I don’t need to get any lectures on racial tolerance or “It’s a Small World After All’ mushy fluff over this. I have nothing against Tahitians and their culture. The fact stands, they just have some certain animals they eat that most of us, who’ve grown in modern cities and weaned on the modern food revolution, wouldn’t want to even imagine eating. These dishes are as unsexy and as far removed from Tiki culture as you can imagine.
OK, for one, the Fijians don’t hesitate to eat insects. They particularly eat the Giant Fijian Long-Horned Beetle, scientific name Xixuthrus Heros. Longhorns are actually one of the biggest beetle species in the world, so they can get a reasonable meal out of a singly bug. They also consider the larvae edible, but because of the religious significance they ascribe to it, only the village chieftain is allowed to eat it.
Beyond that, however, another food item sprouts up above anything else: fruit bats. Eating bats seem unthinkable. They’re far too associated with vampires, but even in practical terms, they’re known to be rabid and can spread diseases.
However, fruit bats, also known as flying foxes or even megabats, have to be considered in a different class than their echolocating carnivore cousins. Fruit bats have mutualist relationships with the plants they eat from, pollinating them as they move from tree to tree. As herbivores, they are suitable for eating, and can be considered lean meat given their fruit exclusive diet. They are plentiful around the world, especially in the Old World countries, for how easily they can thrive in any ecosystem that has plentiful fruit trees.
Even their reputation as disease carriers is partially misleading; as the bats themselves commonly don’t get sick from the diseases they carry. Make no mistake about it, however:they are believed to have caused the spread of Lytico-Bodig disease among Tahitians.
I suppose, when you think about it objectively, bugs and bats are good protein sources, and if these tribal customs surviving modern civilization means something, it’s reasonable to assume they long figured out which wild animals are poisonous and which ones are palatable. And, of course, other cultures have all these terrible foods most people just wouldn’t care for, like moldy cheeses and frogs. Even if you take all this in account, though, it just doesn’t seem right to want to eat these, under any circumstances.
I don’t really want to elaborate too much on the personal circumstances of my having tried these dishes myself. Yes, I got to see bats prepared into several different stews, including a curry dish. Longhorns have become rare, and might even be endangered at this point, so I wasn’t able to try that, as many stories I was told about them. It took all my willpower to stop my gag reflex from trying a bite, so I’m sorry to say I can’t verify if they do taste like pigeon as others have said. Maybe if I was raised a certain way I might not be so squeamish about them, but I never learned to like to eat bat.
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