What's On The Menu?
Date Added: Jan. 15, 2005
As if the proliferation of faked photos online wasn't enough, another popular pasttime among e-mail hoaxters is to take real photographs that may seem odd to the lay person and crafting a compelling, often shocking, but totally false story around them. That's what we have here.
THIS IS NOT CHICKEN.. LOOK HARDER...
A popular Asian/Chinese restaurant bistro here in Atlanta was closed down this morning after authorities received a tip that the owner was accepting shipments of rats and mice from a vendor to prepare in his dishes. The owner and his wife were arrested early this morning and charges are not known at this time. After a full search of the kitchen, authorities found, packaged rats, mice, kittens, puppies and a large frozen hawk. The restaurant is a popular gathering spot for local celebrities such as Whitney Houston and husband Bobby Brown, Jermaine Dupree, Janet Jackson, Usher, Monica, Puffy, TI, Ludacris, Lil Jon, Toni Braxton, TLC and others. The restaurant has locations off Peachtree Road and Alpharetta near North Pointe Mall.
Urban legends are expressions of societal fears and taboos, laid out in supposedly real stories that are passed from person to person. For many, foreign cuisine is a thing of mystery. We recognize that different cultures accept different things as food and what one culture considers a delicacy, another may find inedible or even immoral. This leads some to fear that when sampling ethnic food, we may be tricked into eating something we find totally unacceptable, while remaining totally unaware.
As you might suspect, legends with a visual element are often more compelling than the standard word-of-mouth variety. The pictures being circulated with the chain letter above are not nauseating images of a shipment of foodstuffs intended for human consumption confiscated by officials. What you are looking at, rather, are packages of frozen rodents, often called "pinkies" or "fuzzies," sold as food for reptiles. The coins and dollar bills shown in the photos are used in pet supply catalogs and Web sites to give prospective buyers an idea of the animals' size, to help them determine if they would be an appropriate meal for their snakes, lizards, etc.
So, could a restaurant be buying reptile food with the intent of passing it on to unsuspecting human customers? While this scenario is certainly feasible, it's also highly improbable. As you can see in the photos above, these animals are very tiny. Getting enough meat from them to craft a convincing dish would probably be labor-intensive and most definitely cost-prohibitive, with the smallest, quarter-sized specimens above retailing for about $.30 each and the larger, dollar-sized ones bringing $2.00 or more apiece - so we can definitely write off cost savings as a motivation.
I could find no reliable news reports of a high-end Atlanta-area restaurant being shut down and its proprietors jailed for attempting to serve rats, mice and other animals considered unpalatable by most westerners. The letter above isn't dated, though it first appeared online early in 2005. Also, while dropping several celebrities' names, it does not actually identify the offending eatery. It does give an unusually detailed description of the location. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the Atlanta area and an online search of Atlanta businesses revealed many Asian restaurants on or near Peachtree Road in that city. None came up in searches of news articles, however. For now, we'll have to label this one "legend." Break this chain.
References: Atlanta Magazine: 100 Best Restaurants, Google Search: "Frozen Rodents"