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Monday, November 13th, 2023

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Guess what! Nutria are back in the news. Recent press reports indicate that these pesky rodents are moving inland to gnaw away at our swamplands. These little critters are taking over the state. With so many problems on Louisiana’s plate, add to the list what we can do about the onslaught and continuing invasion of nutria. That’s right. 

And we even have U.S. Senators from both parties in Washington joining forces in trying to stop this assault on the Bayou State.  Now remember, that there is almost no cooperation among each political party in Washington.  But the nutria blitz has brought together both sides of the normally partisan spectrum. Louisiana’s own, Senator John Kennedy has reached across the aisle joined by democratic senators to offer bipartisan legislation that will fund a more aggressive effort to wipe out these swamp-like beavers.  “Nutria have devoured miles of our marshes, and some areas have no chance of growing back. This bill would help prevent these invasive swamp rats from further destroying Louisiana’s marshland,” said Senator Kennedy.

This ongoing effort to eliminate nutria is nothing new down here in bayou country.  Efforts have been going on for years to try and keep these pesky varmints out of Louisiana.  The state even pays $6.00 a hide to hunters who bring in nutria pelts.  But so far to little avail.  So let me put forth another idea.  Now don’t roll your eyes or hold on to your stomach.  How about skinning, roasting or pan searing, then (gulp!) eating these invaders out of our marshland?

Now slow down and don’t get your dander up.  Remember that we eat about anything down here in the deepest of the deep southern states.  Some folks might even feel that if we could stick a bike tire in fried batter, we just might eat it.

As a sole attorney practitioner in Ferriday back in the 70s, I took about any case that walked in the door. Often, my clients were slow paying, or could not pay anything at all. Hunting has always been quite prevalent in northeast Louisiana, and clients would drop off an array of creatures from the wild. I was never short of deer meat, ducks, wild geese, doves, squirrels, racoons, frogs, catfish; the assortment of outdoor delicacies seemed endless. And yes, even nutria. Luckily, we had a large freezer in which to pack my culinary acquisitions.

My home back then was a mile off the highway with access by a dirt road that turned to mud in the winter. Often it was hard to get out of the house, even with my winch-loaded truck. So on rainy weekends, we experimented with creating a variety of recipes using our varied meat collection. Nutria weren’t around back then in any significant numbers. A backyard garden added to the flavors, and weekend cookery became a de rigueur ritual. Out of all this gastronomic adventure came my cookbook, Jim Brown’s World-Famous Squirrel Stew and other Country Recipes, available at www.TheLisburnPress.com.

So how about them nutria? They only eat plants. Can you believe that famous New Orleans chefs like Suzanne Spicer and John Besh argue that nutria meat is very high in protein, low in fat and actually healthy to eat? There are a number of ways these chefs and many others prepare the meat.  You can try Ragondin salad.  (Ragondin is French for nutria.  Sounds a bit more agreeable to eat.) Soupe au Ragondin, Heart Healthy “Crock-Pot” Nutria, nutria jambalaya, even Nutria fettuccini.  And of course you could stir up nutria in sauce piquante, etouffee, and bisque.

So I say you should break out the barbecue tongs and give this exotic dish a try.  And such a gastronomic effort will help wipe out these critters from out marshlands.  Over nine million nutria have been taken in the state over the past 15 years. But there are still plenty to go around.

And I can even suggest a Louisiana state slogan to go along with the new campaign.  “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!”

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

 Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also listen to his regular podcast at www.datelinelouisiana.com.








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