Mexico City: As policy platforms go, it is unlikely to become mainstream. But a local politician in the Mexican state of Zacatecas is promoting the consumption of rat soup in an attempt to rescue a local tradition and remove the stigma of eating rodents.
“The idea is to demystify the consumption of field rats, a clean animal, which is not related in any way to the species in the sewers,” said Guadalupe Flores, a member of the state legislature.
The consumption of caldo de rata — rat soup — goes back to colonial times in Zacatecas, a state set on the high altiplano in the heart of the country.
Full of vegetables such as corn and zucchini and spiced with oregano, the soup is still commonly consumed in some communities — especially in cantinas, where it is sold as a hangover remedy — but it rarely makes the menus of restaurants.
Older people consider caldo de rata as a sort of cure-all, attributing to it the power to fend off everything from the common cold to diabetes and arthritis. “It has a very high protein content and a very high vitamin content, too,” said Manuel de Jesus Macias Pati-o, a professor at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, who has studied field rats.
Still, even the most dedicated consumers of rat meat admit that many are repulsed by the idea.
“They see it as something almost ghoulish,” Flores said. Though she added: “They’re often willing to try it ... and end up liking it.”
Mexican politicians are often themselves described as ratas by protesters and editorial cartoonists, so there was a degree of irony in Flores’ decision to host a recent festival celebrating rat soup on the steps of the state legislature.
But she expressed confidence that the attention could help revive interest in the traditional dish — and even spark a wave of culinary tourism.
“Anybody that tries it once is going to love it and it will become their favourite dish,” she said. “It’s not like chicken,” she said. “Rat meat is very similar to rabbit — only much more flavourful.”