Rats. Squirrels. Beavers. Hamsters.
They're all rodents, different species of mammals that can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. They're small, furry, and have big front teeth. Reactions, depending on the species of the rodent and the culture of the person doing the reacting, can range from infatuation to disgust.
And in an open-air food market in Cartagena, Colombia, there is another common reaction: lunch.
The chigüire, which is often referred to as a cabybara in the other South American countries where it can be found, is the world's largest rodent. They live in the forest, can usually be found in packs, and can grow as large as 150 pounds.
Colombia isn't the only country where large rodents are eaten as food: the capybara is also eaten in Venezuela, cuy (a guinea pig) in Ecuador and Peru, and nutria in parts of the United States.
But even though eating rodent isn't an experience unique to Cartagena, that doesn't mean it didn't have a, well, very unique taste.
The chigüire is boiled, pulled, and cooked in a stock. The stock itself was delicious: a mix of aji dulce (sweet chillis), pimiento del olor (an allspice), peppers, tomatoes and coconut milk. The meat is served on a plate with rice and beans and platanos en tentación, sweet plantains that turn bright pink when cooked in Kola Roman, a local soda. The plate cost 9,000 Colombian pesos, or around $3 American.
Thank goodness for the rice and beans and plantains to distract from the taste of the meat: tangy, acidic, at times tasting rotten. Locals ate plates around me, but I was unable to finish mine.
And also thank goodness for the rest of Mercado Bazurto, and our tour guide who showed us the many other foods and juices to help forget the taste of chigüire.