By Doug Patteson
“No way. I’m not eating that. Fucking crazy Americans.”
If we hunted it, we at least ate some of it. That had been the pattern for most of the week on safari in South Africa’s North West Province. But when the zebra Dave shot was put in the salt, almost universally the South Africans said “we are not eating that.” Most foreign hunters take zebra for the hide and maybe a Euro mount, but never for the meat.
They had said the same about eating the game birds – Egyptian geese, francolin, guinea hens and the like. Generally speaking they just said: “This is Africa, all those are just too tough.” So much of SA reminded me of South Texas; it made no sense that their birds (or other game animals for that matter) would be any tougher than ours.
But it was clear that the reaction to the idea of eating zebra was at least as much an emotional reaction as anything else.
Call them pajama donkeys or disco ponies. They look like a horse, or a fat pony at least. Beautiful but hardy animals that suddenly blend into the background, their stripes surprisingly helpful in that regard. Countless stalks on other animals have been blown.
Each night, Louie would throw the backstraps from the day’s animals on the braai. Nothing but salt and pepper, with maybe some dipping sauce on the side, as we sat around the boma with a Castle Lager, brandy & Coke or Amarula on the rocks talking over the day’s adventures and misadventures. On average we’d have about 3 different animals each night. Over the week impala, nyala, kudu, bushbuck, ostrich, wildebeest, blesbuck, warthog, hartebeest and others made their appearance on the braai. Some were better than others, but all were good.
Even the Americans balked a little at zebra. Marty? We can’t eat Marty.
The PHs quickly disabused us of our misconceptions about zebras. They are not “cute and cuddly”; they are mean as hell. They are not “just like horses”; they are damn near impossible to domesticate. They are a game animal just like all the other plains game we hunted.
Louie decided tonight’s game braai was going to be a blind taste test. No one would know what they’d eaten until all had tried all the options. And everyone would rank their favorite from 1-3. That night it was kudu vs impala vs zebra. And everyone walked into it with what they thought their favorite would be, and no one’s money was on the pajama donkey.
By now you can guess where this is going, though no one there did. Zebra won by a long shot. The subtly sweet and rich game meat cooked medium rare was perfect. Tender and juicy, it bowled everyone over. And hilariously, the South Africans didn’t believe Louie when he told them. They all thought it was the kudu. By the time we headed in for our formal dinner, the board with the zebra on it had been picked clean, while the others still had some meat there.
Healthwise? No contest. We should all be eating it. Super lean with 1/10 the fat of beef and 35 grams of protein per serving, plus it’s packed with zinc and omega 3 fatty-acids that support muscle repair and improve heart health and your immune system.
But is that why you should eat it?
You should eat it because it’s delicious and don’t make excuses for it.