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How to Tell If You’re Eating Fox When You Meant to Eat Donkey

Whether in Britain or in China, no one wants to think they're eating a familiar meat product only to discover they're really eating an exotic, as one unfortunate Wal-Mart customer in northern China experienced recently, when his "strange" tasting donkey meat turned out to be fox.

But telling meats apart can be tricky! Even experienced beef eaters last year seemingly couldn't tell cow apart from horse when it was smothered in lasagna; it gets all the trickier when it comes to distinguishing donkey, which far less of the world is familiar with, from fox, which seemingly no one eats on a regular basis.

With that in mind, we've put together this guide to telling apart these two unusual edibles. 

Texture:

Is your meat tough and chewy? It's more likely to be fox. While the 2005 "Field Guide to Meat," describes donkey meat as "tough" and our own Isaac Stone Fish likened his experiences with donkey meat to "beef jerky made from shoe leather," it may all come down to how it's cooked: food bloggers who've sampled different styles of donkey in China have found it to be tender and sweet when sliced thinly against the grain, usually chopped or shredded and eaten in a sandwich, or stir fried.  Donkey is also still regularly used in salami in Italy, usually tempered somewhat with the more familiar pork. 

Fox, on the other hand, seems universally considered a tough meat -- at least among the very small group who've actually eaten the canine. I was unable to track down an FP staffer who'd eaten fox meat, and even the "Field Guide," which claims to cover "virtually every meat, poultry and game cut" hasn't gotten around to fox. But most of the fox meat recipes I found (that would be a grand total of three) I've found suggest pre-soaking in vinegar brine to help tenderize it.

Smell:

Does the meat you're preparing smell horrible? You may be about to cook fox. While the "Field Guide" claims donkey has a "very strong smell" it may not necessarily be bad. Nobel Prize-winning Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who writes lustily of donkey meat in his novel The Republic of Wine, describes it as "aromatic." By contrast, the smell of raw fox flesh is described as "repulsive" "like skunks" and even "fishy."  Cooked, the meat has been described as smelling "sheepy or goaty."

So: is your meat chewy? Does it give off an unpleasant odor? Put that fox sandwich down!

Happy gustatory adventures!

EPA

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Is Shinzo Abe the Voldemort of Asia?

If one wanted to find a real-life political parallel to J. K. Rowling's villainous Lord Voldemort, there are a few obvious choices: Hitler, who shared with Voldemort an obsession with racial purity; Stalin, who, like the malevolent Heir of Slytherin, relied on vast, shadowy intelligence networks to protect his power; and maybe even Putin, who -- apart from an abundance of nose -- bears a striking physical resemblance to the Dark Lord.

But few Harry Potter fans/keen political observers would put Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe high on the list of Voldemort stand-ins.

Except this guy: the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, who on Thursday likened Japan's growing militarism (and, by extension, Abe, himself) to the most nefarious villain in the miscreant-rich canon of young adult fiction:

"In the Harry Potter story, the dark wizard Voldemort dies hard because the seven horcruxes, which contain parts of his soul, have been destroyed," Liu wrote in an op-ed for the Telegraph. "If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul."

To be fair, Liu's colorful literary references may be little more than an effort to characterize China-Japan relations in terms that Brits can easily grasp -- what better way than to invoke the work of Britain's "most influential woman" (who, incidentally, beat out Victoria Beckham and Queen Elizabeth II for that honor).

Still, it's a heavy metaphor. But, for the sake of argument, let's look at the parallels. If Japan's militarism is really Voldemort, then its heyday was during World War II, when Japan invaded northeast China and cut a wide swathe of destruction, the memory of which still stings the Chinese public consciousness. Japan's subsequent defeat could be likened to Voldemort's: While He Who Must Not Be Named all but disappeared after the bloody First Wizarding War, Japan's post-war constitution renounced militarism, ending the threat of Japanese military aggression.

Liu's argument that the Yasukuni shrine (which commemorates 14 Class A war criminals, among other war dead) is a horcrux "representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul" is pretty on-point. In Rowling's books, Voldemort's quest for horcruxes is an effort to reclaim and rebuild his former self, in all of its wicked glory. But while Abe has long had nationalist leanings, it's a leap to say that his Dec. 26 visit to the shrine symbolizes his government's evil revival of Japan's militaristic past.

How far can this metaphor go? Are the disputed Senkaku-Diaoyu islands the Deathly Hallows -- making the wizard who possesses them immortal and invincible? Does that make Shintaro Ishihara, the right-wing former mayor of Tokyo who tried to nationalize islands, a Death Eater? Are Japan's revisionist history textbooks, which whitewash its role in war atrocities, not unlike the propaganda produced by the Ministry of Magic under Dolores Umbridge? And is Japan's constitutional prohibition on its military engaging in offensive operations similar to Voldemort needing to obtain a body, before he could regain his former power? (Abe's pushing for that constitutional revision, but it hasn't happened yet -- which means that, in the wizarding world, we've barely reached book four.)

Perhaps it's not surprising that Liu characterizes Abe's political aims as a battle "between good and evil." But is he referring to the evil that lies within all of us? Or, to paraphrase Harry's own words, that "neither [Japan nor China] can live while the other survives, and one of [them] is about to leave for good."

Wait, does that make China Harry Potter?

TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images and Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images