by Tom Finkel
Officials in Lincoln County are blaming the breach in the Mississippi River levee at Winfield on...
Muskrat holes weakened a Mississippi River levee on Friday, allowing floodwaters to pour into Lincoln County, Missouri, just north of St. Louis, officials said.
Sheriff's deputies alerted residents to evacuate, yelling "get out, the levee broke" as they went door-to-door in the affected areas, according to an Associated Press report....
Though overnight rains were reported in the area, officials speaking at a Friday morning press conference said muskrats looking for food or making dens had dug into the earthen levee, weakening it enough that nature took care of the rest....
Unreal's heart goes out to the residents of Lincoln County.
As for the muskrats, well, perhaps a bit of population control is in order. And although the little critters are kinda homely, some say they make for good eatin'.
Back in 2005 in "Eat More Beaver," a story about Missourians' taste for uncommon game, RFT's own Chad Garrison wrote that "[m]uskrat, sold under the pseudonym 'marsh hare,' was a popular turn-of-the-century dish in many of the finer restaurants of the northeast."
The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook, perhaps the foremost depository of recipes for North American game, likens the taste of muskrat to that of duck, and sort of like turtle. Raccoon the book describes as tasting akin to squirrel and better than rabbit.
In his book Fowl and Game Cookery, the late James Beard, considered by many the "godfather" of American cuisine, describes muskrat as having a pleasant flavor but filled with so many bones that "it's hardly worth the effort."
But Larry Forgione, who'd recently opened what might be St. Louis' classiest restaurant, An American Place, was game to give muskrat a go as part of a special tasting menu for Garrison and a few invited guests.
Forgione employed the rodent as the centerpiece of the second course.
"The Asian-style marsh hare wonton is definitely a step up," Garrison wrote. "The wontons are in a sesame-spiked soy sauce and seasoned with shiitake mushrooms, ginger and cilantro -- you'd hardly know you were eating muskrat. Ground into tiny patties, the meat inside the wonton is dark and rich, its gamey flavor an excellent complement to the salty sweetness of the soy sauce."
Statistics from the prior year indicated that trappers in Missouri and Illinois harvested more than 45,000 muskrats -- principally for their fur. But the meat is sold on a limited basis at Soulard Market.