The least offensive, given current sensibilities, are dishes made from songbirds, eel or hare. The most objectionable, in addition to cat, which always appears in these lists, are bear, hedgehog, turtle, sparrow, swan, porcupine, squirrel, badger, and dormouse.
The "forbidden recipes" are all lined up, discussed, and published by the Florentine publisher Sarnus, directed by Mugello native Tebaldo Lorini. He's actually quite refined, an expert in folklore, cooking and art. Who had the courage, in these hypersensitive days, to dust off the Italian traditions regarding dishes that were heretofore simply classics of Cucina povera, the cooking of necessity, and its variant, hunting cooking.
He presents it all unapologetically, pointing out matter-of-factly that despite the beliefs of the general population, there's little real difference between a stew made from veal and one made from badger. And also that in the past there was much less attention given to distinguishing between comestible and uncommestible animals.
In his book (75 pages, 10 Euros) Mr. Lorini indeed shows how, exception taken for the most exotic meats where one happens to be (in some parts of Africa butchering gorillas and putting them on display is normal, as is the case for snakes in China, dogs in Korea, lama in the Andes, and kangaroo in Australia), and prohibitions based more on laws than morals, even in Europe the boundary between the two categories is quite indistinct, shifting from place to place and generation to generation. Without getting into the sewer rats eaten in Paris during the Prussian siege of 1870, Mr. Lorini notes that in the same city, and during the same year, a top restaurant such as Voisin, in Rue Faubourg Saint Honorè didn't hesitate to offer its patrons, as a Christmas dish, donkey head. "Without overlooking," he says, that times of want have always brought about advancements in cookery: people developed new methods for making appetizing things that weren't in the least."
Having torn down the wall of need, and built that of cultural prejudice, modern society is gradually expunging from its recipe collections those meat dishes made from animals whose consumption upsets common sensibility. Without, however, managing to remove them from memory or from daily conversation or popular sayings: when you say, "don't say cat unless it's in the bag," as Trapttoni (the former coach of gli Azzurri, the Italian national soccer team) once did on TV, you don't realize -- Mr. Lorini warns -- that you are referring to a technique used to butcher cats, which was to put them in a bag and pound them against a wall.
It's not by covering one's eyes or sticking one's fingers in one's ears that one can change the taste of a dish.
Examples? Here are a few, from the index of the book: stewed hedgehog, pot roasted foxes, turtle ragout, grilled bear steak, pan-cooked sparrows, swan à l'orange, crow ragout, cat cooked in milk, porcupine stew, honeyed dormice, stewed squirrel, and badger stew.
Enjoy your meal (or burn with rage).
For those who want to know more, or even (gasp) buy this book,
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.