It is finally spring here in Michigan, and we’re trying to make our space a little nicer. The enormously expensive back-strip landscaping is fleshing out nicely, and we’ve added a couple bird feeders. Of course this attracts not only the wrong birds — if I wanted mourning doves, I’d have put on a funeral — but squirrels. My experience firing a shotgun last week leads me to fantasize about more interesting target practice, preferably on those little bastards. The other day I wondered idly what they might taste like.
It turns out squirrel cookery is in Alan’s immediate bloodline. His parents used to go hunting together, and sometimes brought home a bag of them. “I remember my mom would boil them, and then fry them,” he said. Alan’s mom was a humble cook with a limited repertoire, but I give her points for guts and pluck for even trying to cook a squirrel. (Although, to be sure, boiled-then-fried sounds positively vile.) Turns out I’m not the only one giving this critter some thought:
(Squirrel) meat is selling faster than butchers can get it, not least because it is currently nesting season. Ever since Kingsley Village Butchers in Fraddon, Cornwall, began offering grey squirrel two months ago, it has shifted up to a dozen a day.
That’s from the Telegraph. The British can be very strange.
The story goes on to reveal the astonishing price English butchers are fetching for “tree rat:”
At £3 to £4 for one, the shop-bought variety is hardly an obvious answer to keeping the lid on an escalating grocery bill.
Jeez. At current exchange rates that’s almost $7 per squirrel. Alan and I split a one-inch Delmonico from time to time, which at current prices costs us around $14. And for that we can get two squirrels? The dollar is weak, but please.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Via Nervous Rod Dreher, a profile of Marston Hefner in GQ magazine, teenage son of you-know-who:
Marston doesn’t actually live in the Mansion—not anymore, not since his parents split up in 1998 and his mom, the blond Playmate Kimberley Conrad (January ’88), moved into a more modest house that adjoins the property. He’s 18 now, about to graduate from high school, a tall and lanky kid with heavy brows, watchful, slightly sad eyes, and a complexion that says “I spend too much time playing video games.” He has none of his dad’s swagger or mothlike attraction to the bright lights of Hollywood—which you could attribute to a young man struggling to define himself in opposition to his famous father, or to the fact that they just don’t spend that much quality time together these days. Marston doesn’t make it over every day. He’s usually here on Thursdays, though, for…backgammon night?
Nervous Rod thinks the kid is a slack zero, because of course GQ is the last authority in all things, and because he disapproves of Hugh Hefner. I’m a parent, too, and I had a different reaction: Marston Hefner is turning out about as well as can reasonably be expected, a typical child of a parent who blots out the sun, his odds in life perhaps 50-50 — his money will provide him cushion and opportunities, while the essential weirdness of his upbringing and its attendant pitfalls will try to take him down.
And while I’m always happy to see a freelance writer getting some work, I’m less fond of hit pieces against people who don’t deserve it, and while the hit wasn’t aimed at young Marston, he’s certainly collateral damage in passages like this, in which the writer interviews Hef pére:
Did you ever try to explain the fact that, just after the separation, you started dating seven blond women?
“Not really. What is there to say?”
There was never any conversation about monogamy or marriage?
“What kind of conversation would that be?”
What kind of signal does that send?
“I think the signal that it sends, quite frankly, which the boys liked, was that instead of somebody replacing mama, I dated a bunch of girls.”
After about forty-five minutes, Hef appears to be losing steam. I turn off the tape recorder, and he rises from the couch. As he does, he rips the kind of fart that one does not even attempt to hide from. No one in the room blinks.
News flash: Hef was a lousy father, and 82-year-old men fart unexpectedly. Wow. I bet Ronald Reagan was the picture of refinement at that age, too. (And, to be sure, not much of a father, either.)
Let’s just hope they had better taste in picking the mothers of their children.
Nice David Edelstein appreciation of Sydney Pollack, actor.
OK, Friday. I’d looked forward to a long, relaxing bike ride today, and in the last half-hour three e-mails arrived that will see to it I’m desk-bound for half the day. Better get to work. Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you back here after.
Kirk said on May 30, 2008 at 10:28 am
I remember my grandmother occasionally serving squirrel (alongside the chicken, roast beef and ham) when I was a little feller. Though I was an extraordinarily picky eater, I liked rabbit and pheasant, so I tried the squirrel. Don’t remember much about it except that it wasn’t bad and it didn’t taste at all like chicken.
