It tastes like rabbit, and it comes from Tasmania. Possums have turned up on an adventurous chef’s menu at a regional Victorian restaurant.
“It’s very much like rabbit meat, a bit more tasty, a bit more moist. It’s not too gamey, as you would expect,” said Leoni Clayton, the chef at the Goldfields Comfort Inn in Stawell.
She has experimented with different forms of the bush meat, including possum pie and cassoulet over the past few months.
“You can’t compare it to chicken or anything like that,” she told ABC Radio. “I can’t think of anything else that would come close to it.”
“I’ve done cooking competitions in Melbourne where I’ve used rabbit and even what you’d call toxic weeds.
“There’s lots of talk about alpaca meat. I love to try new things and to see how it goes with the public.”
She said a supplier approached her four months ago when they were asked to source possum meat for another buyer, and asked her whether she wanted some.
“He knows me… he knows I’ll try anything new as long as it’s ethical and nothing untoward,” she said.
I’ve used rabbit and even what you’d call toxic weeds
She said the dishes had been incredibly popular, but that the restaurant experienced a backlash as word started to spread about her use of the emblematic animal which once graced the one-cent piece.
Ms Clayton said she was shocked at some of the angry responses.
“People are just wanting to try it [in the restaurant]. I expected a few comments … but not to the extent that it’s actually hit, and quite aggressive some of it,” she said.
“I’ve always served kangaroo on my menus, no one’s ever commented on that. They’re culled, the kangaroos I’ve put on.
“You just think to yourself why this reaction when yes, people do eat cats and dogs overseas, it’s the way they eat, it’s their form of life.
“What’s so bad about using meat that’s actually ethically sourced?”
Indigenous chef Mark said he had been cooking with possum, kangaroo, emu and crocodile for almost 30 years.
“It’s the way we think about what we eat and where we get it from,” he said.
“We don’t go to the butchers and ask for a kilo of sheep, pig, or cow, it’s actually the cut.
“People instantly associate the animal in their head and that’s where they baulk. They think they’re cute, gorgeous and they are.
“I think lambs are cute, but I still eat them. We need to put it all in context.”
Ms Clayton said her experiment with possum was about working with different meats, not “going out with a shotgun and killing off our endangered species”.
“I love animals, I’ve always had pets. I cried when I had to put my 15-year-old guinea pig down.
“It’s not a thing about going out and killing wildlife, its about what can we do to make food interesting.
“It actually was selling well but it probably won’t now, so I’ll have to change the menu.”
She said it is illegal to kill possums in Victoria, but was sourcing farmed meat from Tasmania.
“Please don’t go out and shoot beautiful possums that are living wild, but if it’s ethically sourced I have no problem with it.”
– with ABC