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10 Delicious Recipes Made With Invasive Species

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Wanna help the environment? Grab some plates. In this globalized era, invasive organisms have become a threat that demands the attention of every country on earth. Luckily, many transplanted species just happen to make for good eating—so, in honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, we’ve gathered 11 awesome recipes that will help you bite back and dazzle your dinner guests in one eco-friendly stroke.

1. Lionfish Nachos

These predators definitely fall into the “pretty-but-deadly” category. Venomous, fast-breeding lionfish are currently wreaking havoc on the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. But fear not: concerned citizens can start reading The Lionfish Cookbook: The Caribbean’s New Delicacy, which features 45 dishes—including an excellent nacho appetizer.

2. Kudzu Quiche


Reviled as “the vine that ate the South,” kudzu has been smothering Uncle Sam’s shrubs and devouring Dixie since it was championed as an anti-erosion wonder plant during the early 20th century. Southerners can score succulent vengeance via yummy kudzu quiche. Unfortunately, New Yorkers may soon join them, since the plant is steadily creeping northwards.

3. Smothered River Rat (Cajun Style)


Louisiana’s bayous—and menus—have long been infiltrated by South American river rats (or “nutrias”). Evidently, they taste like rabbit. Pass the gumbo!

4. Steamed Snakehead

“You can invade my stomach anytime!” said one Annapolis restaurant patron after tasting his first snakehead entrée. In 2002, Maryland’s government was so mortified by the prospect of these scary-looking fish getting a local foothold that it resorted to poisoning an infested pond! Such a pity: A cook-off would have been much cheaper. You can find a number of recipes for how to cook the fish—including a soup with sweet corn—here.

5. Apple and Knotweed Pie

Looking for a guilt-free pie? Of course you are. By adding the Japanese knotweed as an extra ingredient in your apple pie, you can jazz up the flavor and take comfort in knowing that you’re using America’s most patriotic dessert to help take down one of her toughest invasive species.

6. Cane Toad Stir Fry


Today, these notorious amphibians are eating their way through Florida, Hawaii, Australia, New Guinea, Fiji, the Philippines, and the Caribbean. But that could all change when word gets out that their scrumptious legs are world-class stir fry ingredients.

7. Silverberry Spicebush Bread

Exotic yet familiar, the crimson berries of this plant, native to China, Korea, and Japan, can be mashed up and incorporated into a sweet, delectable bread.

8. Wild Boar Bacon

Native to Eurasia, wild boars now terrorize 39 states and cause $400 million worth of annual damages in Texas alone, arguably making them America’s most destructive foreign organism. On a positive note, at least you can generate gamey bacon from these dangerous swine. 

9. Garlic Mustard Pesto

With a name like “garlic mustard,” it has to be good! An unwelcome sight in the Midwest and elsewhere, these European plants can sure punch up pasta nights.

10. Green Iguana Ragout


Green iguanas might be popular in the pet trade, but as voracious and indiscriminate herbivores, they’re out-competing several of Florida’s vegetarian insects. So what do the five-foot lizards taste like? Chicken, of course. 

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b


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