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Chicken of the trees
August 16, 2012 8:59 PM   Subscribe

"I stood staring at the enemy's trophy, the familiar impotent rage rising. But the impulse to fall to my knees, gnash my teeth, and howl at the gods was stayed this time by a resolution I'd made earlier that spring. The squirrels may take my tomatoes and spit them back, but they would not go unanswered. The time had come to close the circle of life." (via)
posted by vidur (59 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
...too many tiny bones.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on August 16, 2012


I'm glad I don't eat any meat so I don't have to feel hypocritical by being repulsed by this. *shiver*
posted by lookoutbelow at 9:04 PM on August 16, 2012


My copy of Joy of Cooking is the 1976 edition, and it has two or three recipes for squirrel. And there's several on Allrecipes.com.

Not quite as out there as it sounds, although I don't know about urban squirrel: I suspect it would be a little putrid.
posted by jrochest at 9:05 PM on August 16, 2012


Just because I'm curious, and it's not because I've had to start moving my potted strawberry plants into the garage every night so that I don't have to wake up and find out that yesterday's near perfect strawberry has completely disappeared to a ravenous thief, would the average Toronto raccoon have too many tiny bones? Even the ones the size of a Buick? Like I said, I'm just curious, that's all.
posted by maudlin at 9:09 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


People may choose to eat squirrels, but I think they'd find that squirrel in the illustration to be essentially tasteless.

I mean, the hot dog he's eating has ketchup on it, for God's sake.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 PM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've eaten squirrel many times growing up, many skinned and cleaned myself. I liked it just fine, the meat is something between chicken and rabbit. Yes, there are tiny bones so you have to be careful. It makes a wonderful stew with red peppers!
posted by Malice at 9:17 PM on August 16, 2012


One of my professors, an anatomist, traveled through Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia when he was in grad school. Apparently, he and a friend ordered cuy at every hole-in-the-wall they could find (which meant that a lady would go to the basket full of guinea pigs and select one for them to eat). And, at every hole-in-the-wall, they would re-articulate the skeleton and leave. Lots of teeny tiny bones.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:20 PM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wonder what's for dinner toni-SQUIRREL!
posted by azpenguin at 9:24 PM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


.

(for the squirrels)
posted by Stoatfarm at 9:29 PM on August 16, 2012


I've wondered about this before. With an air rifle I could easily harvest at least one or two a day out of my (small, not at all rural) backyard and I'm sure it wouldn't make the slightest dent in the local squirrel population. I've happily eaten both domesticated and wild rabbit and all kinds of other birds and animals; as long as squirrel tastes no stranger than those I'm sure it would be great.

If I'm reading the rules right, eastern gray squirrels are considered varmits here and they are open season all year, no limits (though you are generally not allowed to hunt in town, I think, so the ones in my backyard should be safe). So as long as you can tell your squirrel species apart and had a legal place to shoot or trap them, you could be eating cheap all year long.
posted by Forktine at 9:30 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The prohibition on trapping squirrels in Illinois is just stupid. I went through a period during my mid-twenties where the only regular source of protein that I had was peanut butter and canned tuna. Rabbits are plentiful, raccoons are dumpster-diving scavengers that seem to get regularly squashed by cars anyway, and squirrels are arrogant little bastards. Maybe there's something to this whole huntin' thing after all.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:31 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Relevant AskMe thread concerning squirrel preparation and consumption.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:34 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're a first timer try a stew first, particularly if you're squeamish. Eating the thing whole can be psychologically trying if you think they're cute.

Just remember: Cows, sheep, goats and pigs are cute too.
posted by Malice at 9:39 PM on August 16, 2012


squirrel and dumplings. Mmmmmmmmm.
Oddly enough, discussed a potential canoe trip to bowhunt squirrels with my hippy-ish friend last night. Whether it ever happens . . . who knows.
But back in the day, they were a major source of protein for us.

