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A Thanksgiving alternative?


TIRED OF turkey? Looking for something a little different to serve up this Thanksgiving?

How about a 12-pound water rat that culinary experts say tastes somewhat like a beaver, is less greasy than a 'coon but is not quite as good as possum?

Hold the green bean casserole, ma, I'm comin' home!

America's latest taste treat is called nutria and comes to us courtesy of the good citizens of Louisiana, who, apparently, will eat almost anything.

The decision to market nutria as a food source is not due to its wonderful taste (the smell of cooking nutria has been compared to that of Sarin gas), but to the fact that Louisiana has to eat nutria before nutria eat Louisiana.

Nutria feed voraciously on the roots of plants that help maintain soil stability, and the rodents also dig burrows in the sides of canals, causing them to collapse.

Animal rights

Until the late '80s, there was a good market for nutria pelts, but the animal rights activists put a stop to that. (You've got to figure that people who walk around with rat skins draped over their shoulders deserve to have red paint thrown on them.)

Today, an estimated 20 million nutria are gnawing away on the state's rice and sugar cane crops, prompting wildlife experts to take desperate measures.

Anybody for a quarter-pound nutria burger with cheese?

Nutria. It's not just road kill anymore.

David Grimes is a columnist for the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune.

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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