Eck eck eck. You’ll have to forgive these little noises that come deep from my throat so lovingly as I report on this topic, dolls. We’re talking squirrel here, and that makes me purr.
We’ll also talk about some of my other fav things – celebrity chefs – but before that let’s do our part to be cultured, as that is what cats do. Here’s something Emily Dickinson wrote:
Experiment to me
Is every one I meet
If it contain a Kernel? The Figure of a Nut
Presents upon a Tree
But Meat within, is requisite
To squirrels, and to Me.
Emily has a way of understanding things, a way quite cattish! Prrrrrp.
Did celebrity chefs invent dining upon squirrels in one of their wild fits of adorable creativity that make us gasp and purr? Unfortunately, no.
The word itself, so lovely, sounding like my rough tongue rolling along its fur, comes from the Greeks. The Ancient ones. They gave it the name “skiouros” which means shadow-tail, for they believed the squirrels’ tail was made to wrap around the little guys, keeping them protected from the sun.
The Ancient Greeks may have been a little nutty but at least they were also poetic.
Eck eck eck. Back to the eating, please. A short history of this delightful taste-treat includes Brunswick Stew, native to Brunswick County Virginia, where the usual native American succotash was expanded to include little bites of squirrel meat, along with tomatoes. For some strange reason, Brunswick Stew never really took off to become popular anywhere except where there was not much else to eat.
That’s okay. More for me. Meow.
Jumping forward to current times, squirrel is becoming popular in some places. London is the epi-center of all things squirrel lately, based on my research:
In 2002, nutkin becomes a fine-dining item. A story dated March 10 of that year in The Independent reports that
Squirrel is on the menu at St John, a restaurant near London’s Smithfield market, and it’s delicious – like tender wild rabbit, braised with bacon and dried porcini mushrooms, musky flavours to echo its woodland habitat. But some might prefer to steer clear – because it borders on taboo.
Taboos were being fought in 2006 as this story (23 of March in BBC News) has it:
TV chef Jamie Oliver should encourage schoolchildren to eat grey squirrels in an effort to save the endangered red species, a Conservative peer says.Lord Inglewood said greys had to be culled to ensure reds – native to the UK – did not die out.
“I must confess that I have never actually eaten a grey squirrel… but I am prepared to give it a go,” he said.
“Unless something radical and imaginative is done Squirrel Nutkin and his friends are going to be toast.”
Eck eck eck! Eck! Lord Inglewood you have my full attention!
This year the passion for squirrel is growing. The May 11 edition of The Independent says that tree-huggers love the idea of squirrel. And why not?!
And then, dear ones, we get to those celebrity chefs!
A glut of back-to-the-wild TV programmes featuring celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also tickled the public’s palate, but squirrel is still unlikely to be found in the family fridge. The Observer’s restaurant critic, Jay Rayner, said he had never tasted squirrel, but if he did have it for dinner ‘it would have to be a big, fat country squirrel and not one of the mangy urban ones you see in cities’.
The very same day, metro.co.uk gets down with the rodent even more!
Keith Viner, former chef of Michelin-starred Pennypots in Cornwall, said: ‘Southern-fried squirrel is good. And tandoori style works.
‘It is especially tasty fricasséed with Cornish cream and walnuts. But the one everyone seems to like is the Cornish squirrel pasty.’
I would love a Cornish squirrel pasty. Buttery, flaky, squirrely goodness! And no bones to choke on!
That’s the report from Catty Corner, dolls. I must continue with my yoga. If you have any ideas or recipes for squirrel you’d like to share with me, please purr please do! Eck eck.