Thursday, July 2, 2009

What does Camel taste like?

After I wrote the rant below yesterday, H.H. the Chairman showed up with a huge platter of roasted camel and rice for all of the staff. I had heard that camel was a local delicacy - heard and shuddered at the thought to be honest. They also sell camel milk in the grocery store and I almost brought myself to buy a small one, but then thought better of it since my gag reflex started at the thought of it.

Anyway, H.H. ordered a camel (with rice) and all staff were expected to show up and eat (I am not sure what the Vegetarians did). I temporarily thought of pretending I was Jewish to avoid eating it (everyone knows I am not vegetarian). Actually, I might not be pretending if I said that, my German Great Grandfather's last name was Lehr which is common among Jewish people especially in the area of Nebraska where he lived; and he had black hair and eyes and was as dark as a medium complected Arab, so though he kept mum on the subject of his origins, there is a good chance he was either a German Jew or a German Gypsy; whatever he was, he certainly didn't look Teutonic.

For those who are wondering / don't know what eating Camel meat or rather NOT eating it has to do with being Jewish, Camel meat is not kosher, for the same reason pork is not, or rather it does not pass because of the same rule that prevents pork from being acceptable. There are two criteria that an animal had to meet to be acceptable as food for the Children of Israel.

In the book of Leviticus (3rd book of the Old Testament - part of the Torah)
Lev 11:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,
Lev 11:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Lev 11:3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Lev 11:4 Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. Lev 11:5 And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. Lev 11:6 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. Lev 11:7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Lev 11:8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

Sorry for the "eths" and all that, but the only copy of the Bible I have is in King James English - plus it was what my Dad always read, so I actually prefer the sound of it. Anyway, for those who got lost in all the ethththths, basically, the rule was they were only supposed to eat animals that have cloven hoofs AND chew the cud and not animals that did not fit both categories.
*Coney, a translation of the Hebrew Bible word שָּׁפָן (shaphan), in modern Engilsh "rock hyrax" (a rodent-like member of the order Hyracoidea)

Anyway, walking over to the other building where that camel fest was set up, we were speculating what it tastes like. My guess was that it would taste like beef - everything that doesn't taste like Chicken pretty much tastes like beef - including giraffe and zebra.
Yes, I have eaten giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, cape buffalo, antelope, ostrich, and crocodile too!

There is a restaurant / nightclub in Nairobi called The Carnivore Simba Saloon. It is a big, open air African style structure (with Makuti (grass) roof). During the day it is just Restaurant, and these days I don't know how popluar it is, but back in the day when I was just a wee lass of 20 it was quite the happening spot for night-life that was popular among Nairobi's middle and upper classes - which meant it was frequented by a lot of Kenyans of South Asian origin. They used to play a nice mix of Western, Arabic, African and Indian - especially Punjabi (Bhangra) dance music. My husband was the Bhangra king of Nairobi (as in dancer - he was tone deaf and couldn't sing to save his own life) - which should have been a warning sign but I was too naive to know better. Anyway, one of the specialties in the restaurant was the all you can eat barbecue - the waiters would come around with roasted meat of various game animals on a spit and carve it right onto the plates of anyone who wanted a taste. My husband and I tried pretty much everything except for Wild Boar. It ALL tasted like beef, except for the crocodile which was sort of like chicken and sort of the like fish (white meat).

So, once I rembered that giraffe and zebra taste like beef, I got over my fear of trying camel meat, though the huge carcass looked kind of scary and off-putting and there was a huge thick layer of fat between the skin and the meat that was kind of disturbing looking - or maybe that was the hump? I don't know because by the time I got there is was already split open and half finished. Most of the employees, including the local ones, had never tried camel meat before and were kind of hesitant. Fatema and I got Abdul from accounts to taste it first and tell us how it was, once he said it was OK, we tried it, and sure enough, it tastes just like beef.

For anyone else interested in what the Bible has to say about what critters are permissible for the Children of Israel to eat, see Leviticus Chapter 11.

Basically Kosher is similar to Halal in many ways but has more restrictions. Muslims eat some animals (like camels) that God (through Moses) told the Hebrews not to eat.

Meat Grilling at the
Carnivore Simba Saloon Nairobi (Pictures not my own)


Anonymous said...

Scuse me, i have an curiosity...what religion do u follow up?

Anonymous said...

I dunno, I think I wouldn't want to eat camel because they're such a cute animal.

Puça said...

Uffff I find camil so cute and exotic that is very difficult for me thinking of eating it. I fact I can't eat rabbit for the same thing. In here there are some restaurants that offer zebra ans all those animals you've said but I'm unable to try....not for the taste..for them....

Ahavah said...

This is an excellent posting with photos of said offering - I am shocked at just HOW BIG this piece of meat is... grief - its the size of a whole cow!

and nope (shakes head in digust and rushes to bathroom) I wouldn't be eating it.... beside from being totally unadventurous - I'm a veggi (phew what a relief)!

Lisa said...

Thanks for providing the photos. That sweet, tall, blonde lady looks a little timid about the whole thing, poor girl. Is your boss in the photo sweetie?

I think it's neat that you've tried so many things!

My thing though is that if it tastes like beef anyway, why are they bothering? Camels could be used to haul things knowing that they can survive without hardly any water in the desert. Not to mention for their milk output....

Love this post, very interesting. Ha ha the boss thinks he's making up for all he's done wrong :) Love you lots.

Lisa said...

Your husband a dancer! I was laughing so hard about that one sweetie. You poor dear, yes that would have been a red flag, I would have likely ignored it as well. Love you and sorry for all you'e dealt with!

desertmonsoon said...

Well, I don't think I will ever eat it again. The idea of it is like, well like eating a horse. But the Chairman was standing right there - so it was kind of hard to refuse and say no and I am not a vegetarian so I didn't have any excuse.

Elephants meat isn't served at the Carnivore, because they are endangered but things like Zebra and wildebeest are over abundant - I figure it is part of nature for carnivores / omnivores to eat meat. Wildebeests basically look like some kind of wild cow to me. And as far as being cute goes, well cows are pretty cute actually and I eat beef so logically the only thing holding me back was that I had never done it before.

My boss is not in this photo - he and the Chairman were standing off to the side.

Yes my husband was quite the bangra dancer back in his glory days. He used to win bangra competitions - all of the little Indian girls in Nairobi had crushes on him. I think that is another reason why he is with his current girlfriend she was a grade or two below him in school and had a crush on him - through her he can relive his glory days, when he had lots of potential and possibilities to be anything he wanted to be instead of the washed up overweight jerk that he turned out to be.

Lisa said...

Hi DesertMonsoon! Hope things are getting better with work now. I totally understand you eating the camel meat, and hope you are well. Love you lots!

Lisa said...

I just awarded you at my public blog! Love you lots!

Tuttie said...

the lady all covered up in black...yup that would have been me. I would not have eaten but I wouldn't know what excuse to give.