So, my very good REASON for missing Jazzercise all week (even though I now have clean clothes) is that I’ve just returned from a trip to another galaxy. Faith, NC, may as well be another planet for how different life is there. I forget this when I haven’t been home in a while.
Now, lest anyone think that I am ridiculing small towns, let me reassure all that I LOVE small towns, especially Faith. It holds a charm for me like no other place on earth. And, frankly, were it not for spending my formative years in Faith, I would no doubt be a normal person (how tediously boring!) without the neuroses from which I draw creative juice. It may not be necessary for every writer to be insane, but, speaking for myself, I would be utterly useless as a writer were I mentally stable.
I will tell y’all just ONE of the many interesting things that occurred during my recent sojourn. It involves squirrels, as many small-town tales do.
While I was growing up, my father shot many a squirrel. Along with rabbits, quail, deer–whatever. And we ate what he shot. Not all the time, of course, we had normal food as well, but, I confess that as a child, on many occasions, I had squirrel for dinner. My grandmother would skin, braise, and serve them with gravy, and usually rice. At the time, I thought absolutely nothing of it–it was a routine dinner menu. Although, looking back, I do recall that many nights Mamma had no appetite. And you can bet the farm she NEVER skinned anything.
While Daddy still owns his collection of rifles, shotguns, etc., the town of Faith has long since passed an ordinance against firing guns inside the town limits. For years, residents largely ignored this, but recently, some new folks have moved into town who tend to call the law, or, at the very least, walk over to inquire what is being shot at.
In recent years, squirrel has not been a dinner table staple, so this would not be an issue, except for the squirrels tend to dig up my mamma’s flowers. This makes her unhappy, and when Mamma ain’t happy…well, you know.
So, my brother-in-law bought my daddy a squirrel trap. Daddy baits this contraption with peanuts, and when a squirrel goes in, the door slams shut. When I arrived, on Monday afternoon, Daddy was aglow with the victory of a recent catch. He’d just returned from releasing the squirrel “out in the country” (which in and of itself is a joke, as Faith hardly qualifies as an urban area–I digress).
Late yesterday, as I was trying to catch up on email from Mamma and Daddy’s snail-paced dial-up connection, Daddy yelled from the kitchen, “Come here, quick!”
I went running. He stood pointing out the kitchen window. “Look, he’s going in!” A poor, unsuspecting squirrel was poking his head into the cage. He went for the peanut. As soon as the door slammed shut, Daddy went running out the backdoor. I followed him, aghast, as he proudly admired his catch. “Come on,” he said.
“What?” I looked at him in disbelief. Surely, he didn’t think I was going with him to relocate the squirrel. But he did. He put the cage in the back of the pickup truck. “Come on, you’ll have to help.” Under protest, I went, but only in case someone had to call 911 if the squirrel turned out to be rabid, or just plain mad about being caged and evicted, and bit Daddy.
Ten miles from my parents home, where Daddy reasoned the squirrel could not find his way back, my father pulled over, muttered at a women in the car behind us who was rubbernecking to see if perhaps he was disposing of a dead body, and released his captive. I stayed in the truck with the door locked, which was smart, because Daddy tried to open the passenger side door and give me an up-close view of the caged squirrel.
In a separate squirrel-related incident on Tuesday, my uncle, who lives outside the town limits, shot two squirrels with one shell, cunningly waiting until they were lined up, so he could take them out together.
Last night I kissed my mamma goodbye and drove two hours and fifteen minutes to the other side of the universe right after dinner–grilled hamburgers, nothing wild.
Next time, you might want to keep the fresh catch for a savory dinner. There’s nothing better than a meal from your childhood to sooth you and fill your stomach and spirit. Here’s a favorite squirrel recipe of mine to get you started:
Start by skinning your fresh rodent. Soak the entire naked squirrel corpse in a mixture of Worchestershire sauce and lemon juice for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Add a dash of salt every couple of hours. Remove the chilled varment and roll in crushed peanuts (what else?), then lightly stirfry with sweet corn. Serve with mashed potatoes and red velvet cake. Feeds a family of 4.
(Note: A nice Bordeaux compliments the feast.)
Let me know how it turns out!
Readers? Any other squirrel recipes?
Is Faith, NC anywhere near Lizard Lick?
Sadly, I can’t take credit for this one, because I found it online after your blog sparked a strange curiosity for me to see how people actually prepared squirrel. This is a winner:
Redneck Squirrel Fry
~ squirrel legs, amount depends on how many you have or how hungry you are.
~ 2 eggs
~ 1 tbsp ketchup
~ salt and pepper
~ 1 can beer
~ Drakes batter
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the ketchup. Salt and pepper to taste
Add 1/2 can of beer and drink the rest. (you don’t want to waste it!) Mix well.
Put some of the Drakes batter in a shallow dish.
Melt several tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.
Dip the squirrel into the egg mixture and then roll in the Drakes. Repeat for thicker coating.
Add to the skillet and cook until golden brown. Turn as needed.
Serve with mashed potatoes and cream corn.
Susan M. Boyer says
Oh, no….Lizard Lick is more in the city–up near Raleigh. They got a stop light in 1997. Faith is still operating on the lone caution light it had in my childhood. Also, with 1,300 people, Lizard Lick is nearly twice as big as Faith.
That last recipe, for the fried squirrel? You got a gravy receipe goes with that?
For an intimate repast, look to the French, and try this dish guaranteed to stimulate the senses: Squirrel Francais. Place two skinned, rinsed,and gutted squirrels on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the carcasses and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Then pound the little fellows flat with a mallet. (Note: Be gentle with the appendages, as they tend to vanish under a heavy hand.) Then drench your squirrel pancakes in a butter and lemon juice mixture and dredge in bread crumbs. Toss into a hot skillet filled with about 1/4 inch of extra-virgin olive oil and brown lightly on both sides. Lower temperature, cover and cook for no more than three minutes on each side. Serve hot with a rice pilaf and chilled asparagus al dente. Add a glass or two of chardonnay and settle back for the romantic evening ahead.
From a Southern Living cookbook of Southern Country cooking:
3 squirrels (or 2 rabbits)
5 quarts of boiling water
1 lb. salt pork
1 large onion
4 c. chopped tomatoes
2 c. green lima beans
2 c. corn
8-12 diced potatoes
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. butter
4 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Cut everything into bite-size pieces and simmer 3 hrs. Serves 12.