NANFA-- lampreys on the menu

Christopher Scharpf (
Thu, 13 Jan 2000 20:21:08 -0400

Moon asked:

>The real question here is can lampreys be eaten? Down here where I live we
>categorize animals per their edibility.

The answer is, yes. They may seem unappetizing to modern palates, but lampreys
were quite a delicacy in centuries past. In Europe, lampreys were drowned in
wine and then stewed. King Henry I was a lamprey connoisseur who is said to have
died from a "surfeit of lampreys." In ancient Rome, where cooks fattened up
lampreys in special ponds, a friend of Augustus Caesar believed lampreys that
fed on humans had a more delicate flavor. So he banished disobedient slaves into
his pond for lamprey food!

For many Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest, lampreys were as
highly valued as salmon. Indians collected the lampreys at night with a dipnet,
or by picking them off the rocks with their hands wrapped inside wool socks.
Lampreys were boiled, grilled, smoked, or skewered on sticks and left to dry in
the sun. Fat dripping from lampreys cooking on the fire was used for lamp oil
and medicine.

Tribal oral histories abound with amusing anecodotes of lampreys wrapping around
arms and clinging to their human predators However, it seems no one left a
lamprey on long enough to see if it had a taste for human flesh!

Chris "Jawless" Scharpf

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