Indignant environmentalists have had plenty of grist for the mill recently with the hot debate over Japan’s renewed slaughter of endangered fin, minke, and humpback whales in the Antarctic for what they call “scientific research.” Said research is a loophole in the 1986 worldwide moratorium on whaling that allows the killing of a couple hundred of the animals each year. The results of the research seem to be fairly elusive, mostly along the lines of the Relationship of Explosive-Harpoon Size to Tastiness in Intelligent Cetaceans. But for Japanese officials, it’s a matter of honor and national pride, on a level with asking Texans to give up rodeos.
For Jouzu Bagofdonuts, though, the issue seems to be purely academic. Whale meat or kujira, I’m told, is disgusting: oily, tough, and tasteless. At a class I taught last weekend with five adult Japanese women, a couple of them recalled eating it after WWII, when there was little else available. Now, they’d sooner eat a whole raw octopus. (Actually, scratch that metaphor. Whole raw octopus is a treat here.) My point is that they couldn’t care less whether they have ready access to whale meat in the kitchen.
In any event, I’m told I can find canned kujira at any major supermarket. I’m not crazy about contributing to the appearance of demand for the stuff by buying it. But I feel kind of obligated to try it. For the record, I’ve eaten raw whale before – in the summer of 1987, which I spent in an Eskimo community called Barrow in northern Alaska. It was called muktuk there, which is a pretty good description of what I remember it tasting like.
I’ll report back when I’ve tasted the local variety. The whole raw octopus is, I’m afraid, not going to happen, so there’s no point waiting for it.