The New York Post just did a big write-up about a hot new dining trend: squirrel meat.
The Post story focuses on squirrels being on the menu in restaurants in the U.K. and says that the trend may be heading to the U.S. Renowned Scottish chef Paul Wedgwood described the taste of squirrel as, “mellow, nutty and a bit gamey”. I’m sorry, but when I hear the words “Scottish” and “nutty” in the same sentence I automatically think of Fat Bastard from “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”.
But, as an Oklahoman, I have tasted squirrel before and I can tell you, first-hand, about the pros and cons of eating tree-rat.
First, I would like to explain WHY I’ve eaten squirrel. Growing up in backwoods Oklahoma, we kids (my brother, cousins, etc.) would go hunting. Picture a group of 8-15-year-olds armed with single-shot .410s and .20 gauge shot-guns trouping off into the woods, the oldest “supervising” the younger ones. My grandmother had a few rules: don’t shoot toward the house, toward livestock, or anywhere near a road; don’t shoot doves because “they’re the bird of peace in the Bible”; and, don’t shoot anything you aren’t willing to clean and eat. “I’ll cook it for you” she would tell us, “but anything worth killing had better be worth eating.” This applied to rabbit, quail, and, as it so happens, squirrel.
Paul Wedgwood is right. Squirrel meat IS a bit gamey. I would add “scrawny” and “a little greasy”. By “scrawny” I mean it would fry up just like rabbit or chicken but there just wasn’t enough of it to get a mouthful in a single bite.
UPSIDE: Squirrels are pests for farmers so I didn’t feel too, too bad for shooting them. The Post article describes the UK trend as “ethical” since there’s an overabundance thereof North American gray squirrels AND they’re an invasive species.
DOWNSIDE: Technically, they’re vermin, like rats. Unlike rats, squirrels are very…VERY cute. Especially when your first shot doesn’t kill them outright. They lie there on the ground, breathing heavily and looking at you with their huge squirrel eyes. In fact, I quit shooting squirrels after the first time that happened to me. They were just too darn cute for me to shoot (and eat).