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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
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 UK Officials Urging Squirrel Dining

Things are getting a little squirrelly over in England.

It seems Britain’s beloved red squirrel, the cute one with the little tufts on his ears, is being crowded out by his American cousin the gray squirrel. The gray was introduced there some years ago in what apparently seemed like a good idea at the time. You know, like when some genius released 80 starlings in New York City in 1890.

The grays have thrived, to say the least, and are run squirrel roughshod over the poor little tufty-eared reds, taking over their territory, eating their food and spreading the deadly (to red squirrels) squirrel pox. Grays are considered vermin in England.

This might make a difficult sell of the new campaign to address the problem, the gist of which is:

Eat More Squirrel.

That’s right. In England, right now, there is an “Eat more squirrel” promotion going on. It’s even being stocked in grocery stores.

Actually, I’m thinking that the campaign should be just “Eat squirrel,” seeing as how you can’t eat more of something you’ve never had, and most people I’ve met, on either side of the big puddle, have never dined on Sciurus carolinensis.

Now, I can already see some of you making faces. Tsk tsk. I, for one, happen to love squirrel. Not that I eat it very often, you understand. I have a backyard full of the things and a fine little .22 Remington squirrel gun, but something tells me the moment I popped a couple for dinner, I’d have the cops all over me. (Meanwhile, two blocks away, they’re shooting AR-15s and AK-47s into the air to celebrate someone’s birthday, every night of the week. Oh, well.)

Most of my squirrel-eating was done when I was a kid, and it was prepared by my grandmother and (under protest) my mother. Grandma browned it on top of the stove and finished it in the oven; Mom held her nose, dredged it in flour and fried it. I loved it both ways, giving a slight edge to Mom’s version because Grandma’s recipe called for squirrels that Grandpa had shot. He was using a .410 shotgun to hunt them at that point, and Grandma didn’t always get all of the shot out of the carcass. You had to bite carefully.

The other trick to eating squirrel, any squirrel, is to put out of your mind the fact that what you are eating is essentially a tree-going rat. In my own case, I didn’t care. I’ll eat just about anything. But I know squirrel was easier for my brother to choke down if he kept telling himself he was dining a la Daniel Boone.

Now those were good, healthy country squirrels. I’m not sure that I’d eat a city squirrel even if I could shoot one. God knows what they’ve been putting into their mouths. I’ve seen what their rat cousins eat, and it ain’t pretty.

Nice country squirrels, with their wholesome diets of acorns and hickory nuts, are another story entirely. Which gets us back to England, in a way.

They’ve done squirrel tastings over there, with gourmands talking about how the flavor varies region to region based on which nuts the squirrel has been eating. How silly. And it just goes to show how squirrelly things are getting over there.

Everybody knows it tastes like ... well, like squirrel. You thought I was going to say chicken, right? Don’t be absurd.

That’s rabbit.




© 2009 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.