Colored lights flashed in synch to deep booming bass, filling a small home in Santa Cruz with enthusiastic dancing and lively chatter. Many of the guests did not realize that on a dark patio illuminated by the glow of the BBQ grill, something special was being prepared. Cnelson and I bought lion to the party.
Yes, real African lion. No, it’s not endangered. It grew on an American farm and came from Exotic Meat Markets.
A few years ago, I heard that you could order lion online. I found Exotic Meat Markets, but lion was out of price range for me. Ground and stew meat runs at about $150/lb and leg will run you about $600. A month later, the lion was marked unavailable. I checked periodically for lion for about two years. A week ago, I noticed that I could actually order lion.. AND.. it’s on sale! So we grab it, and get it sent to JeffE and vyrus’s house in Santa Cruz where friends from all over the US would converge. The meat had been butchered the day before.
Cnelson made mini-burgers, and he and vyrus grilled it to about medium rare. We only seasoned it with salt and pepper. I took the first bite, and was completely unsure what to expect. The first thing that hit me was that the flavor was mellow. Not like chicken, but definitely in that lean-meat family. It was chewy, but in a silky soft way. I mostly was excited that we had a super rare opportunity to eat a meat that not many have tried. In that spirit, we shared our one pound of mini-burgers with as many friends as possible, each person taking a bite (I think about 15 people had some). Even Eliot, our resident vegetarian, had a taste.
“I found it to be very similar to bison,” said Jeff E the next day. “It’s very lean, puffy and loose meaty, with lots of goodish meat scent. Kinda gamey maybe like rabbit or something, but not overly juicy or watery. Vyrus and CP generally agree.”
“My bite was a combination of firm and fluffy, kind of like the denser popcorn kernels. And the fat content seemed to have more umami than cattle,” said Seric. “More like duck or rabbit fat. The flavor I was getting almost seemed to taste like bone marrow.”
Afterwords, discussion lead to wether this was the only meat-fed meat we’ve had. We wondered what the lion’s diet actually consisted of.
Many of us own cats, and eating lion never really felt like eating a cat to us. It mostly just felt special, since it was a chance that was unlikely to arise again. It’s also nice to be at the top of the food chain for a couple minutes. Since not many lions are available for consumption, while I really did enjoy the meat, I’m not sure I’d eat it again just so other people have the opportunity to try it.
The other unusual thing we ordered from Exotic Meats was a sweet italian Kangaroo sausage. It was absolutely amazing, with a rich, dense, deliciousness. We cut them into tiny pieces and walked a plate around the party.. nearly everyone tried it and loved it. Would definitely grab it again. Kangaroos are cute, but I’ve heard they’re jerks, so I don’t mind eating them often.
The entire weekend was super fun. Aside from our lion-tasting experience, cstone built a pager network! He had a handful of old pagers, and got them working. Cnelson busted some code out on the spot so that we could text a number and send pages to each other. I had forgotten how much fun they were. The beeps sounded like a fire alarm, and with all the smoke and meat smell from the BBQ, it was a little confusing.
Dual Core busted out some rhymes, Keith Myers played some music, and vyrus manned a grill for like 11 hours. The bacon was flowing, and everything we got to try was really, really good.
Thank you Jeff and vyrus, for making us mind-blowingly good foods and letting us cook up our lion on your grill!