Friday, June 11, 2010

Darwin's Dinner

Darwin, like most early voyagers, ate tortoise meat during his stay in the Galapagos:
During our residence of two days at the Hovels, we lived on the meat of the Tortoise fried in the transparent Oil, which is procured from the fat. The Breast-plate with the meat attached to it, is roasted as the Gauchos do the “Carne con cuero”. It is then very good. Young Tortoises make capital soup; otherwise the meat is but—to my taste—indifferent food.
He also described both the land iguanas and the marine iguanas that we enjoyed seeing last week -- and mentioned using the land iguanas for food. (We once tried braised iguana at a restaurant in Curacao -- tastes like chicken.) From Darwin's diary:
We here have another large Reptile in great numbers; it is a great Lizard, from 10-15 lb. in weight & 2-4 feet in length; is in structure closely allied to those “imps of darkness” which frequent the sea-shore. This one inhabits burrows to which it hurries when frightened, with quick & clumsy gait. They have a ridge & spines along the back; are colored an orange yellow, with the hinder part of back brick red. They are hideous animals; but are considered good food: this day forty were collected.
I'm fascinated by the term "imps of darkness" for the marine iguanas. One night during our trip, I dreamed about these creatures as if they were from a Grimm's Fairy Tale. The comparison between them and supernatural imps seems so natural.

Marine Iguana


Jeanie said...

Imps of darkness. What a perfectly descriptive phrase! I wonder -- do they taste like chicken?!

Mae Travels said...

I don't know, Jeanie. The iguana we ate in Curacao did taste like chicken, but the black Galapagos marine iguanas smell so horrible I doubt if they would taste at all palatable!