Post Number: 93
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 9:27 am: || |
Muskrat love: A Lenten Friday delight for some Michiganders
By Kristin Lukowski
Catholic News Service
RIVERVIEW, Mich. (CNS) -- There's an alternative to fish for some Michigan Catholics abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent -- muskrat.
The custom of eating muskrat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays in Lent apparently goes back to the early 1800s, the time of Father Gabriel Richard, an early missionary in Michigan whose flock included French-Canadian trappers. Legend has it that because trappers and their families were going hungry not eating flesh during Lent, he allowed them to eat muskrat, with the reasoning that the mammal lives in the water.
The story varies on just where in Michigan the dispensation extends. Among areas mentioned are along the Raisin River, along the Rouge River, both of which flow into Lake Erie south of Detroit, Monroe County in the southeast corner of Michigan, or all of southeast Michigan.
The Detroit archdiocesan communications department said there is a standing dispensation for Catholics downriver -- in Detroit's southern suburbs and below -- to eat muskrat on Fridays, although no documentation of the original dispensation could be found.
A 2002 archdiocesan document on Lenten observances, in addition to outlining the general laws of fast and abstinence, says, "There is a long-standing permission -- dating back to our missionary origins in the 1700s -- to permit the consumption of muskrat on days of abstinence, including Fridays of Lent."
The prospect of eating muskrat, a foot-long rodent, might be less than appetizing to some, but to many people downriver it's part of Lenten life.
St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Newport holds a muskrat dinner every year to raise funds for the parish's youth sports teams. The early February dinner includes sides of creamed corn and mashed potatoes. It features prizes donated by local merchants and serves up to several hundred dinners.
Bill "Pip" Chinavare was president of the sports club for 29 years and still heads up the muskrat fundraiser. His wife, Candy, said not many women participate in the annual dinner.
"This is a men's thing," she said. "They pack the men in."
"The majority of women can't get past the 'rat' thing," she said.
Father Russ Kohler, pastor at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Detroit and a downriver native, is a regular at the St. Charles Borromeo muskrat dinners. He said the trick to making the muskrat edible is in the marinade, a secret recipe based on a French liqueur.
He said he never ate muskrat before he attended the dinner while filling in at St. Charles as a priest. He's tried to make the dinner every year since then.
"I didn't fall in love with the product until I could drink beer," he joked.
He said muskrat has the consistency of chicken, but with a "unique" taste.
Johnny Kolakowski, owner of Riverview's Kola's Food Factory, has been eating muskrat since he was a kid. When he opened up his restaurant years ago, he put muskrat on the menu.
He can sell several dozen muskrat dinners on a Friday, but they were more popular back in the 1980s, when he would sell 150 a night. The tradition's less popular with the younger crowd, but it's not uncommon for young men to come in -- with their cameras -- and order a muskrat dinner.
Kolakowski, 59, a member of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Wyandotte, said muskrat tastes the same as duck. Both animals live in the water and have the same diet -- the only difference is one walks and one flies, he said.
His muskrats come from a trapper in Canada and they're served with sides of sauerkraut and mashed potatoes and gravy. The best part of a muskrat is the hind legs, he said.
The late Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing wrote in a 1987 column in The Michigan Catholic, Detroit archdiocesan newspaper, that "no (formal) dispensation was ever given to allow Catholics to eat muskrat on Fridays."
He referred to what he called the "Great Interdiocesan Doctrinal Debate" of 1956, during which he determined that although muskrat is a warm-blooded mammal and technically flesh, the custom had been so long held along Michigan's rivers and marshes that it was "immemorial custom," thus allowed under church law.
For the record, Bishop Povish didn't much care for muskrat as a meal. He wrote that "anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest of the saints."
Post Number: 664
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 9:49 am: || |
Yeah, but it was about 45 years ago and I was still a kid at the time. My uncle was given some muskrat by a trapper friend of his and he brought it home for my aunt to cook. We happened to be visiting that day so he unwrapped it and showed us what it looked like after it was skinned, but the only recognizable parts that I remember were those tiny little claws on the feet. We were invited to stay for dinner and my aunt decided to add the muskrat to that night's menu. I had a taste of it and it was unremarkable.
More remarkable was the kangaroo dinner I had during a 1997 trip to Australia. Accompanied with a nice shiraz, it was very tasty!
