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How to Cook a Cat, Riviera-style

(image: San Rocco, again…)

The other day at Arturo’s butcher shop – that’s Arturo Paolucci here in San Rocco – I was waiting in line and joking with a friend, an honest, courageous Carabiniere based in Rapallo. Ahead of me in line were a pair of young girls with their pets – two adorable little dogs. One othe dogs, a poodle, looked amazingly like a lamb. My interlocutor noticed the resemblance and I remarked that the girl ought to be careful. Someone might get Arturo to butcher her dog. I told the startled company about the fabulously delicious (really awesome) tacos I once ate in Mexico, years ago, and the horror I felt when I discovered they’d been made with dog meat. No joke. The girls recoiled, dragging their dogs out of harm’s way.

This tale and the girls’ reaction prompted general mirth and guffawing among the adults. Then I mentioned that I’d eaten dog and probably cat without knowing it in other countries, maybe even Italy. My mother had had to sacrifice her pet rabbits during the war – though she didn’t eat them herself. The cats of Rome disappeared when food supplies ran out.

This is when an elderly local lady piped up and told us all about the bad old days, in the war, when in her village in Liguria the cats disappeared, as they had in Rome. “They say cat is delicious,” she affirmed. “But I never ate it, I only ate rabbit or chicken…” The Carabiniere wondered aloud how she was so sure. “Oh, I figured out that rabbits have flat rib bones, whereas the ribs of cats are rounded, like chicken bones.” By now the little girls had blanched and were tugging at their dogs’ leashes. They fled as the smiling senior told us in detail how the cats were cooked. Here’s her recipe.

“Simple,” began the garrulous woman. “First, you clean the cat and you soak it in cold, running water for 8 days, until it’s totally white…” This seemed an awfully long time to me, and I said so, but then again, good, dry-hung beef hangs for 3 weeks, as Arturo confirmed… And in winter, in a constant stream of near-freezing spring water, why not?

“Once the cat is ready to cook, you use the classic recipe for rabbit or chicken – alla ligure.” The lady rattled off that recipe, and assured us again that cat is delicious, that it tastes just like rabbit or chicken, but that she’s never, ever eaten it. Ever. Really.

For that classic recipe, click here, and go back to an earlier posting in my blog. It’s an easy and awesomely great recipe.

If you’re looking for my Paris, Paris Tours blog instead, please click here

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Published inFood Wine Italian Riviera

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