(aka My Mom’s Attempt At Cooking Squirrel)
There is something to be said for eating squirrel. Now, I make no slight toward hunters that do it because I do enjoy a good venison every once in a while as well as other properly cooked game and wildlife. However, eating squirrel – regardless if you scored the little tree rats yourself – is like ordering the special off the menu at the Roadkill Café. Which brings me to the point of my story: my mother and her attempts at cooking squirrel.
When I was about nine years old, my father would go hunting. Actually, he still continues to hunt, but his aversion to bringing home kills is directly proportional to the fear he has in relation my mom cooking it. This means he goes out and comes home empty handed. I will say that my mom can boil water… sort of. I know few people who can burn water, but there you have it. She’s not a good cook. She’s quite crappy compared to say… me. (I will expand upon this in a bit.) The point is, I’m about nine years old, and my father got this excellent idea to kill and bring home squirrel for my mom to cook.
Now, my father did the hard part. He decapitated the little suckers, skinned, and gutted them. The only part my mom would have to do is figure out how to cook them – poor things – which brings us to the morning of the incident. My father is a bit old fashioned and not so much asks but demands dinner to be ready a certain time. Or at least did when I was growing up. Requests for particular dishes were handled much the same way. It was Sunday and as most Sundays my father spent his time working overtime. He was up at 3 o’clock in the morning and out the door by four.
My little almost nine-year-old-self woke up that morning to this god awful racket coming from the kitchen at about 8 o’clock in the morning. I get up and wander in to see my mom thoroughly frustrated and fighting with our trusty Crock-Pot. If you’have seen this related scene from the movie Overboard (1987) in the picture below, then you will get an idea of what I saw the morning I stumbled into our kitchen. You can even view the clip here.
Are you still with me? Good.
I sit in complete dismay for a good 15-20 minutes as I watch “Crock-Pot Battle Royal” unfold in our kitchen. It’s at this point I get her attention. She had totally been oblivious to my presence if that tells you anything. I ask her what is going on. Not only have I gotten an explanation of what my father wanted, but she has also been battling the squirrels for 2 hours.
Two. The number two, first in sequence after the number one, preceding the number three. Spelled out:
Insert /facepalm before /facepalm was invented.
So, yes. My mother had been trying to make all 5 or 6 squirrels fit in a 3-quart Crock-Pot for two hours.
Of course, my genius almost nine-year-old-self looks at my mother and says, “Have you tried cutting them up?”
I love my mom. Really, I do. But the thought of cutting up the rodents seemed like a foreign concept to her. After asking me several times if that was a smart idea, she pulls them from the Crock-Pot and attempts to cut apart the poor little animals. It is at this point I have a closer inspection. Sure… my father killed and removed the essentials, but skinning is a messy job and bits of things usually get left behind. When you prepare game, you have to clean and remove any foreign debris – including any hair that my father may or may not have missed when dressing the animals. Apparently, the notion of removing the fur from the animals is a foreign concept to my mother who has, by this point in the story, gone all Norman Bates on the little suckers.
So, cue again my almost nine-year-old self pointing out the obvious once again as I say, “Are they supposed to have fur?”
The woman shrugs at me and says, “It will dissolve while cooking.”
Now, I’m no Einstein at eight or nine years old, but I know that hair does not fucking dissolve while cooking, unless you are cooking on the surface of the sun. Too dumbfounded to speak, I watch as my mother loads the Crock-Pot with their butchered little souls as though it were a mafia style burial. Adding to horror, she grabs the nearest bottle of cheap BBQ sauce and drowns the dismembered bodies. She triumphantly places the lid on the Crock-Pot, turns it to “High” and walks away.
This is how my mom “cooks” squirrel. And I use cook very liberally here.
So, fast forward to that evening. My father has worked a 12-hour shift. He’s tired. He’s looking forward to the squirrel that he had painstakingly slaughtered for my mom to cook. When my mother serves up the offending dish, I see my father lick his lips with anticipation. However, before he digs in, he looks at me and notices the look on my face. I openly protest eating it, knowing what my mother may or may not have done in the process of cooking it. Sometimes, being an immature child has its advantages. Throw a big enough fit and you get sent to bed hungry. Considering my options at the time, this looked like a good idea. But my dad had other ideas. “No,” he says to me, “if I have to eat this, then you will, too.”
My mom watches my dad, teetering nervously as she awaits approval of her efforts from him. She’s excited about her ‘successful’ efforts at this venture. As the man bites into his first piece – it might have been a leg – I see the joy drain from his face as he begins to chew. Frowning, he reaches up and pulls a buckshot from his mouth.
And then some weird flap of skin.
And then fur.
Lots and lots of fur.
I could tell you what happened next but let’s just say that my almost nine-year-old-self fell in love with the pizza delivery guy that night.