A tribute to the edible dormouse

The edible dormouse (Myoxus glis) is the star of Giuseppe Carpaneto and Mauro Cristaldi’s 1994 study “Dormice and Man: A Review of Past and Present Relations.” The two Rome-based scholars—Carpaneto at Terza University, Cristaldi at the University of Rome—savor one of the tasty rodent’s two major historical roles.

Though some scorned it an agricultural pest, many prized the critter for its succulence.

Carpaneto and Cristaldi suggest that dormouse cuisine and dormouse documentation owe much to the Romans, and almost nothing to earlier civilizations. “The ancient Greeks,” they write, “were not very interested in dormice because they did not eat them…. Oribatius (Fourth Century A.D.), a Byzantine author on medicine, wrote that their meat is untasty and purgative.” Carpaneto and Cristaldi tell of how things changed once the Romans got cooking:

“A recipe was reported by the gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicus (First Century A.D.) in his work De Re Coquinaria:dormice were served with sophisticated sauces containing fish and
spices pepper, ‘laserpicium’ pine-seeds) often filled with pork meat and with dormouse entrails. Petronius (20?-66 A.D.) in his novel Satyricon described edible dormice served with honey and poppy-seeds during a luxurious dinner…”

[That’s an excerpt from “A Tribute to the Edible Dormouse,” in AIR 15:3.]