Charles Darwin: Naturalist, geologist, visionary ... glutton?

Though most of us know Darwin for his theory of evolution and travels on the HMS Beagle, a select group of friends from his days at Cambridge knew him mainly as a member of the Glutton Club.

The culinary crew met on a weekly basis to eat “birds and beasts, which were before unknown to human palate,” but their moniker was actually a bit of a misnomer. “We were none of us given to excess, but our little dinners were very recherches & well-served; & we generally wound up the evening with a game of mild vingt-&-un,” wrote Club member John Herbert. The name, he said, was really meant to “show our contempt for another set of men who called themselves by a long Greek title, meaning - ‘fond of dainties;’ but who falsified their claim to such a designation by their weekly practice of dining at some road-side inn ... on mutton chops or beans and bacon.”

brian.gratwicke, Wikimedia Commons // CC By 2.0

While they may not have completely gorged themselves on bizarre game, the club definitely sampled it. The club disbanded after a meal of brown owl, which was unappetizing and “indescribable.”

But that was just the beginning of Darwin’s interesting eating habits: While aboard the Beagle, he indulged in iguana, armadillo, and rheas, among other things. Of all of the strange delicacies Darwin sampled, however, his favorite was agouti, (pictured above) “a twenty-pound chocolate-coloured rodent ... the very best meat I ever tasted.”