Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pets or Meat: Squirrels to Become Staple of American Diet

BOULDER, Colorado -- Did you know that squirrel can be a delicious and nutritious meal? No, this is not a message from the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, but rather from the people of England, who are gobbling up the rodents in everything from stews to Cornish pasties.

Annoyed at the infestation of their country by the American gray squirrel (an invasive species), which is squeezing out their beloved native red squirrels, the Brits have decided to kill and eat the interlopers. And as part of their effort to convince you that the United States is just weeks away from complete collapse into an Omega Man-style dystopian future (or perhaps another Charlton Heston film is a more appropriate analogy - Planet of the Apes? Soylent Green?), the New York Times wants to tell you all about this absurd new cuisine. But the reporter concludes:
One might think that because of easy availability, squirrel would be the perfect meal-stretcher for these economically challenged times, but it takes a lot of work to get the meat off even the plumpest squirrel.
Squirrel is not that hard to skin and gut, actually. As the article points out, it is important not to eat the brains, as some people down in Appalachia have contracted ailments similar to mad cow disease from them. Today my friend Tyler sent me these helpful instructions from a Russian book about how to gut a rabbit, but this method could be easily applied to squirrels or other small woodland creatures (the original is posted here):

[A method for disemboweling the carcasses of wild rabbits

1. Firmly wrap your hands around the carcass in the area of the ribcage.

2. Strongly squeeze the carcass in the direction of the stomach, lift it above your head, and with one sharp, strong motion, similar to swinging an ax, swing it downward, bringing your hands between your legs.]
As an additional step, make sure no one is standing behind you when you fling the rabbit's innards out of its anus. As Michael Moore pointed out in his film Roger & Me, rabbits are often the first victims of a recession, as they are one of the few animals that American culture finds acceptable as both pets and meat. But if you lost all of your money in a pyramid scheme, and you are forced to rely on in-home animal husbandry for both your income and your sustenance, make sure you have the proper facilities to legally slaughter, dress, and butcher your furry friends.

Finally, I recently discovered a follow-up documentary that Moore made three years after Roger & Me, which includes interviews with many Flint residents from the first film, including the rabbit lady, Rhonda Britton. The title of the film is, fittingly, Pets or Meat, and you can watch it here on Youtube.

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