But the question of the edibility of urban vs. rural animals has always intrigued me. I know many people who recoil at the idea of eating urban pigeons or squirrels (or starlings! invasive little buggers) but would have no concerns about rural-ly hunted animals of the same species.
They are always insistent that urban animals are dirty, contaminated and diseased in a way that rural animals are not. That doesn't make sense to me. I would love to see some data on that.
posted by Seamus at 9:44 PM on August 16, 2012


As an adventurous eater, thie would normally make me gleeful. But I messed up. I read it after the Stan Brakhage thing posted below it.

So I think I'm going to be really, really sick.
posted by littlerobothead at 9:53 PM on August 16, 2012


Urban squirrels eat all kinds of toxic shit. For example lead building molding. Squirrels will eat anything. A number of people I know who are property owners have told me they deeply hate squirrels, because the squirrels do things like eat their lead house molding. City squirrels often look very unhealthy in comparison to country squirrels I have seen. Prematurely grey hair, half their tails fallen off, &c.

I love squirrels myself. (I rent.) I would not eat city squirrel. Country squirrel is about as OK as duck, i.e. not a weekly staple like spaghetti or tuna fish or hamburgers.

Trivia: squirrel is greek for shadow-tail.
posted by bukvich at 9:54 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a river trail I use to walk to my job downtown, and every night coming home I encounter a shitload of rabbits. I had already been thinking about making my cats' food from scratch so the idea of catching some rabbits has crossed my mind a few times.

Until a few days ago.

They are always insistent that urban animals are dirty, contaminated and diseased in a way that rural animals are not. That doesn't make sense to me. I would love to see some data on that.

Related?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:55 PM on August 16, 2012


The first time I cleaned a rabbit, I was surprised at how neatly organized it was inside. Color-coded organs, neat!
posted by ryanrs at 10:01 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tasty as a Glis glis fattened up on walnuts?
posted by unliteral at 10:43 PM on August 16, 2012


In my neighborhood, the squirrels are quite crafty and acrobatic at accessing bird feeders. But they are living in the past and do not realize they are overmatched by an automobile.
posted by Cranberry at 11:03 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


AFAIK, no one sponges up the remains for stew.
posted by Cranberry at 11:04 PM on August 16, 2012


Great article as I remember about hunting and ingesting squirrels .
posted by slothhog at 11:19 PM on August 16, 2012


(Psst, Cranberry, some people do...)
posted by Harald74 at 12:35 AM on August 17, 2012


Stewed in red wine over brick cheese and polenta.

They're only cute until they lay waste to about four bushels (e.g. all) of your tomatoes. Then you start perceiving them like this.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:37 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just remember: Cows, sheep, goats and pigs are cute too.

As are children.
posted by pracowity at 1:51 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The abandoning of the fruit is interesting. I had rabbits that would do exactly the same thing - grab a tomato, spit it out, come back a couple of days later for another one (maybe it'll taste better this time). I wonder if there's something unpleasant in tomatoes that we can't taste.
posted by Leon at 2:17 AM on August 17, 2012


"After the heads braised in mirepoix and sherry, a friend demonstrated with a nutcracker the proper technique for extracting a squirrel brain from its cranial cavity, and a half dozen of us popped them into our mouths. They looked like oversize walnuts and tasted slightly creamy, almost like a soft, roasted chestnut. We pulled out the tongues and cheeks, which contained the most concentrated expression of squirreliness. One guest described the meat from the head as "nutty"; others compared it to pork, duck, or lamb. To me this seemed like the very essence of the rodent. If squirrels grew to the size of pigs, you'd really have something."

Really????? Noooooo! That's, perhaps, one of the better examples of culinary writing I've every read, and one of the better examples of culinary writing that makes me want to NOT eat what the writing is about. Odd, eh?

I wanted to end this article as a believer, I really did. I've spent the last two weeks listening to the squirrels harvest huge acorns from the two oak trees that shelter my little house, and drop them onto the roof (a house with no attic to insulate me from the sound, I might add). About the time we settle into some music, a book, a movie, a conversation, WHOMP...moments of silence.... WHAP... silence.... BANG.... silence...a little longer...a little longer...maybe he's done.... SMASH....

