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Published: August 21st 2013
After my last entry, I feel encouraged to write a bit of a lighter post. While life in Malawi is admittedly taxing, there are definitely a number of fun and adventurous things to do here as well!
Alas, when I first arrived in Malawi about eight months ago, I would often see boys and young men trying to sell something on a stick to motorists passing by. At first I thought it was some sort of dried fruit...then I thought it was an upside-down chicken. It was not until I asked one of my Malawian colleagues that I discovered that it was actually mice-on-a-stick, a very popular 'snack' food in the southern region of Malawi.
After learning about this Malawian culinary tradition, I became intrigued as to how it began. As it turns out, mice-on-a-stick has been popular in Malawi for decades, even before the famine in the early 2000s (which is when I assumed it began). The snack food is most popular right after the corn harvest season (March-May), when the mice are plump and juicy from eating all of the grains. As for how they are prepared, it turns out that each mice vendor cooks them a
The larger ones look more like small cats than mice.
bit differently, with preparations ranging from boiled to barbecued to marinated in mango juice! As you can see from the picture, the mice also vary tremendously in size, which is due to the fact that there are a number of different mouse species in Malawi, the most common being the Kapuku (the smaller ones with short tails).
Like most ex-pats, I was initially disgusted by the idea of eating mice-on-a stick. After telling some of my friends back in the United States about this local delicacy, a few asked if I would ever try one, to which I immediately responded, "heeeell no!" But after some weeks passed, I started to entertain the idea more and more. And, finally, after a long conversation with my older brother about the mice, he dared me to eat one and take a picture of it- a challenge that I just could not turn down.
So, during the last few weeks of mice-on-a-stick season, I went on a mission to find some during my weekend trips to/from Blantyre. Thankfully, during the very last week of the season (the end of May), I happened upon an older man selling some mice-on-a-stick. While I was
...with the $1000 kwacha reward.
initially a bit hesitant to follow-through with my plan, my friend Lily refused to let me back-down, and further encouraged me with a $1000 kwacha reward (about 3 US dollars). After explaining our situation to the mouse vendor, I then got out of the car and held the stick of dead mice in hand, each mouse still covered in fur. After taking a deep breath, I then ripped the back off of one of the unfortunate mice with my teeth and swallowed, holding back any instinctive gag reflexes. Surprisingly, the mouse actually tasted quite good (kind of like bacon!), suggesting that I had happened upon the rare barbecue variety. I have to say that, overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience; and, while there are certainly more palatable dishes to try in Malawi, I would definitely recommend mice-on-a-stick to any other adventurous ex-pats traveling through the area.
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