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nat intelligencer 924 33National Intelligencer, September 24, 1833. The faithful will recall that in a prior post we discussed the rumor, popularized by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers, that felis catus was standard ingredient of commercially-produced mince pie. Here’s an incident that lends color to the charge. I think the reference to gout has to do with the notion that it was a disease of gourmands and epicures, whose educated palates would not be fooled. Thanks to Melynda for pointing out that the reference is not to gout (painful crystals of uric acid in one’s joints) but gout (French for “taste”), and that the “victims” were not human consumers of cat meat but butchered tom cats whose gamy flavor failed to pass as bunny flesh. Gosh, do I ever have mince on my anthropocentric face.


  1. Mmmm, cats.

    An alternate reading is that the perp chose big old street cats whose taste (*gout* in French, the language of gastronomy) was unmistakeably cattish (gamy? predatory?), and not the tender bland white meat of rabbit.

    In either case, the image of the kitty abbatoir is not pleasing. Cats must have been a huge inconvenience, though; the references in popular fiction to drowning kittens are widespread and casual. Enterprising souls like this one just took it one step further, I guess.

    • My god, you are absolutely right! I missed the italics on gout and assumed (how anthropocentric of me) that the “victims” were consumers. I must needs run a correction. Thanks, Melynda.

  2. The wholly uncalled for (and inconsistent) italicization of *poor* later in the paragraph is at fault, I think, rather than your worldview.

    The more I think about it, the more I suspect that a kitchen-ready cat would be pretty hard to distinguish from its lapine counterpart–only the head, tail and paws would give the show away. Hence, I suppose, the low cunning of that soup for the poor.

  3. >The wholly uncalled for (and >inconsistent) italicization of *poor* >later in the paragraph is at fault, I >think, rather than your worldview.

    That’s a rock-solid alibi and I’ll take it.

    >a kitchen-ready cat would be pretty >hard to distinguish from its lapine >counterpart

    It’s partly for this reason that I gave up on cooking rabbit after two or three experiments. That plus the fact that it doesn’t taste like much.

  4. I was not aware that “selling cats for rabbits” was an English idiom as well. It exists in Spanish: “vender gato como liebre” means to pass off a cheap imitation as the genuine article.

    • That is a great expression in any language, but has never been, to my knowledge, an English idiom. I just did a search for it through various historical print databases and found no other instances. But I did discover that the above squib is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a longer item from the high-toned London Observer. I think what’s going on here is that the original author knew his romance languages and translated the expression for playful or show-offy effect. From there, it was just a game of transatlantic telephone, as the various hacks ripped and re-wrote the item to suit. I’ll post the original item later, along with a bunch of other felinophagia-related stories I just tripped across.

      CORRECTION: I’ve since found a couple of iterations of “selling cats for rabbits,” so maybe the phrase did have some currency. Anybody else ever run across this expression in print? I’m going to start using it, anyway. It’d be a great title for something too.

  5. What I find most amazing is that he got away with it for no less than 105 years.

    • Hmm. Quite. (Date corrected.)

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