LAMary said on May 30, 2008 at 10:30 am
I’m with David Edelstein. I liked Sydney Pollack as an actor more than as a director. Really, his portrayal of the doctor in prison in the Sopranos was excellent. He had the whole attitude thing down perfectly. I guess he was sick with cancer himself at the time, so he likely had lots of opportunities to see what high powered oncologists act like.
nancy said on May 30, 2008 at 10:32 am
He was also great in “Michael Clayton.” “What’ll they do? They’re doing it!”
Bill said on May 30, 2008 at 10:54 am
This bird feeder keeps squirrels out of the black oil sunflower seed. It works best when hanging on a shepherd’s crook near bird-friendly foliage.
del said on May 30, 2008 at 11:05 am
Remember Mike Huckabee’s remark about cooking squirrels in a popcorn pan?
John said on May 30, 2008 at 11:43 am
I remember having a very good Brunswick stew forty some odd years ago and would probably try it again if given a chance.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 30, 2008 at 11:45 am
‘Scuse me, while i touch the sky — http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html — if you see this after Friday, 30 May, click the left arrow back to the “Phoenix Descending” shot.
Takes your breath away, it does, or did me. Oh, and the piece from GQ was gentler and more fair than i expected, especially about the young man who really does seem to have a chance at an inner-directed life, and good for him! But i suspect the gas-on-rising would not have made it into the final story if it weren’t for the publicist’s talking point sheet, which didn’t seem to be about age related memory loss, but about the truly trapped in amber-ness of the Pajama-ed One’s mind. Wesleyan may almost be far enough away, but you wonder about what mom will do when little bro heads off to college. Doesn’t sound like the groundskeeper’s cottage is going to stay congenial, even if Hef lives into his 90’s.
Julie Robinson said on May 30, 2008 at 11:51 am
Even though I know squirrels are just rodents I love watching them and I don’t have the heart to stop them from getting at the birdseed. They’re such good entertainment they deserve a little pay.
Most of our neighbors have dogs or cats so our yard is a small sanctuary for the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits. I would rather watch them than most of what’s on TV.
brian stouder said on May 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm
Tripped across this story combining illicit sex, a wire (as in The Wire), and a blown stakeout (so to speak)
one of many interesting passages:
The case began last fall, when a 33-year-old prostitute told investigators that she had had many sexual encounters with on-duty officers. The police began an internal investigation focused on five officers, Lopez said. On Nov. 6, a woman stood in the post-midnight darkness near a seedy East Durham corner. According to Lopez, she was wearing a concealed microphone so undercover officers parked nearby could hear her and was expecting to meet with one or more of the suspected officers.
But there was an unscripted interruption. As the woman waited, four teenagers in a stolen SUV pulled up and pointed a gun at her. The undercover officers, hearing what was happening, radioed for a marked police car to stop the vehicle. That turned into a chase, which led to the fatal shooting by a Durham officer of a 16-year-old in front of the Durham Public Library’s main branch.
I liked that word “unscripted”! David Simon his-own-self coulda’ scripted this…..and the main officers’ names, targeted in this investigation?
The investigation focused on Sgt. Keith Cheeks, 46, and Officer Demond Gooch, 35, Lopez said.
The Cheeks & Gooch sex scandal?!
moe99 said on May 30, 2008 at 12:28 pm
Burgoo, the Kentucky state stew, uses squirrel meat in its most authentic form. I’ve made it for Derby parties several times, alas but only with other meats.
The squirrels in my backyard provide exercise for my miniature dachshund, Scooter. As a result, I would not do without them. Perhaps, I should loan you Scooter for a weekend of fun, Nancy?
Sue said on May 30, 2008 at 12:59 pm
I’m a squirrel fan. They have to eat in winter too.
Brian, I am not having luck finding a lot of Dells bargain prices for you, much to my surprise. I can get discount tickets for Noah’s Ark, Pirates Cove and the Ducks, but the savings are minimal (Noah’s: $26.5; Pirate’s: $5; Ducks: $17.4 adult & $9.20 kids 6 – 11). I will keep looking. Let me know if you want me to get you any tickets.
Mindy said on May 30, 2008 at 1:45 pm
Squirrel brains are a southern delicacy. Yuk. No thank you, please.
The squirrels chasing each other up and down the trees is one of fall’s great joys. So is watching my dog’s determination to catch one.
brian stouder said on May 30, 2008 at 1:47 pm
Sue – we’re doin’ the Dells around 7/7; Pam has found a package deal or two, but there’s still time. Not to worry, though.
At this point, it’s like falling off a log; ie – we’ll rock & roll regardless – so that any deals in one place will just add a few dollars to what we spend in another
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on May 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm
“I want a news service that tells me what no one knows but is true nonetheless,” he says.
