Phantom Sway

Muskrat: It’s what’s for dinner…or at least it was

Some Americans are intentionally eating deep fried mud rodents.

During my routine expeditions into the weird parts of the web I came across a story about how an 80 year tradition of serving up fried muskrats to raise money for a New Jersey fire company might be coming to an end. My first thought was naturally: it’s about time.

I mean unless you’re a contestant on some zany reality show or hopelessly lost and starving, eating anything with “rat” in its name should be out of bounds in the 21st century.

After close to eight decades, platters heaping with pieces of deep-fried muskrat won’t be passed among diners at Lower Alloways Creek’s fire hall this year.

“We’re just putting a pause on the tradition,” said township Fire Chief Steve Fisher Friday.

The muskrat dinner held in the village of Hancocks Bridge has been canceled — at least for this year — because, according to Fisher, volunteers are so stretched they don’t have the time to commit to putting on the dinner.

There’s also another issue, he says. It’s the shortage of muskrat “meats.”

“I know there are a lot of people who are disappointed,” Fisher said of the cancelation.

“How you doin’, Lester”

“I was fine until they canceled that thing where we pay to eat vermin. Now I just feel lost. My life has no meaning.”

Muskrats—whose name is derived from the original Algonquin for “soggy mud-rodent with B.O.” (probably)—are generally looked down upon within the animal kingdom. Part of the reason is that they inspired that insipid Captain & Tennile song, but it’s mostly because they are filthy muck dwellers. They live in “lodges” which appear to be little more than flooded piles of yard clippings. Even opossums are put off by them. If beavers are the dam builders of the animal kingdom, let’s face it, muskrats are more like the meth lab builders. (To be fair, there are some pretty sketchy beavers out there as well.)

I grew up in Maryland and know that muskrats have long been considered a food source by people in rural parts of the eastern shore. Some say Maryland surf-n-turf consists of eel and muskrat. I’ve even seen them skinned and dressed out in butcher’s cases in Baltimore alongside raccoons, both looking like something Freddie Krueger might serve up at an Elm Street barbecue. However, when they’re cooked, muskrats look just as appetizing as any scorched pile of unidentifiable rat parts can.

Look, I know that people often grow fond of foods that were once only eaten out of necessity. I’m sure some foods that I love might be considered inedible by muskrat eaters, which proves how wrong they are.

James Lanka

Science fiction nerd, writer, blogger, music lover, artist, native of the east coast.

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