Last week, I wrote about Gourmet magazine’s food predictions for 2009. They predicted that the faltering economy would bring about resurgence in casseroles. I said I needed to get out some of my church and PTA cookbooks and see if I can make some casseroles more healthy and eco-friendly.

I have a small collection of those fund-raising cookbooks where everyone submits their favorite family recipe, the recipes get published in a spiral bound cookbook, and then get sold to raise money. One of the books I pulled out is from the Wilkes Barre, PA area - Nesbitt Memorial Hospital’s Auxiliary 80th Anniversary Family Cookbook. It’s filled with common fare for this type of cookbook: hot dog stew, hamburg pie, holiday tuna tree, o my gosh, and squirrel stew.

Yep. Squirrel stew.

I would have thought this recipe was a joke if I hadn’t just read a piece in the Jan. 7th edition of the New York Times titled Saving a Squirrel by Eating One. Seems the British are into squirrel these days. In fact,

in farmers’ markets, butcher shops, village pubs and elegant restaurants, squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.

“Part of the interest is curiosity and novelty,” said Barry Shaw of Shaw Meats, who sells squirrel meat at the Wirral Farmers Market near Liverpool. “It’s a great conversation starter for dinner parties.”

The squirrel cuisine of Britain is more than just novelty, however. It seems many see eating squirrel as a way to help the environment. Gray squirrels that were introduced from North America are taking over and crowding out the red squirrels that are native to England and its neighboring countries. A campaign was introduced in 2006 that urged people to “Save a red. Eat a gray!”

My disdain for the squirrels in my backyard that feast on my vegetable garden is well documented, but I never thought of killing and stewing the little pests.

How are the squirrels being served?

The Famous Wild Boar Hotel in Britain’s Lake District serves squirrel Peking-duck style; at Matfen Hall, a grand country house hotel, it is layered with hazelnuts into a terrine; in Cornwall, it can be found baked into the iconic meat pie known as a pasty.
Or, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, USA, it’s served stewed.

I suppose you could eat things less appetizing than squirrel. You could eat holiday tuna tree.

Image: Annie Mole

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