They are huge oaks, if we're out with friends on the boat, a mile across the lake, our oaks are the tallest trees to be seen "over there, see that tree, my house is under that tree", and despite the drought this year the acorns seem healthy. There are a LOT of acorns. When they hit the roof many of them smash into jagged little pieces which end up on the porch, the decks, in the yard. Walking with bare feet is like walking on broken glass (you're going to hum that all day, eh? Sorry)

I wanted to read that article, go find a pellet gun, and cook wonderful savory foods for the cost of a lead pellet and some spices, and simultaneously find sustenance and silence with the effort of pulling the tigger one time. But, no, the author had to conclude the article with a paragraph about "heads braised in mirepoix and sherry.... tongues and cheeks....".

I'll spend today listening to small pieces of oak rain on my house, eating veggies.
posted by HuronBob at 3:12 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I live in a neighborhood with 100 yr old houses and the squirrels love to eat the trim to get at the old lead paint. Huge problem around here. My handyman says its cause it has a sweet taste. Country squirrels maybe but stay away from the city ones.
posted by pearlybob at 4:54 AM on August 17, 2012


Related: "Peter Rabbit Must Die."

My dog keeps most critters out of the garden, fortunately. And there's a wild spot beyond the dog's reach where squirrels and groundhogs are welcome to make their nests and burrows.

We do get rid of groundhogs that leave holes in places we walk or mow across because they can be hazardous to ankles; holes on the borderlands get the contents of my vacuum dumped down them to encourage moving. I used to think they were cute until I took a good look at the damage, and then saw my dog corner one. Lots of spitting and hissing, and those claws were bigger than I had realized.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:07 AM on August 17, 2012


They're only cute until they lay waste to about four bushels (e.g. all) of your tomatoes. Then you start perceiving them like this.

Having hiked in Yosemite, I don't need them to lay waste to my tomatoes for me to perceive them as evil, single-minded, ravenous parasites. At least the American grey squirrel. The demure European red squirrel (which also has a much higher cute factor), is a far less intrusive creature. Which is leading to its demise at the hands of its nasty American cousin (which goes as far as to raid red squirrels' winter stores)...
posted by Skeptic at 5:11 AM on August 17, 2012


I followed a furious rustling into the kitchen and found a plump squirrel perched atop the counter tearing into a bag of peanut M&M's. While my cat dozed in a corner ...

Somebody needs a better cat.
posted by exogenous at 5:15 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, no one has yet mentioned "Squirrel Cop"? (1, 2). Police! Fire! Mayhem! And other hazards of furry grey rodents!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:24 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never mind Squirrel Cop, how about Squirrel Girl?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:32 AM on August 17, 2012


"Rabbits are plentiful, raccoons are dumpster-diving scavengers that seem to get regularly squashed by cars anyway, and squirrels are arrogant little bastards."

Really? Rabbits okay, squirrels maybe (probably not urban squirrels, they eat gross stuff and are full of lead), but raccoons? They eat garbage, and meat, and want to scratch your eyes out. Humans mostly only eat mammals that are grazing mammals, not carnivores or carrion-eaters, who don't taste as good and are more likely to be diseased. Gross.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:42 AM on August 17, 2012


Squirrel's ok. Lots of work for little meat, though.
Young groundhog, though...mmmmmm...that's tasty eating.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on August 17, 2012


I've had raccoon. Gamey. At the time, I had Gray's Anatomy on the tank for toilet reading, so I could *not* eat the foreleg.
posted by notsnot at 5:52 AM on August 17, 2012


Humans mostly only eat mammals that are grazing mammals, not carnivores or carrion-eaters, who don't taste as good and are more likely to be diseased. Gross.

My oldish (but hardly ancient) copy of Joy of Cooking has skinning, dressing, and cooking instructions for at least raccoon and possum, and probably some other critters as well. I know people who eat bear. I think you might be overemphasizing the "yuk!"; people in the US at a wider range of animals up until fairly recently.
posted by Forktine at 5:54 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The joke among my friends growing up was that you could always tell who had been raised in the country and who was a city person. Seeing a groundhog on the side of the road, city people will say "awww, cute!". Country folk will say, "Shoot it!"
posted by LN at 6:05 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]



One of my professors, an anatomist, traveled through Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia when he was in grad school. Apparently, he and a friend ordered cuy at every hole-in-the-wall they could find
.........

