If you have ever pictured yourself in a post-war or emergency situation, surely you have imagined what you would eat, as food is one of the basic human needs. We’ve all heard of third world countries in which people eat tree roots on the limits of survival, and no doubt such things may seem impossible to eat, but strictly biologically speaking, they are not.
Truth is, there are not many things in this world that our stomach couldn’t hold, and although not healthy, they can fulfill the role of keeping us sated. One such example is paper, which is made from wood, meaning it is perfectly digestible.
But this article is not about how much artificial matter can we ingest in dire situations, but rather what can be eaten safely regardless of our biased interpretation, beyond what each meat type symbolizes in our minds, food is food and any type of meat is edible, human evolution wouldn’t have been possible without meat. This is what you need to tell yourself when you feel loathsome towards consuming snake or rat meat.
In many sci-fi movies rodents are represented as survival food. That’s not sci-fi. Despite our image about them as “dirty animals”, rodents can be cooked and cleaned just like any other meat. In the wild you may not have a choice, so you better know how to consume them.
- Never handle them directly with the hands, as some may carry diseases.
- Whether your prey is a rat, mouse, squirrel, bat (they’re very popular in Cambodia) or any other rodent, it should go directly on the spit, with the hair and skin on. After the hair is burnt, it will fall off by itself. Cook it for as long as possible until it is a bit charred, to make sure you kill all the bacteria.
- Remove the bowels and stomach; this is where all diseases develop and the hub of all bacteria. Except the digestive system, everything from the animal is safe to eat.
Insects have always given us the goose-bumps, and nobody wants to think about a situation in which he would be forced to eat bugs. There couldn’t be a more unfounded preconception. As a matter of fact, insects could be the answer to the famine problems many countries are facing, and the staple meat of the future. The idea isn’t new, and over a third of the world’s population consume insects on a regular basis, but tradition and education made it linger for over a century at society’s unrelenting gates, since Vincent Holt asked in 1885: “Why not insects?”
We reject the processed chicken, the artificially fed livestock, tremble at the thought we may be eating radioactive fish, but we forget nature’s purest and fastest renewing food source. Insects are healthy, rich in protein, clean, tasty (similar to nuts), cheap, and virtually everlasting. They simply breed too fast too soon to become expensive, like seafood or buffalo meat. Here are some general rules about insect consumption:
- Avoid bright colored insects. Remember those colored dung flies? Colors are a flag for toxicity.
- Avoid brave bugs. As a rule of thumb, if a being is not afraid, that’s because nature has endowed it with a sort of defense mechanism, like venom.
- Crickets, locusts and roaches are the safest bets, but make sure to fry the latter. Just like in the case of rodents, they may carry diseases.
I know. It’s gross. Worms are probably among the healthiest source of protein in the wild, and are very easy to find anywhere: simply dig. Remember Walker Texas Ranger surviving on a can of boiled worms in the woods? That wasn’t sci-fi either. With worms, the rule is simple: Either fry or boil them, they are tastier than bugs (taste like corn), very nourishing, and there are no poisonous worms.
There are many frog species, and quite a lot of them secrete toxins. Some of them are effective after as little as licking the frog. In the US, there are four main species of edible frogs: the bullfrog, the green frog, the leopard frog, and the pickerel frog. The edible parts of the frog are the hind legs. Know that rigor mortis takes more time in a frog, as they are cold blooded animals, so when you heat them up they may still twitch.
All snakes are edible, in fact they’re a rather delicacy in Asia. Venom is only dangerous if it gets into your blood-stream, but your stomach acid will decompose its proteins. However, if you want to be on the safe side, just lop off the head of the snake before cooking it. The way to cook it is pretty much the same as for anything else: remove the skin, gut the snake, and cut it into pieces. The latter is the tricky part: try to cut between the ribs, because if you cut the ribs themselves they get lost in the meat and are hard to remove after cooking.
In the best case scenario of a survival situation, you will find game; don’t let the worst one be a case of root eating. Whatever you do, keep your hygiene as sturdy as possible. Even if you lack cosmetics, using nature’s oldest antiseptics can go a long way: fire and water. You will definitely want to check out also 52 Plants in the Wild You Can Eat.