be expensive to feed. If there was a rational reason for esting them then you would expect the practice to be more widespread, but in a European context it seems to be confined to the North-East of Spain.

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Cats are renown for the damage they cause to native wildlife populations. In Australia, several species have thought to have been wiped out due to the introduction of cats. I can't comment on the European experience. I think our rationale in the west has largely been due to the domestication of the cat and it's place in the home as companion and family pet. Just as the Kangaroo in Australia is venerated as a national symbol, causing some opposition to its culling and use as food.

I recalled an article on eating cats in the Spanish context, and after a small amount of web searching, found this article...

Mad cats and knights errant: Roberto De Nola and Don Quixote

Fascinating stuff!

Regards,

Peter

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As it happens I am both Australian and a parasitologist. People don't eat cats here as a form if population control. I can't think of any disease that you are likely to get from consumption of well cooked cat brains. The diseases that you are likely to get from contact with a cat will be from contact with living animals (largely from faecal contamination). Kangaroo is now in every supermarket, former bans on eating kangaroo were largely to do with a need to feel "British" rather then Australian and fears of adulteration of beef and lamb.

As part of my under-graduate degree we tested a large range of local butchers mince (lamb or beef), a surprising amount contained kangaroo.

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Ate cat in a dish in Indonesia a while back, ribcage was a dead givaway despite initial protestations that it was goat :biggrin: yeah, ...well, it didn't taste like rabbit and made a good curry

ps. just had some absolutely stunning kangaroo in Oz recently in a pub in Orange in the Central Highlands of NSW, hope the chef stays a while as I'll be back again soon..

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You will take a cat that is fat, and decapitate it. And after it is dead, cut off the head and throw it away because it is not for eating, for they say that eating the brains will cause him who eats them to lose his senses and judgment. Then flay it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well, and then wrap it in a cloth of clean linen. And bury it beneath the ground where it must be for a day and a night; and then take it out of there and set it to roast on a spit. And roast it over the fire. And when beginning to roast it, grease it with good garlic and oil. And when you finish greasing it, whip it well with a green twig (99), and this must be done before it is well-roasted, greasing it and whipping it. And when it is roasted, cut it as if it were a rabbit or a kid and put it on a big plate; and take garlic and oil blended with good broth in such a manner that it is well-thinned. And cast it over the cat. And you may eat of it because it is very good food.

I love the wording of this. It reads like something out of the bible, like God commanding Abraham or some such.

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When I was growing up (in the Philippines), there was rule that one doesn't eat siopao (chinese steamed bun) from off the street because it was probably made out of stray cat meat. This was urban folk lore and it was probably more expensive and laborous to catch the numerous stray cats in the city than use real pork.

Edited by Domestic Goddess (log)

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

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When I was growing up (in the Philippines), there was rule that one doesn't eat siopao (chinese steamed bun) from off the street because it was probably made out of stray cat meat. This was urban folk lore and it was probably more expensive and laborous to catch the numerous stray cats in the city than use real pork.

you may want to read this.

In 1981 while I was away in the service a friend told me that a Chinese restaurant in downtown Chicago for numerous health code violations and skeletal remains of cats were on the premises.

They were shaken by it because they liked the place for it's inexpensive food.

Really wish I could find article I think it was in Chicago Sun Times.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Right to be specific, many rumours of cat eating are just that and quite racist in over-tone due to the general taboo in many regions on eating cats. What I am interested in is the specific observation that eating cat in North Eastern Spain seems to have occured in a manner that has no comparison to near by regions.

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GATO ASADO COMO SE QUIERE COMER

You will take a cat that is fat, and decapitate it. And after it is dead, cut off the head and throw it away because it is not for eating, for they say that eating the brains will cause him who eats them to lose his senses and judgment. Then flay it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well, and then wrap it in a cloth of clean linen. And bury it beneath the ground where it must be for a day and a night; and then take it out of there and set it to roast on a spit. And roast it over the fire. And when beginning to roast it, grease it with good garlic and oil. And when you finish greasing it, whip it well with a green twig (99), and this must be done before it is well-roasted, greasing it and whipping it. And when it is roasted, cut it as if it were a rabbit or a kid and put it on a big plate; and take garlic and oil blended with good broth in such a manner that it is well-thinned. And cast it over the cat. And you may eat of it because it is very good food.

I had several thoughts when reading this, most of which you've probably already had and dismissed :biggrin: .

There are a couple of phrases (put in bold above) which made me think that cat-as-food in this case might have been in origins specifically linked to some sort of mysticism or folk medicine.

I particularly like the line

when you finish greasing it, whip it well with a green twig (99), and this must be done before it is well-roasted, greasing it and whipping it.

but that is neither here nor there it just makes me curious as to whether "whipping it" translates to a rather action-packed and exciting way to say "basting it". :raz:

Could someone from that region have made a trip somewhere to a faraway place where cat was eaten as a more usual thing, bringing back the idea of cat-as-food from that place? It would have to be someone with influence in the area if this were true, possibly someone "noble", for others to want to copy the idea of cat-as-food.