Cuy carpaccio, like most carpaccio, is underwhelming. Squirrel sashimi anyone?
posted by lalochezia at 6:11 AM on August 17, 2012


Where I live, lead isn't a huge issue. So no concerns there.
The concern over toxins and disease in urban rather than rural animals seems to contain a lot of baggage about idyllic country living. As if our agricultural system doesn't cover entire regions with fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides (some designed to kill our mammalian friends, who are seen as pests). Hell, the squirrels living in my neighborhood are likely to be significantly less exposed to toxic chemicals than any living in rural farming country.
posted by Seamus at 6:14 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't eat the brains. Remember mad cow?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:40 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Martin Picard, the chef who runs the superlative Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, has a recipe for squirrel sushi in his recent "sugar shack" cookbook. If he was preparing it for me, I'd eat it.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:49 AM on August 17, 2012


Squirrel Brains and prion transmission.
I do recall a bit of news that people eating squirrel brains in Kentucky had some higher rates of prion diseases.
Then I found this.
posted by Seamus at 6:51 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd eat country squirrel no problem.

I ate pigeon in Macao. Quite tasty.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:52 AM on August 17, 2012


We call pigeon squab here.

It's a perfectly fine gamey bird.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 AM on August 17, 2012


> Oddly enough, discussed a potential canoe trip to bowhunt squirrels with my hippy-ish friend last night

If there's really anyone out there who can reliably shoot squirrels out of trees with a bow I am very impressed.
posted by jfuller at 7:20 AM on August 17, 2012


We call pigeon squab here.

Today I learned! Then Macao wasn't the first time. Fine dish either way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 AM on August 17, 2012


JFuller, if you are really curious, yootoob has a plethora of videos of people doing it.
You use special heads to keep from lodging the arrows (sometimes with squirrels attached) in the side of a tree. Lots of people use squirrel hunting as an off season way to scout their land and practice their shots (and stock their pot). Lots of bowhunters, especially traditional bowhunters, are spot & stalk hunters, so practice is essential. Also, later in the year, the squirrels spend more time on the ground collecting food, so it's not always tree shots.
posted by Seamus at 7:32 AM on August 17, 2012


So apparently the urban scavenger diet of these animals doesn't make the meat taste lousy? Well, if the squirrels ever return to our backyard garden I might reconsider my earlier plan of lying in wait with a pellet gun. But I wouldn't eat the brains.
posted by exogenous at 8:00 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee: raccoons? They eat garbage, and meat, and want to scratch your eyes out.

Well, IHNHR (I have never had raccoon), and actually it's about even odds that I might not if I was offered some simply because Rascal by Sterling North was my favorite book for several years of my childhood, but there are certainly plenty of recipes for it(the Chowhound link has some discussion of the taste, as well as that of possum), and this event has been going on for 85 years, so it's OK for some. (I have never killed, dressed and/or cleaned a mammal, and between that and the aforementioned childhood fondness for raccoons (there's also the Ranger Rick factor, not to mention Rocket Raccoon), I might have a serious problem with actually doing so.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:21 AM on August 17, 2012


Favoriting this thread for the squirrel recipes.
posted by charred husk at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2012


lead-eating squirrels
posted by warbaby at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2012


The article addressed the prion issue and that mad-cow.org link only says some people who had CJD also ate squirrel brains. IIRC the article claims there was no link established and that scary link appears to say the same thing at the very bottom.

It's probably not a great habit but I'd be less worried eating squirrel brains than consuming random ground beef. Of which I consume plenty.
posted by polyhedron at 11:44 AM on August 17, 2012


Sigh. I'm on my phone and didn't notice that there are multiple articles on the mad-cow.org link. But the end of the first article says no known squirrel scrappie.
posted by polyhedron at 11:47 AM on August 17, 2012


I'm convinced. This is worth a try. Southern California squirrel-hunt meetup, anybody?