Post Number: 69
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 2:39 pm: || |
Does it have cloven hoofs and chew the cud???
Post Number: 1665
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 4:04 pm: || |
This came up (snicker) in the Free Press recently: You Haven't Lived Here Until You've eaten muskrat.
Post Number: 223
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 8:21 pm: || |
I bet it tastes like chicken. Rabbit does.
And no, never had muskrat.
Post Number: 1064
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 9:30 pm: || |
No but I've had alley rat does that count?
Post Number: 1667
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 9:32 pm: || |
The scene in National Lampoon's Vacation comes to mind where Aunt Edna, played by Imogene Coca (what a trooper!), learns that her dog urinated on her sandwich but shrugs her shoulders and takes another bite anyway.
Post Number: 454
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 10:05 pm: || |
I've had it a few times and really don't care for it.
Post Number: 191
|Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 10:41 pm: || |
I haven't had muskrat, but two weeks ago I had Kangaroo which was really good and rattle snake which I could have done without, to many bones. I use to get rabbit stew at the Navy Yard in Amherstburg Ontario, that was wonderful! Boy do I miss that dish. Elk is really good too.
Post Number: 270
|Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 12:30 am: || |
"Muskrat Susie, Muskrat Sam; do the jitterbug down in Muskrat land and they shimmy...Sammy's so skinny"
Post Number: 1520
|Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 9:59 am: || |
I betcha G Gordon Liddy would really like it....after all, he killed and skinned a rat, and ate it
Post Number: 73
|Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 10:41 am: || |
Aren't these all things sacrificed to idols? Remind me to never kiss you (LOL). Ever been to the Amherstburg Hotel?
(Message edited by ladyinabag on March 11, 2007)
Post Number: 193
|Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 6:12 pm: || |
What kind is sacrificed to the idols? We use to only take day trips to Amherstburg to have a nice dinner. Nothing like rabbit in a nice white wine sauce! LOL
Post Number: 684
|Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 6:16 pm: || |
Some of us prefer to belong to the other PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals
Post Number: 16
|Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 10:37 pm: || |
I ventured down to Kola's a couple years back after they featured it on a Food Channel Program (I think it was Food Finds).
Tried the muskrat and didn't much care for it. I recall the skeleton of the muskrat was hard as stone.
Post Number: 3787
|Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 - 5:11 pm: || |
Wonder if Betty Crocker makes "Muskrat Helper"...
Or is that one of the recipes under "Roadkill Helper"...
Post Number: 709
|Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 - 5:28 pm: || |
What does chicken taste like?
Post Number: 977
|Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 - 5:46 pm: || |
I've had Muskrat many times, and have seen them hundreds of times (they are very prevalent in my hometown of Monroe)....It's not that good, and alot of small bones get in your way. Tastes alot like dark meat of a wild duck. Gamey and dark. I've only ever seen it served "stewed" in creamed corn.
Post Number: 1684
|Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 - 5:57 pm: || |
Google finds 80 pages containing "muskrat recipe." Fred's Muskrat Recipe mentions removing "all fat and glands."
Mmmmmm. Muskrat glands. They're muskier!
Post Number: 77
|Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 - 7:18 pm: || |
Anything that doesn't have cloven hoofs and chews the cud was what the pagans sacrificed to idols (?). Don't quote me (LOL).
Post Number: 67
|Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 - 8:28 pm: || |
I would try anything once.
Post Number: 86
|Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 9:09 am: || |
Didn't see it on the dollar menu at my local McDonald's yesterday, but I could have missed it.
Post Number: 4
|Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 12:42 pm: || |
"...Everything tastes like chicken, except the chicken..."
Actually drive through Delaware and I think it must be the state dish. Muscrat stew, Muskrat BBQ, grilled Muskrat. They're proud of their Muskrats. No thanks...
Post Number: 979
|Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 2:58 pm: || |
If you've never seen one, they look like a little Beaver with a rat-like tail. A little greasier and grungier than a Beaver, but kind of cute in an odd way. Can be quite viscious if cornered.
Post Number: 818
|Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 3:02 pm: || |
Nope. Nor have I ever tried 'possum.
Post Number: 82
|Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 5:11 pm: || |
Possum? Lord!! What is that reality show where they eat all of that wierd stuff for the money? I can't watch that show. Yuk!! Snakes and bugs and worms....(oh, my).