Hamsters, gerbils and Guinea pigs

“I’m not a lover of the exotic, as you, dad. “It was the first visit my daughter in Asia, and we have just passed a street vendor offering a variety of crispy roasty and boiled insects — popular snack food Thailand. I asked if she wanted to try grasshoppers . “They are very even nothing,” I added encouragingly. The daughter shook her head and said, “I’m ready to try something new, but I will not eat any animals nor cute nor disgusting”.

Food, she perceived through the idea of its original form. To the category of disgusting it included the insects, and the category pretty — numerous small mammals, including cats, dogs, rabbits . and three rodent species, somewhere in the West playing the role of Pets: e the hamsters, gerbils and Guinea pigs . The last really beloved Pets in many euroamericana, but this does not negate their long culinary history, and the fact that these rodents and are considered to be an important source of protein in Peru (the birthplace of the “canteens” of rodents), Ecuador, parts of Venezuela and in Bolivia and Colombia.

In his study on edible herbivorous and entitled “Feast in the bosom of wild nature”, Russell Kyle characterizes the current treatment of marskineliai in the South American Andes as “the world’s first agricultural experience breeding rodents”. His claim he bases on the results of archaeological excavations on the territory of modern Peru: scientists have discovered passages in Guinea pigs (in barn yard) in basement dwellings 6500 years ago. Guinea pigs the meat was so important food for the local population continues to Kyle that when arriving in the XVI century the Spaniards began to convert the Indians to Catholicism in the Cathedral of Cuzco appeared adapted to local conditions, the image of the last supper: Jesus Christ and his disciples at the table with local fruits and vegetables as the main dish — roasted Guinea pig. Even today, individuals of this species (Cavia porcellus) — so a typical detail of the life of a Peruvian village that “they can be seen scurrying around the floor, gnawing, waste from vegetables and all that is found, like the chickens who were an essential part of farms in Europe. Just like chickens, Guinea pigs end up in the pot.”

Today, the number of domesticated Guinea pigs in Peru is estimated at 20 million, and due to the short reproductive cycle of them, according to Kyle, is a year to 64 million individuals. In a litter is usually three to four cubs, which are born after only a 70-day period of fetal development, the female is usually pregnant for three or four times in a row, then take a few weeks “breathing space”. If you follow the recommended by very experienced farmers in the contents mode, one pair of animals can for two years to produce 520 young. Guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at two months of age, and in three months, weighs about pounds, can already be used in food. However, in most cases, they weigh less than half and such are reared for meat in West Africa and the Philippines.

These animals do not gnaw moves, can’t climb up, don’t bite. They are very timid, however, in a fright can scratch. They have a very acute sense of smell and hearing. And they are quite noisy: they squeal when hungry or when they are attacked, growling while eating. From often issued them sound “kuu-AI” has been familiar in the Andes the name of the animal — kui or smoke. In Europe they were introduced in the XVI century from South America. They have undertaken a long journey is reflected in the name of animals — “foreign pig” gradually changed to “marine”.

Gutted carcass of a Guinea pig can be fried on an open fire, strung on the spit, either in whole or in pieces. In the era of Spanish domination of Guinea pigs was prepared, filling the abdominal cavity with hot stones, that is, as today in Polynesia cook pork. Due to the small size of the rodent and from the desire to reduce losses to a minimum the carcass is usually cut into several large pieces, which are then boiled until soft. After cooking the meat or cut into smaller pieces, removing small bones, or added to soups and stews, or make a fricassee. Stomach (tripe) normally open, are washed and boiled, usually adding to soups or stews, and heart, kidneys and liver cooked separately and is served as a separate dish. Street vendors often sell thoroughly cooked (fried) Guinea-pig.

To taste the meat of these animals is reminiscent of rabbit meat . As well as rats and mice often eat them together with small stones. Skin of Guinea pigs crunchy and easy to chew, if the animal is young, and like rubber and fat in adults. However, usually little fat, he is gentle and odorless. In General, the Guinea pig meat in Peru is associated with poverty, although often served in the most elite and techniques as a symbol of democracy. Today it is present on the markets of many countries, successfully overcoming social taboos or other barriers. High vitamin content, the presumed ability to increase the resilience of the human body during illness and to prevent negative consequences of interrelation marriages adds to his popularity.

In Peru there is a custom of eating the meat of a Guinea pig, pulled out of her ear a small bone called the anvil, and put it in a glass of wine; the wine should be drink in one gulp, swallowed a bone, — the one to whom it will supposedly have good luck.

Hamsters and gerbils, as smaller, less consumed . but they have a long culinary history. Marco Polo wrote that the Mongols ate gerbils in the summer, when these rodents are most numerous. Archaeologists who have studied ancient fire pit and a place where waste, argue that the hamsters used for human food for many thousands of years. Of the 24 species is the largest — weighing up to 700 grams — the common hamster (Second second), living in Central Europe and Russia.

Gerbils and hamsters — universal animals that people (including my daughter) often kept in his house for the friendliness and visual appeal. In addition, their maintenance requires little effort and is cheap, and children of school age can justify the need to put a cage with a hamster in his bedroom the inclusion of observation of the animal in the school’s research programme. Due to the ease of taming, care and training of hamsters along with rats and mice are frequently used as experimental animals in studies of behavioral reactions and medical research. Acute sense of smell gerbils has prompted the Federal aviation Agency of the USA on the investment in training these animals to search for explosives at airports. London model Agency with 200 years of history “Gieves and Hawkes”, chelsee clothes for Elizabeth II and Prince Charles — more, however, known as a manufacturer of formal suits striped — refused to make a jacket that costs $ 4,800 fur hamster, yielding to pressure from animal advocates.

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