Lizard eating tradition

Tradition of eating lizards in Spain

(Many thanks to Stephen Daly of Andalusian Guides for the photo of an ocellated lizard)

In some parts of rural Spain , there is (or was) a tradition of eating lizards, always the larger lagartos (often ocellated). I had a student in Zaragoza who would eat them once a year as part of his village’s festivities. The Barcelona author Juan Goytisolo mentions the custom in his 1959 ‘Campos de Nijar’, a description of his travels around a poverty stricken Almeria . Here he is sharing the back of a lorry with gold miners:

“The road crosses a stream of stones. We drive up the slope and up again, the landscape is almost lunar. Parched white land, scrub and screes follow each other until they disappear over the horizon. The floor is covered in stone fragments. In summer the stones retain the heat and bake until cracking. In various kilometres around there’s not a single tree to be seen.

-Look

The man with the rope points out a lizard of more than half a metre long: It sits still on the edge of the road and seems unconcerned by our passing.

-If we’d stopped for a moment, I’d’ve caught it. The people round eat them.

I tell him that in some villages in Catalonia the farmers often eat them roasted.

- We eat them cooked in tomato, with spot of garlic and parsley. They’re delicious.

The toad-like Spanish gourmet Nestor Luján enjoyed lizard recommending the Extramaduran recipe in a salsa verde with white wine. He claimed they tasted of the country, of thyme, of rosemary, and though unable to precise a flavour to describe them proclaimed they were delicious.

Times have changed however. The late-great Marxist gourmet and thriller writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán noted in his culinary ‘Diccionario Indispensable para la Supervivencia’ (2003) that ” given the rarity of this simpatico animal, it would better not to eat it, but to give it things to eat .”

Just in case you get any bright ideas, OCELLATED LIZARDS ARE NOW PROTECTED!

The Iberianature guide to Spain

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