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A philologist at la Complutense put together a cookbook of Siglo de Oro recipes:

María Inés Chamorro

La cocina del Quijote: Gastronomía del Siglo de Oro español

I think the roast cat one is in there. I don't have the book anymore, but she may give more explanation and specific literary references (other than the famous Roberto de Nola recipe).

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Could someone from that region have made a trip somewhere to a faraway place where cat was eaten as a more usual thing, bringing back the idea of cat-as-food from that place? It would have to be someone with influence in the area if this were true, possibly someone "noble", for others to want to copy the idea of cat-as-food.

Come across a few blogs like this but I can't tell how serious they are. from this source: "Cat is eaten in the Basque regions all the time, specially the bobcats or "Gato Salvaje."

During the special period in Cuba ,many many Cats and dogs ended as Dinner.

In Central america they are also eaten."

If that is true and my Spanish isn't good enough to research it thoroughly then sure starting with Columbus I guess someone could of brought the recipe over.

There is debate in Portugal that the Portuguese beat Columbus to the New World, Brazil. They claim this discovery was kept secret because Portugal was not a major military power and threatened by Spain. I'm sure I've seen a National Geographic's documentary showing Indians of the Amazon getting ready to butcher some kind of cat.

I suppose they could of brought the idea over too.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Right to be specific, many rumours of cat eating are just that and quite racist in over-tone due to the general taboo in many regions on eating cats. What I am interested in is the specific observation that eating cat in North Eastern Spain seems  to have occured in a manner that has no comparison to near by regions.

Some weeks ago, I visited my brother currently living in Parma, Italy.

He found an out of print cookbook (1960?) about the old, traditional "cucina parmigiana", and there was a very small section (one page) about "gatto".

Older cook books were mentioned, where recipes referred to "a small animal, intelligent, living togehter with men". Obviously, these older books didn't mention explicitly "cat", but no doubt it was about these. The socially acceptable notion to communicate about cooked cats seemed to be "lepre di tetto" aka "roof hare".

Shall I dig deeper, i.e. trying come up with references?

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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I can only imagine cat being really difficult to cook. Those things seem like pure athletes, every muscle must be super tough. Not sure burying one for a day would do much tenderizing.

I don't even think the hyenas if Africa will eat a lion.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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Some weeks ago, I visited my brother currently living in Parma, Italy.

He found an out of print cookbook (1960?) about the old, traditional "cucina parmigiana", and there was a very small section (one page) about "gatto".

Older cook books were mentioned, where recipes referred to "a small animal, intelligent, living togehter with men".  Obviously, these older books didn't mention explicitly "cat", but no doubt it was about these. The socially acceptable notion to communicate about cooked cats seemed to be "lepre di tetto" aka "roof hare".

Shall I dig deeper, i.e. trying come up with references?

I'd been under the impression that in italian cuisine "gatto" was a bastardization of "gateaux" as in "Gatto di patate"
Right to be specific, many rumours of cat eating are just that and quite racist in over-tone due to the general taboo in many regions on eating cats. What I am interested in is the specific observation that eating cat in North Eastern Spain seems  to have occured in a manner that has no comparison to near by regions

The vast majority of recipes in these books are derivative from either earlier spanish sources or contemporary sources from other cuisines. Neither the earliest Spanish cookbook "Sent Sovi" nor the the Arabic "anonymous andalsuian cookbook" includes cat, and none of the earlier or contemporary european sources I'm familiar with do either.

It's this lack of correlation in any contemporary cuisines that has always made me suspect these particular recipes (there are only a few) as perhaps a mistranslation of another animal or the like?

I admit however to some bias in that I am squeamish about the eating of cats. (pets are not food, food are not pets...)

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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I admit however to some bias in that I am squeamish about the eating of cats.  (pets are not food, food are not pets...)

I haven't run across any literary references that would support that people in the late Middle Ages/early Siglo de Oro felt the same way about cats. If anything, they were still the subject of much superstition and generally reviled by "good Catholics" (and perhaps even more by those who weren't and had something to prove).

And, although it comes a century after the existing copy of Sent Soví, the Ruperto de Nola book is still a very old and important text (and from a literary standpoint puts modern cookbook writers to shame).

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From Sweeney Todd and the making of meat pies:

Take, for instance, Mrs. Mooney and her pie shop!

Bus'ness never better using only pussycats and toast!

And a pussy's good for maybe six or seven at the most!

And I'm sure they can't compare as far as taste!

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And, although it comes a century after the existing copy of Sent Soví, the Ruperto de Nola book is still a very old and important text (and from a literary standpoint puts modern cookbook writers to shame).

Don't get me wrong, I love De Nola's recipies - his porrada is dreamy - and it's a very important as it shows how Spain varied the base dishes you see throughout Europe at the time. I'm just saying that the recipes are mostly derived from other sources (Sent sovi, martino etc) often with his particular spin on them...

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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