I was asked recently if I eat cats.
My answer: “No.” My follow-up question: “Why would you think I did?”
As it turns out, my inquisitive friend had read on the BBC about a festival held in Peru during which participants partake of such delicacies as spicy cat stew and grilled cat with huacatay sauce.
I will admit that after six years of traveling to and living in Peru, I had never heard of such a thing. But now much of the world does.
The Gastronomic Festival of the Cat takes place as part of a larger religious celebration of Santa Efigenia held every September in La Quebrada, a coastal town south of Lima with a large population of Afro-Peruvians.
According to the BBC, the residents eat cat in honor of their early slave ancestors who, at times, survived only on the feline meat.
Cats are bread by the dozens especially for the event and served at food stands that pop up for the festival. It is said that the meat tastes like rabbit and works as an aphrodisiac.
Eating cat is not practiced regularly in Peru. The only other region thought to do so is Huari in Ancash, where cat is sometimes used as a replacement for cuy (guinea pig).
But in the rest of Peru, cats still mostly serve as the lazy house pets that we all know and love – or hate.