|Fried Snake Meat.|
Sometimes it feels good to cross the line and go beyond the norm because it allows us to explore and learn new things. The same goes with our eating habits. Trying something new or unusual adds to the level of experience of our taste buds. The new flavor it perceives is added to its wide ‘vocabulary’ of taste and gives us the notion to take another spoonful or place the plate away from us.
But taste should not be the only criteria in choosing what to eat or not. We should eat responsibly, not only for our body but for the environment as well.
It was a warm and sunny morning when one of our neighbors announced that they caught a ‘sawa’ in their pig’s pen. Since we moved to the highlands snakes are no longer strangers in our lawn. We just let them pass and go into hiding. We were taught that snakes never attack if not threatened.
Not too soon, platefuls of snake dishes were delivered on our doorsteps. Poor snake, slaughtered and cooked not to fill hungry stomachs but to affirm man’s dominance in the food web.
However, the fried snake meat looked sumptuous and tempting; coated with flour and spices and then fried until golden brown. “Try a slice, surely you will like it. It tastes like chicken,” offered my uncle who admitted that he have eaten wild snakes several times already. Though hesitant for my first bite of fried snake meat, I find courage just to give my taste buds a wild treat. After all I cannot revive the life of the snake.
Indeed it tastes like chicken but more bony and flavorful! It was so delicious that the single bite turned to a delightful gastronomic experience accompanied with chats and laughter. We paired the fried snake with spiced native vinegar to enhance the taste. And as we savor the moment, I realized for the first time that snakes have bones, a proof that I’m not that knowledgeable in reptiles’ anatomy.
I did not try the sinabawan and other snake dishes presented because they were not as appetizing as the fried snake.
On a broader look, exotic foods reflect culture and history. In Cambodia for instance, the country’s harsh history is reflected on their street market where different kinds of insects and what we consider exotic foods are sold.
Cambodians have developed an appetite for this kind of dishes because during Pol Pot’s regime many Cambodians were forced to opt on insects just to see the sun the next day. In those trying times, Cambodians showed their resiliency to survive.
Today, even the Pol Pot's communism is over and the country is gaining international recognition, many Cambodians still include ‘exotic food’ in their diet. And the exotic dishes that served as their life-bridge have become a tourism interest.
I’m not trying to come out clean but if you’re planning to hunt in the wild to satisfy your cravings for exotic foods, please think of its consequences on the balance of the ecosystem.
In the wild, snakes feed on crop pests like rats and other rodents, making them a natural pest control. The decline in their number will surely result to the rise on the population of the rodents that destroy crops. So if we do not consider snakes as pests, then there is no reason to kill them.
Bon appétit to your next gastronomic adventure!