Animals/Meat, Meat/Animals. When I first cut my teeth as a carnivore I identified not the animal I was ingesting, but the way in which it was prepared. Bolognese wasn’t beef, or pork, or veal mince, it was just Bolognese. Meat Lovers Pizza was a pizza for lovers of meat, not a farmyard massacre with cheese. Sausages – meat. Rissoles – meat. Hamburgers – not ever made with ham, but what’s ham anyway? Meat. Unless the animal was mentioned explicitly – a la Kentucky Fried Chicken – I was blissfully unaware. And even then, if challenged to a blind taste test I would have struggled to distinguish one beast from another. Who hasn’t picked up a lamb chop from the BBQ to find it tastes identical to the sausages and steak it was cooked beside? Though puberty and the coinciding conscience saw animals stricken from the menu, half my lifetime later I have dared my palate and loosened the restrictive reigns. A trip to South Africa tests my grip; teeming with both hungry people and majestic (edible) creatures, the argument for and against eating animals, any animals, is writ large. Moyo is a chain of kitsch African-themed eateries, with woodcarvings, excessive animal print, live drummers and a gift shop. We order a selection of tapas plates as starters; the medallion of kudu sirloin with raw macadamia and garlic sauce (69 rand) is like a large greyish brown African antelope with annulated spirally twisted horns. Grilled. With face-melting garlic sauce. The ostrich berbere (79 rand) is a swift-footed two-toed flightless ratite bird of Africa that is the largest of existing birds and often weighs 140kgs, marinated in a classic Ethiopian blend of cloves, cardamom, ginger and cayenne pepper. The berbere in intense and could infuse a sock with the same flavour as this giant bird. My main course is Lephalale springbok shanks (159 rand), the part of the leg between knee and ankle of the swift and graceful southern Africa gazelle, Antidorcas marsupialis, braised and served with apricot and bitter almond chutney. The almonds add to the already acrid spice mix, the meat is fatty and lamb-y, served just short of a slow-cook and tougher and drier than ideal. Again, a spicy sports sock springs to mind. We all avoid thinking about the animals we’re eating – no one wants to chow down on Bambi or Phar Lap or Lassie; but when so many have so little, who’s to discriminate? There are children starving in Africa. And, if it all tastes like chicken in the end, I’m going to try everything that’s placed in front of me – from cow to kudu, tongue to tail.
*My dinner at Moyo was hosted by South African Tourism. Still, some stuff tasted like socks.