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Okay folks, it’s been seven months since Tofu Kills and the hate mail STILL pours in. It’s not ALL hate. Much of it is simply irate. To wit:

"What are you? …blah…blah…blah….Some kinda nutritionist or something?!…blah…blah..blah You don’t know what the HELL you’re TALKING about!…blah…blah….blah. Where’s your sources — you’re proof ?!…blah…blah…blah. Stick to Che Guevara you blockhead!! blah…blah…blah….."

No way around it; I’ve been chastened. The evidence from readers piles up and looks irrefutable. These people list their credentials on the matter, too. They’re impressive. I’m afraid my polemical impetuosity got the better of me while writing that article and now I’m exposed — and by experts on the matter — as a ranting ignoramus, as a rank jackass. It’s embarrassing.

Today I have no choice but to concede their point. And so like Jimmy Swaggart in 1988, I’m here to make a public act of contrition (minus the tears). Here it goes: friends, in Tofu Kills I was wrong,

Manatee does NOT taste like pork. It tastes like VEAL.

Okay? Happy?….Satisfied? My cousin Antonio was wrong, but then veal isn’t a major item in (non-party members) Cubans’ diet. He’s never tasted veal.

But apparently many of you readers have, along with Manatee. So my hat’s off to you…Okay? Geeeeesh! Picky, picky, picky.

But Nutria does taste like rabbit, dammit — like mild, succulent domestic rabbit. I’ll yield to no wiseacres here. Don’t argue with me here, or I’ll wipe the floor with you. Perhaps you’ve heard of these creatures? They made the front page of the New York Times a few months back. In brief, they’re huge rat-like aquatic rodents (they look like hairy, unkempt beavers with a rat’s tail and huge orange buck-teeth.)

They’re illegal aliens to boot, native to South America. In 1938 Edward Avery Mc Ilhenny (The Tabasco sauce guy) imported some from Argentina to his Avery Island estate in south Louisiana to raise for fur. ….Actually there’s some dispute here. Several nutria farms already existed in the U.S. at the time, and some say that Mc Ilhenny actually bought the creatures from a farm in Texas. And they escaped from those too.

Whatever. A hurricane hit in 1940, destroyed Mc Ilhenny’s cages and they scrambled out. Female nutrias can mate at 5 months of age. They average two litters a year and six offspring per litter. Put your calculator to that. Within a decade hundreds of thousands of them had overrun south Louisiana’s "wetlands." These were called swamps and marshes back then and closely approximated the nutria’s South American habitat (as did Louisiana politics). No surprise here. A creature who’s main concerns in life were eating and mating found the perfect home: Louisiana

It wasn’t all bad because by the 1960s nutrias had replaced muskrats as Louisiana’s top target for trappers, who kept them in check. Nutria fur, when plucked, makes a dynamite coat and trimming. It resembles mink.

Then the fur market collapsed. And thanks to whom?….Right. So nowadays 20 MILLION of the hideous beasts infest south Louisiana and munch their way through the very fragile "coastal wetlands" the same greenies get all moist and runny about.

Ah, but don’t greenies sniffle over cute little furry creatures too? Well, you can’t have it both ways. Face facts. Grow up. Nature’s not a Disney cartoon. For two decades the greenies campaigned against the wearing of fur. ("Fur is dead. I’d rather go nude than wear fur." etc.) So they brought down the price. So they made it unprofitable for trappers to trap nutria. So they allowed nutrias to overrun the marshes.

So now the greenies whine about the vanishing wetlands! They’re vanishing — you buncha yo-yos — because nutrias are eating them! They’re vegetarians just like y’all. They eat 25 per cent of their body weight each day in marsh vegetation. And some of these rats can weigh up to 20 pounds. 100,000 acres of Louisiana wetlands a year now vanish because of their voracity.

How? Well, with those huge orange teeth, nutrias gnaw down the plants that hold the marshes together. They munch right down to the plants’ roots, then dig the roots out and eat them too. It’s their favorite part in fact. Wave action then washes away the fragile slop that’s left. Hurricanes (like the two this past summer) REALLY speed things up.

Some greenie-weenies are already claiming it’s not the poor, misunderstood and maligned nutrias’ fault. It’s global warming, you see, melting the polar ice-caps and raising the ocean levels, thus encroaching on coastal marshes. Next the greenies will be blaming Hurricanes on "man-made factors." Watch!

Well, I’m doing my part against this mammalian pestilence. Louisiana opened a special hunting season on Nutria this year. They want them wiped out, mowed down, eradicated. Fine. So I rounded up a posse of sons and nephews, of friends and their sons and nephews and we planned a hunt. These kids were brought up right, too. Remember the movie, " The Yearling" with Jane Wyman and Gregory Peck about the little boy who adopts a fawn? Wasn’t that yearling deer the cutest, most adorable, most huggable little thing you ever saw?

POW!-POW!-BLAM! — BLAM! We recently watched the movie with this gang. Every kid in the room pointed finger guns at the TV and blasted away. I exaggerate a bit here. Actually, a few shot their finger bows, complete with sound effects of the arrows hitting home — FLUNK! — FLUNK!

I loaded up the boat with this gang and their armory of shotguns and 22’s and we set off into the marshes for a glorious day of uninhibited slaughter. No bag limits. No pretense of "character-building." No humbug about "sport" or "fair-chase." Pure blood-lust here. Pure indiscriminate blasting and reloading. All the fun of video games but with the smell of real cordite and the sight of real blood. Sheer shoot em’ up fun.

The kids were in rapture, indulging their budding hormone glands, their rambunctiousness, their predatory instincts to the max. Boys were allowed to be boys here. No finger-wagging from pecksniffs. No scowls from their teachers. No clubs and handcuffs from the juvenile cops. No hectoring from dyke "counselors." They had a BLAST!

They also supplied the makings of my traditional Mardi-Gras pot of Nutria Sauce Piquante (similar to Gumbo but with a thick red sauce rather than a thick brown roux). A HUGE pot, too. We slurped it down at Pelayo’s Bourbon Street bungalow. Yes, it has a balcony. Yes, we had several pitchers of Cuba Libres on hand. Yes, we had plenty of those looooooong beads on hand to dangle for coaxing purposes.

But it works both ways. Plenty people on the street had them too. And now there’s reason to fear our wives will make their dramatic debut in the next "Girls Gone Wild!" video. Yikes!

Humberto Fontova [send him mail] holds an M.A. in History from Tulane University. He’s the author of Helldiver’s Rodeo described as "Highly entertaining!" by Publisher’s Weekly, as "Terrific!" by Salon.com, and as "Just what the doctor ordered!" by Ted Nugent.

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