Who dat? http://www.slate.com/id/2192382/pagenum/2/
Dorothy said on May 30, 2008 at 2:20 pm
Once my cousin’s husband was behind me in traffic, going down Bebout Road in the country. A squirrel dashed into my path, and I swerved to avoid him/her. Later Bill said to me “Why’d you do that – you should have aimed at the damn thing! They’re just rats with fluffy tails!” But I’d never purposely kill an animal with my car.
Augie just couldn’t get enough of watching squirrels outside our windows at our house. And we used to love to hear our Russian exchange student say to him “Where is squirrr-duhl?” in his Rusky accent.
Danny said on May 30, 2008 at 2:34 pm
Very funny, Dorothy.
Sue said on May 30, 2008 at 2:47 pm
We were at lunch one day with my sister and BIL, and were being served by a nice young lady with a lovely Russian accent. My BIL leaned over and whispered to me “see if you can get her to say “moose and squirrel”. I spit soda all over the table, of course. And no I did not try to make her say it.
Danny said on May 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm
Oh, crap, Sue. I gotta do this to my Russian co-worker now. That is hilarious.
Catherine said on May 30, 2008 at 5:50 pm
Shouldn’t the headline be “To Serve Squirrels?” Or am I the only Star Trek geek around here?
joodyb said on May 30, 2008 at 7:03 pm
Squirrel brains? wouldn’t that be like snipe hunting?
John said on May 30, 2008 at 9:16 pm
Twilight Zone reference, not Star Trek…
Well, that is what I would say if I were either a TZ or ST geek!
coozledad said on May 31, 2008 at 9:32 am
The few depression-era people I know relied on squirrels to round out their diet of pork intestines, collards and corn bread. They always mention the tedious job of hunting for warbles in the flesh before cooking.
I’m a vegetarian, and listening to these people has convinced me I need to hoard a few cases of peanut butter before the next economic shitstorm.
Here’s a public health notice from you folks’ neck of the woods. Warning: unappetizing. De-appetizing, even:
Michael Roberts said on May 31, 2008 at 12:36 pm
Boiled-then-fried is Hungarian pörkölt, and it is, bar none, the most lovely way in the world to prepare meat. (As long as you use onions and imported paprika, anyway — without the spices, you may be right about it being vile.)
It’s certainly the way I’d prepare any game, including squirrel. But I’ve been told the problem with squirrel is you have to get all the hair off. I don’t know nothin about that; we were auto-industry Hoosiers, not farm Hoosiers, and if IGA didn’t sell it, it didn’t need to be eaten.
LA Mary said on May 31, 2008 at 8:24 pm
My depression era dad used hunt squirrels and cook them. I’ve eaten squirrel. It’s depressing just thinking about this.
coozledad said on May 31, 2008 at 10:43 pm
LA Mary: I don’t think squirrels would be particularly bad food, especially given their diet of acorns and nuts. Apparently hogs fed strictly on mast are used to produce incredibly expensive ham these days. I think the problem for rodents is their tendency to drink from standing water. That’s how they get the botfly larvae, which migrate from the gut.
I’ve met people who grew up in Belize who got warbles as children, and they said it was sort of freaky, but not traumatic.
After all, they were in Belize.
jane resh thomas said on June 1, 2008 at 1:55 am
When I was growing up in Michigan in the forties, my mother cooked almost everything my dad trapped or shot. Much of the game, including squirrels, was parboiled to make the meat more tender, dredged in cracker meal, and then fried in butter or Crisco. It was delicious. Besides squirrel, we regularly ate beaver, possum, coon, bear, deer, rabbit, muskrat, pheasant, coot, all kinds of duck, goose, partridge, snapping turtle, quail, and occasionally elk (from out of state), moose (ditto). The gamier, the better for me. Mother drew the line on only fox and mink meat. Nobody in my adult life hunts, so I miss the old time food.
Living as I do in Minneapolis now, seeing only an occasional mourning dove, the slur on those lovely, graceful, sweet-sounding birds of Michigan pains me. What about a mourning dove makes it a wrong kind of bird? Hoity toity. Let us take joy in nature, in all its magnificent variety.
David said on June 2, 2008 at 11:58 am
My copy of JOY of COOKING that someone gave me for Christmas in the 1970’s (don’t remember which edition that would be) has recipes for game, including squirrel. It includes pen-and-ink illustrations of the cook donning elbow-length rubber gloves, and then pulling the squirrel’s pelt off all in one piece – essentially pulling the squirrel inside-out. It’s not something I’m ever particularly interested in doing myself, but the teenaged me thought, “Coooooolllllll…..”