America may be the land of the free, but cooking adorable rodents in its public parks apparently tests the limits of its citizens' tolerance.
An unidentified Ecuadoran man decided to take advantage of some of New York City's lovely weather this past weekend by heading to Brooklyn's Prospect Park and doing what millions of other visitors do there every summer: firing up the grill.
And then he had the cops called on him.
According to DNAinfo, NYPD officers were alerted to the man thanks to a panicked 911 call from an onlooker who thought that he was abusing a squirrel—but it turns out that he was merely grilling himself some cuy, or guinea pig.
Of course, the four-foot pole that the rodent was impaled on was not your average cooking implement; the cuy, a traditional dish in Ecuador, was clearly not Cornish hen, either.
When the man explained that to the officers, they had nothing to do but let him go on about his grilling business. DNAinfo points out that it's illegal to hunt or trap park animals, and presumably to eat them, too. Even when officials decided to gas to death 400 geese that landed in the park in 2010, the carcasses ended up in a landfill instead of, say, a soup kitchen.
Still, the cuy cook's story recalls an incident from last summer in the UK, when a Turkish man named Hasan Fidan was spotted beheading a swan near a lake in Hildenbough, Kent. An angler there watched the 46-year-old stuffing the dead bird into his backpack before calling the police. Unmarked swans, it turns out, are actually the property of the Queen, according to a bizarre 12th-century law that's still on the books.
When the police searched Fidan's home, they found the remains of the swan in his freezer. "I did not know what type of bird it was. For me it was any type of bird. I didn't know the Queen owned them," he told the Evening Standard at the time. "I like the Queen very much." He added that the swan "tasted nice." (A similar episode happened in 2010, when a Bangledeshi chef named Mohammed Miah was accused of killing a wild swan for food on the banks of the Great Ouse in Beford.)
But that's not to say that our guinea pig chef necessarily raised or killed the animal himself. Cuy is available in frozen form in many of the borough's supermarkets, and several Ecuadorean restaurants around the city.
Had the man been in Jackson Heights, a highly diverse neighborhood in Queens with an entrenched Hispanic population, he might not have raised an eyebrow. But some of the denizens of the Prospect Park area—while an ostensibly savvy bunch of eaters—were apparently more worried about one of the meadow's many nut-hoarders than taking the time to inquire with the man about Andean cuisine.
Again, that four-foot Vlad the Impaler pole might have put them off. But can't cuy all just get along?