When I was a kid, the local video store had a shelf full of public-service videos that could be checked out for free. "How to hunt rabbits and squirrels" was definitely the most entertaining. As I recall, the technique seemed to involve shotguns, dogs, pickup trucks, and miles of open land, and will thus require some modification to be compatible with my present lifestyle. Time to find a way to hunt squirrels that is humane and doesn't require the hassle of obtaining a gun license. Since I can acquire a day's worth of protein in tofu for under a buck without leaving my block, squirrel doesn't seem likely to become a staple until after the collapse. But, I'd be keen to try it.

I'm curious to see how the meat actually tastes. Cuy (guinea-pig) is pretty disappointing. Once you get past the novelty of using garden shears to cut apart a animal with wee tiny hands, the meat itself is thoroughly dull. It's a lot like duck, but more greasy, less gamy, and with more tiny bones to pick out, all three of which I consider negatives. I only tried one brain, but it was a flavorless, textureless, pasty mass with no appealing characteristics. To be fair, that may vary considerably with how the thing is cooked.

On the other hand, I'm clearly a very poor judge of meats in general, so don't take my word for it. I've never understood Beijing duck: a meal that, when prepared very carefully by master chefs, tastes like nothing at all, and when prepared badly in cheap tourist dives, tastes like nothing at all with too much salt. But, people go nuts for it. Very few meats actually taste like much of anything to me. Everything except fish, organs, and really gamy red meat is just a vehicle for sauces and spices; a needlessly expensive, destructive, and ethically complicated vehicle for sauces and spices.
posted by eotvos at 1:00 PM on August 17, 2012


Having hiked in Yosemite, I don't need them to lay waste to my tomatoes for me to perceive them as evil, single-minded, ravenous parasites. At least the American grey squirrel.

There is not really any such beast as the American Gray Squirrel, at least not in America. The invasive squirrel in England is the Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis. The Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus is endangered. You may have seen either in Yosemite, along with the exotic Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger, or the California Ground Squirrel ,Otospermophilus beecheyi . The California Ground Squirrel is a keystone species in the ecosystem, providing food and shelter for numerous other species. The Endangered Tiger Salamander spends most of its life in ground squirrel burrows. Like prairie dogs, ground squirrels make the soil more productive and healthy. The California Ground Squirrel also has a trick to ward off rattlers: it flicks its tail furiously until the squirrel's temperature rises. Rattlers can sense this via heat-sensitive pits in their heads, and they change their stance from offensive to defensive. They also have enzymes in their blood that make them less susceptible to rattler poison. They are a very cool and important species in California, and if you saw them in Yosemite you saw a vital part of a functioning California ecosystem.

In short: there are all kinds of squirrels. The ones that cause problems are usually in places that humans placed them.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:28 PM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I live trapped and removed/relocated 36 squirrels last summer. This summer only 1 so far. I was scolded at one of the parks I was using to relocate the squirrels seems they don't want them either. i asked the ranger what I was supposed to do with the pests his advice was kill them. Not sure how to euthanize squirrels removing live ones from the trap to inject them could be hazardous to your digits. Placing the cage in a trough of water would seem to me to be easy. I've held several pets that were being euthanized. It was never a quiet trip into memory. The only saving grace is it is quick. I guess I could rig up a carbon monoxide chamber but that has Godwin all over it.
posted by pdxpogo at 5:30 PM on August 17, 2012


pdxpogo, on one of Henry Rollins' spoken word recordings, he talks about having to euthanize a bunch of lab rats at a research facility that he used to work at, and IIRC he used carbon dioxide in the trash bags that the rats were dumped into in order to asphyxiate them without (supposedly) their going through the agony of suffocation. Carbon monoxide could be hazardous to you or others if it escapes; carbon monoxide poisoning kills by the CO bonding with the hemoglobin in your blood, thus blocking absorption of oxygen even if the victim is removed from it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:47 PM on August 17, 2012


But carbon dioxide is what triggers the suffocation reflex (not lack of oxygen).
posted by ryanrs at 10:34 PM on August 25, 2012


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