Friday, January 27, 2012

Folklife Fridays: Squirrel for Breakfast

Where I grew up, squirrel hunting was as common as apple blossoms in spring.  Every family, if they were physically able, hunted squirrels for a source of protein in their diets.  Our woods had plentiful nut trees, oaks and hickories and black walnuts; therefore, there were plenty of squirrels.

Daddy would start out at first light, his feet scrunching on the frost-covered ground, to find some squirrels.  He usually brought at least three home, sometimes after walking for quite a while.  Three provided enough meat for a big, hungry family.

After the squirrels were skinned and cleaned, Mama would parboil the pieces a while, then dredge them in flour, salt, and pepper, and fry them in a big iron skillet.  After the meat was done and removed, she added more flour and water to the drippings to make gravy to pour over the squirrel meat.  Other days, she would boil the squirrel meat until it was tender, then add dumplings to the pot.

We absolutely loved it, and yes, we ate the brains which are considered a delicacy now.  Sometimes, my lil' ole sister would find a pellet of buckshot in hers, which the rest of us found highly amusing. 

Squirrel is showing up on menus in Appalachia and some other parts of the country now, some of it rather expensive.

I haven't eaten any squirrel since I was much younger.  I am not opposed to eating it in any way, being the true carnivore that I am.  It is just that I don't have my Mama to cook it for me, or my Daddy to shoot them for me now.  Hub and I apparently don't have the hunting gene, and we are able to buy meat already cleaned at the grocery store.  If we ever get the urge to try it, however, we won't have to go far to hunt for squirrels.

There is a huge scaly bark hickory tree just off my deck, and it is a mecca for squirrels.  Many times, I can see at least a dozen running around in my back yard.  I enjoy watching them but sometimes, they can be a little annoying.  They eat my dog's food right out of his feeder, and the sweet little dog lays there and watches them, yawning occasionally.  And there is a constant battle with the bird feeders. 

Sometimes, I wonder what my daddy would say if I could take him out on the deck and show him all those squirrels.  With his shotgun, he could probably lay in a month's supply of squirrel meat before the police got here.