You aren't really going to eat that, are you?
Come'on, admit it - in the secret recesses of your life you indulge in something that the vast majority of the free world would be generally grossed out upon. A few months ago, I stumbled upon some program airing in the middle of the night where they were eating rotten salmon. It's an Eskimo delicacy I learned. By the time they were savoring a repast of crunchy fried eyeballs, I had seen enough. Now, there is what I think is a new series featuring some guy travelling around and eating foods that most of us would declare gross. I've only seen it once and don't recall that he was eating anything all that gross, but that's probably because I have probably enjoyed it myself at some point.
My closet is full of foods that many turn their noses up at -- tripe, trotters (what a lovely thing to call pigs' feet), and herring. But these are things easily available in the local market so that can't be that bizarre, right? My mom used to cook kidney soup regularly but I could never stomach it due to the distinct unwashed bathroom odor they put off while cooking. I've never personally cooked chitterlings and to the best of my knowledge have never tasted them but would in a heartbeat. Last week, I ordered some tripa tacos at a nearby restaurant and lo and behold, it was unlike any tripe I've eaten in the past. This tripe was small tubular bits of meat. I guess it was pork tripe? Dunno. Grandpa used to cook calves' brains occasionally and those were good tasting along the lines of scrambled eggs. I'd venture to eat them even now except for that niggling little voice in the back of my head whispering, "mad cow disease".
Here in NJ, there were news reports over the winter about the dangers of eating squirrel. Much to my surprise, it's considered a staple in some parts of the state. Turns out some squirrels living near a toxic waste dump are a bit of dietary problem. I'm not sure what genius put the missing pieces together to figure out food coming from toxic waste dumps contaminated by lead wouldn't be too healthy. On the other hand, the state of NJ actually encourages squirrel hunting as a fine late winter pastime. Now that I know this, I know how to stave off the SAD I seem to get in late January every year. They kindly provide recipes on the state website as well. Thanks Governor Corzine (although the article was written under the leadership of McGreevy)! From the page aptly titled, Late Season Squirrel Hunting in NJ, we learn the following(and with a hat tip to a conversation from this morning in the Saturday Morning(Home and) Garden Blogging diary that came around to those pesky yard squirrels):
Hunters who ignore late-season squirrels are missing a great hunting opportunity. Squirrel populations are thriving and abundant in the Garden State, and mid-winter can be the most enjoyable time to hunt squirrels - ticks are not active, leaves are down and squirrels are active in the brisk temperatures over a snow-covered landscape. Shotgun season for squirrels in New Jersey runs to February 17, 2003, and muzzleloader season reopens on January 4.
. Sadly, I was not interested in learning the open season for squirrel in 2007 but if you are interested, I am sure the google pipes can provide an answer.
It goes to on the point out some history:
Hunting squirrels with a muzzleloading rifle is a traditional activity that actually played an essential role in the establishment of our country. The expert rifle marksmanship of early patriots was gained through hunting experience, necessary for survival in the Colonial period. Good marksmen (and women) put meat on the table and in doing so prepared themselves for revolutionary war against a British enemy that did not practice marksmanship.
After you bring home your catch (the article makes no mention of any limits), the author provides some of his favorite recipes:
4 cups sliced tomatoes
2 onions, minced
1 can whole kernel corn
½ pound of salt pork or ham, cubed
4 potatoes, cubed
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
flour and butter
2 slices lemon
Cut squirrel into small pieces or remove bones entirely. Add the salt to 2 quarts water and bring to boil; add onion, corn, pork, potatoes, pepper and squirrel pieces. Cover tightly and simmer 2 hours. Add sugar and tomatoes, and simmer 1 hour more. Ten minutes before removing stew from stove, add butter and flour to thicken the stew. Simmer, adding salt or pepper if needed. Pour into dish and garnish with lemon. Serves 4.
Here's a slow cooker suggestion:
½ pound venison, cubed
1 cup celery, sliced
1 can whole kernel sweet corn
2 onions, sliced
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste
1 can tomato juice
1 can green beans
4 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 can peas
Combine meat, celery, corn, onions, salt and pepper. Cover with water. Cook until meat is almost tender and remove bones. Add tomato juice, green beans, potatoes, carrots and peas. Cook until tender (use of a slow cooker recommended). Serves 4 to 6.
I'm not really into red chowders so I guess I'll be skipping this one. However, I do love my barbecue and love firing it up no matter the season. Here's a squirrel on the barby for those who love smoke flavored rodent:
½ cup barbecue sauce of your choice
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or cook and bake spray
Clean squirrel and cut up into sections. Spray a sizable piece of aluminum foil with bake spray or spread with vegetable oil. Place squirrel pieces on foil. Spread garlic slices over squirrel pieces. Pour barbecue sauce over squirrel. Wrap foil around squirrel, enclosing into tight package. Place package on metal baking sheet in 350 degree oven for 1½ hours. Serves 1.
I'm deducing from this recipe that the average serving size of freshly prepared squirrel is one per stomach. Seems kind of small to me but then again, a nice dinner of a couple of squab will square me away any evening. I remember the first time I ordered squab in a restaurant, my date looked dryly at me and offered the pigeons from her roof.
Weird food is even going upscale. Just this morning, I was reading the Washington Post food section from this week. Tom Sietsema reviewed a local Washington Mexican restaurant where one of the more popular dishes is grasshopper tacos or, tacos de chapulines. Go figure that one out. I bet they are good.
So, what foods are in your closet?
What do you eat when you think no one else is watching?