We were visiting a daughter on a year-abroad study in Rome about 10 years ago and eating our way through lunch and dinner at some fine ristorantes. One night, a group of young friends invited us out to a wine bar in Trastevere. I was very involved in trying to follow the conversation in Italian and just pointed to something called “cavallo stufato’’ on the menu when the waiter came to take our order. Still distracted, I started eating it when it arrived. Right away, I knew something was funny. It tasted gamy, sour and had an unfamiliar texture. I thought it might be rancid beef. “What is this?’’ I cried out after the first bite.
“You ordered horse meat stew,’’ said our daughter. “People eat it here all the time.’’ You don't want to know the details of my reaction. Besides being physically ill, I was sick at heart.
As are so many people in Ireland, England and France, where a horse meat scandal is galloping through the news. According to World News on NBCnews.com:
“The issue first came to light on Jan. 15 when routine tests by Irish authorities discovered horse meat in beef burgers made by firms in Ireland and Britain and sold in supermarket chains including Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer.
“Concern grew last week when the British unit of frozen foods group Findus began recalling its beef lasagna on advice from its French supplier, Comigel, after tests showed concentrations of horse meat ranging from 60 to 100 percent.
“Meanwhile in France, an investigation into how horse meat found its way into prepared meals in Europe discovered that a French processing company called Spanghero sold what could have been horse meat as beef, officials said Thursday.’’
There is also concern about the meat being tainted with Phenylbutazone, a potentially harmful anti-inflammatory not approved for humans, according to news reports.
I can only feel somewhat better knowing that in the United States, eating horses is generally taboo, and many states have awarded horses pet status. Horse meat is an entree I never want to stumble upon again.