Sunday, August 28, 2005

Squirrel Gravy

Too many food posts? What's that?

Dear MadCapMum had a post on squirrel behavior and I mentioned squirrel gravy which brought me around to post this. I suppose a whole lot of people think Beverly Hillbillies when I mention squirrel gravy. I hear there is good reason not to eat squirrels in, say, Georgia where there are tons of pine trees and no other mast -- I've heard that makes them taste like turpentine. But 'round here, there's plenty of acorns and hickory nuts and other things, and squirrel is a delicacy. To some of us. Hillbillies mostly.

The first animal I ever remember skinning was a squirrel. Gordon, who owned the local Gulf station and who to our delight flirted shamelessly as he cleaned our windows and checked our oil, was an avid sportsman and quite often brought his excess to my grandparents, who lived beside of us. It was his fish that I first scaled, and his squirrels that my grandfather had in his garage that day when I was maybe 6 or 7. I was riding a bicycle good I remember because that's what I was there asking my grandfather for -- I wanted a squirrel tail to go on my bicycle. He said, sure I could have one, but I'd have to help skin it. He told me where to hold on to, the skin he'd cut loose from the back legs. I was to pull as hard as I could and the skin was to come off like an inside-out sock. It didn't quite work that way. I was not heavy enough to budge that skin much, and I remember Dadaw holding that squirrel by his back legs, with me holding on to the skin and my feet completely off the ground. But I got my squirrel tale for trying.

And I always remembered the smell of that.

Years & years before that my grandfather's mother had been sick in bed for some time. She was dying of some form of "womb cancer", after bearing 16 children perhaps that was no surprise. She was having trouble eating but had said she really had a taste for some squirrel gravy. Now, that was a long time ago and these mountains were a long way from anything then and when the son who was at home looked around, there was only one shotgun shell. He took it and the gun and headed off into the woods anyway.

Before too long he spied what he'd most hoped for, two squirrels sitting together out on a branch. He took aim and brought them both home for his sister's to cook for his mother.


madcapmum said...

What a wonderful story, well told!

Our squirrels are spruce-cone fed, and about half the size of their southern cousins. I suppose they might do in a pinch, but it sounds like a lot of skinning for a toothful.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I don't think I'd bother for half the size. In general, I'd much rather deal with larger animals, goat and deer being rather ideal. I'd say sheep'll fit into that category too when we get them.

But you couldn't do any of those, could you, with your allergies?

madcapmum said...

It's really hard to say. I might be able to for a while because of my lack of exposure.
But I figure if I can pull in a big harvest from the garden, my dearly beloved can deal with the carnivorous end of things.

Unfortunately, we've got ample time to ponder all these things, because God knows when we'll ever get out onto enough land to do them.

Oh well. It's a wholesome fantasy life if nothing else!

eatmisery said...

I'm sure squirrel gravy is probably very good, but this gal's going to take a pass.

I don't think I could eat it.

Connie and Rob said...

I am so...glad I found your blog. My daddy is 92 years old and was born and raised in Tennessee. He has similar stories about eating squirrel but he has never mentioned squirrel gravy. I can't wait to talk to him and ask him all about it.

I am a new blogger but I hope you don't mind if I am a regular visitor. I find your stories very heartwarming. Stop and check mine out. It might make you smile.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I understand eatmisery, I've just gotten past that in my culinary hedonism (thanks madcap!)! The only thing I've presently heard of but haven't eaten that I think I might have a hard time with is Philipino pipped eggs. That, for some reason, I have a really hard time with. Although if either of us were really hungry!

And you are welcome here Connie! I'll drop in on your blog.

the Contrary Goddess said...

you know, I didn't tell of EATING the squirrel gravy. It is over biscuits, and you have a little pile of bones on the side of your plate when finished. But for my grandfather, the real delicacy was the brains! and he would crack those skulls with his teeth and suck the brains out! Oh yeah, it was a little graphic! This was before mad cow/mad squirrel/mad deer diseases of course.

madcapmum said...

Errrgghh. Now you've got me queasy.

My grandmother still cracks the chicken bones with her teeth and sucks the marrow out. She's 95. I find it a little hard to share a table with her. Just over-sensitive, I guess.

Floridacracker said...

I remember the family next door sucking squirrel brains as a kid. I only ate there once.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I remember visiting my brother in southern Virginia about 30 years ago. He was a newcomer to the hills there, but his neighbors were long-time, many generations hill folks. I always thought they had mentioned to me that they hunted and ate squirrel. Then, as the years passed, I thought maybe I had imagined it. So, it is delightful to read this post, and have it confirmed.
I like your story-telling.

Joe Tornatore said...

good story. never in my wildest imagination would I believe there was squirrel gravy. people must be NUTS. lol.

the Contrary Goddess said...

cracker, I hope you will eat here again, in spite of the possibility of squirrel gravy.

daughter, I'd love to know where in Virginia as all my people are from there.

Joe, you already know we're nuts!

And madcap, it made me a little queasy too. But I love it as a memory of him.