Iguana Tonight


Alright, so it goes like this. “Do come over for dinner tonight, Rosie. We are cooking a Guyanese delicacy.” Pregnant iguana, no less. A speciality for July and August, apparently, because the female iguana is full of eggs, slow and easy to nobble with a gun. Isn’t that a bit unfair,I suggest? Cue general laughter. You know what the French are like. Eat anything, no matter how vulnerable, cute or furry. Or wierd. And French Guyana is officiallly part of Europe, of course. The sign on the door of our motel reads Bienvenue a France, even though we are also in the terrrain of soppingly humid 100 degree heat, spiders the size of dinner plates, flying cockroaches and big splashy palm trees.

Anyway, so we all troop round to Jules’ house. Jules is the local Chief of Police. The last time we were there, he had a break-in which was only thwarted when Honey who is 6 went to the loo and stumbled upon him.

Tonight, though, while we drink rum by the pool, as before, all the doors are locked. Jules’s friend Richard, who is chief of the gendarmes, has shot the iguana. Two iguanas, actually. As you will see on the video clip they are pretty spectacular. Spiny, huge, grey striped and beaded with blood. Terrifying claws. A giant reptilian head. And we have to eat these?

“Oh yes”, says Richard, “I do them fricasseed with herbs and spices. He also does anaconda, he tells me. Hangs them up from a hook 6 feet up, and skins them. This man is clearly a crack shot. He was taught to cook by his mother, who had an English father. Richard tells me that all English men know how to cook, sew and iron. Yes, well.

Anyway, Richard gets out his iguana and slaps them on a chopping board. At this juncture I go off and play Boxes with the kids, who are looking a bit pale. At our feet is a terrapin in a washing up bowl. It is trapped and so am I, facing a certain meal of iguana for supper.

Two hours later, and after quite a lot of rum has been downed, the iguana arrives. Ready for supper. Chopped, marianaded, spiced and indeed, fricaseed. The skin is still sitting on large chunks of flesh, which is a bit terrifying. There are loads of rib-bones, and some frilly bits of spine. The head, mercifully, has gone. But iguana eggs, yolk-yellow and as big as gobstoppers, float around in the casserole. Eggs. I’ll cope with the meat, I decide but there is no way I am dealing with one of those globes in my mouth. I’d feel too much like someone on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, eating something vile from a slug.

“You must try it, Rosie,” everyone choruses, laughing uproariously. To my horror I see Mr Millard tucking into spine, frilly bits of fin, and god knows what. I know, its the first lesson of going abroad, dont be rude and eat whatever you are offered, and I dont want to be rude, so I have a go. I pick some of the tender meat from the bones and try to avoid looking at the pieces of striped skin on my plate. Now I know how my children feel when I force them to eat something which I think is delicious and they think highly suspicious.

The iguana tastes strongly of cloves and, er, lizard. The meat is lean, and red, and probably very healthy. But do I like it? It’s a struggle, I have to say. Then I explain to the assembled company what is involved in the eating and preparation of a haggis. They all fall under the table with horror. Bon appetit.

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