Eating mice, a delicacy in Zimbabwe, or a sign of poverty?

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The Associated Press recently reported on how children in Zimbabwe hunt mice and sell them as “tasty snacks” on the roadside.

The children in the rural village of Chidza in central Zimbabwe head into the cornfields and trap the creatures, which are made fat from eating grains and grass.

“On a good night the children say they can catch between 50 and 100 mice. The night hunting comes at a risk as snakes are also on the prowl for the rodents,” according to The Associated Press.

Then, the children salt and roast the and sell them on the roadside to travelers. Ten mice for $1.

The story has since been picked up by many news outlets from ABC News to The New York Times.

The practice is not new. In fact, CNN did a similar report in 2006, with the headline: “Living off rats to survive in Zimbabwe,” using the practice as a sign of the poverty in this place.

In that story, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to United States, Machivenyika Mapuranga, told CNN that the practice was common. He said: “The eating of the field mice — Zimbabweans do that. It is a delicacy. It is misleading to portray the eating of field mice as an act of desperation. It is not.”

In 2015, the BBC reported on countries where rats are considered a delicacy. The story told of a remote village in the hills of north-east India, where the “Adi tribe celebrates Unying-Aran, an unusual festival with rats as the culinary centrepiece,” including a stew called bule-bulak oying, made with the nearly the whole rat, with chili and ginger.

The piece went on to note that “in Laos, farmers can identify at least five rodent species based on their taste.”

The practice of eating mice or rats has been going on for generations in many countries.

The debate or question is: Did eating rats evolve due to poverty or is the practice a matter of cultural preference and choice? Is the mouse a global delicacy, or a custom that grew out of poverty and desperation?

It is not quite the same, but those stories did call to mind the journey of the lowly crawfish in South Louisiana. The creature was once rarely seen in New Orleans homes, much less served in the city’s restaurants.

The odd-looking crawfish were captured and eaten by Native Americans, Cajuns and those living off the land and near the swamps, while city folks mostly dined on oysters, shrimp, crab meat and fish.

Customs and times change over time. Today, crawfish season is greeted with great enthusiasm, crawfish are farmed to sell, and crawfish dishes much sought-after and ubiquitous in New Orleans restaurants.

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