As a veterinarian, my father gets two questions fairly often. One is how he feels about euthanasia (usually asked by a young vet student trying to embark into deep conversational waters); the other is how he (as someone who makes a living saving the lives of animals) can possibly hunt.
The euthanasia question usually plays out thusly:
Bright-eyed future vet: Dr. Claire’s Dad, what are your feelings on euthanasia?
Dr. Claire’s Dad: Well, it ain’t hunting, but it does relieve a certain amount of stress.
No longer bright-eyed student: Stunned silence or nervous laughter.
The hunting convo goes similarly:
Someone: Dr. Claire’s Dad, how can you spend your days saving the lives of people’s pets, and then go out and shoot a defenseless deer?
Dr. Claire’s Dad: Because they piss me off.
And that’s the end of that.
These are obviously (somewhat cruel) jokes on my father’s part. He does not derive any pleasure from euthanizing anything, ever. And, I don’t think he’s angry at deer. I honestly don’t know why he hunts, other than the fact he’s from Mississippi and it’s something he used to do with his father. I don't think he's very good, but Sean went with him once and says he might be OK. So.
I’m always curious about how we, as a civilization, decided what was and was not “edible.” Americans don’t eat dogs, but other cultures do. Who looked at a lobster and was like “We should boil that, and once it stops screaming, crack open its exoskeleton and put it in our mouths”? I love eating lobsters, but if I had been the first human to discover them, I’m pretty sure I would have been all “I don’t feel like investing the energy to discover if this thing is edible, let’s just eat this thing that will someday be referred to as a “poh-tay-toe.”
Most people in this country consider certain types of animals to be “normal” eating, and others to be “weird.” For the most part, I hate the word “weird.” It’s usually used as a way to dismiss something that makes you uncomfortable. It’s a lazy way of staying inside your boring safe world, and it has the added bonus of sometimes making the person whom it was directed at feel like shit.
Anybugs, most people consider eating lion weird. Which is why there has been quite an uproar (kill me) over Taco Fusion in Tampa serving lion tacos. There have been bomb threats, punches thrown, etc. It’s all very dramatic. Taco Fusion offers other “safari tacos” as well, but none have gotten them as much heat, or press, as lion.
Guys, you know I eat a fair amount of meat, but even I can’t eat lion. For one, while lions aren’t technically endangered, they are considered threatened and their numbers are dwindling. This, coupled with the fact that I have a negative emotional response to eating lion (or any cat for that matter) prevented me from ordering this particular taco. There also seems to be something disrespectful about reducing the King of The Jungle to a fucking ($35) taco. I know this seems hypocritical considering how firmly omnivore I am, but there it is. I have found the line I won’t cross, and it is lion.
But I still wanted to eat some rattlesnake.
When I went to Taco Fusion today, I was not expecting lion to be on the menu, as it had been reported that it was removed. But there it was. Rattlesnake was, disappointingly, nowhere to be found.
I went with llama, kangaroo, and shark.
Let’s talk about each taco, shall we?
I had actually had kangaroo before (though not in a taco) and I remember liking it.
Welp, this wasn't that amazing. The flavor was similar to grilled beef, but the texture was similar to jerkied beef. Like, my jaw ached afterward. And besides the fact that I was eating a fucking kangaroo, there was nothing truly remarkable about the taco. The cheese, lettuce and shell were all pretty basic, and the mango salsa was too sweet. I understand that with an exotic meat like kangaroo, you probably don’t want to pile on a bunch of distracting ingredients like truffle oil or garlic confit, but a different cheese would have gone a long way. I don’t know which cheese; that’s not my job. But I do know I would have gone with something other than “mixed cheese,” which doesn't really mean anything.
Also, this thing was like $13, which is understandable due to geography, but think of all the Doritos tacos I could have bought with that money. Drunk Claire is going to be really annoyed with sober Claire later.
TACO RATING: I wish I had just saved that money to buy Drunk Claire Doritos tacos.
This one I enjoyed quite a bit. I like most white fishes, and this was like a meatier white fish that was not at all fishy. Does that make sense? The toppings on this one were also a lot more fitting. There was some cilantro, some cabbage, and a “fruit salsa” that was more acidic than sweet. Much better. This one was also only six bucks, and totally worth it.
I have nothing negative to say about this taco.
TACO RATING: I wish I had bought two more of these instead of one kangaroo taco.
This taco was really talked up to me. I was promised a “silky” meat (I don’t know what that means but I wanted it) with no gamey flavor.
I’ll let you take this journey with me through photos:
I don’t know if my face is expressive enough to convey this, but I was not impressed. It was chewy and a little gamey. THE VERY THINGS I WAS TOLD IT WOULD NOT BE. The flavor was a little richer than beef, which I liked, so maybe it would be better if it was just cooked a little less.
The toppings were good, so that’s cool, but again my jaw hurt.
Also, there was this guy sitting next to me raving about this very same taco. He said it was the “best taco he’s ever had,” that it was “not at all chewy” and “better than any beef” he’d ever put in his mouth.
Look, it’s in my notes!
He also had his sun glasses on croakies, so he probably can’t be trusted in general.
TACO RATING: I could have gotten two Chipotle tacos instead.
I probably would have been better off ordering the lobster nachos, or more shark tacos, or their Pad Thai chimichanga. Sean got the General Tso’s burrito, and that was fucking delicious. I think Taco Fusion’s main problem is that in trying to be so extreme and edgy, they end up doing too many things at once, and not doing all of them very well.
There’s a reason we usually eat chicken, beef and pork on our tacos; we know how to prepare it so it tastes amazing. If one is going to go through the trouble of obtaining meat that is about the same price per pound as bald eagle heads, one should know how to make that meat sing.
Making tacos out of exotic animals just for the shock value of it all is silly. Just because you watch a lot of Anthony Bourdain doesn't mean you can just start throwing lions and tigers and bears into tacos and expect everyone to praise you for your ability to “think outside the farm.”
Have you guys ever eaten wild game? Would you eat lion?