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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Lizard any of the reptiles which have four legs, a long tail, and a scaly or granulated skin, in the order Lacertilia.

For information about cooking and eating the larger lizards, see iguana and monitor. However, there are lots of smaller lizards in tropical and semi-tropical regions around the world, and many of these are eaten locally, although they yield relatively little meat. Sophie Coe (1994), recalling a storehouse full of dried lizards which was discovered by a Spaniard on an island off the Peruvian coast in 1532, draws attention to the careful description of such lizards and the techniques for catching, drying, and eating them, by Holmberg (1957). Her distillation of this description serves as a good indication of general practice in lizard-eating communities:

Dicrodon holmbergi, the lizard, lives in holes in the ground under guarango trees, and the fruit of these trees is the only thing that the lizard eats. The tree is also called algarroba, mesquite, or Prosopis juliflora, and human beings eat the pods as well. From April to November the lizards hibernate, and we presume that the tree has no ripe fruit. As the fruit matures, the lizards emerge from their holes and sometimes even climb the trees to get it. The lizards are trapped, and their front legs and backs are broken to paralyze them. They are then thrown on the embers of a fire and scorched until their scaly skins may be removed by hand. Once skinned, they are buried in a shallow depression in the heated sand and covered with hot ashes. Ten minutes of cooking, followed by cooling off and gutting, makes a product that may be stored for a year or consumed immediately. Holmberg said that it could be eaten in seviche [see ceviche], the dish of fish marinated in lime juice, as well as in soups, stews, and omelets.