Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For December 14, 2003


Fried squirrels are rather tasty provided you are quite hungry


            Tuesday night Grandma and I were invited out to supper. Actually, it was billed as a “Squirrel Banquet” with all the trimmings.

            Both of us were a bit squeamish about the idea until Steve and Amy explained that our 11-year-old grandson Jake wanted us to come. He had killed 17 squirrels, having shot only 19 times. We accepted the invitation, which was sweetened by the news that our beloved Aunt Gene Johnson was also coming to the supper.

            Things do change. Jake is a crack shot with a rifle or a shotgun. He shakes his head in amazement when I tell him that my dad did not allow me to own and use a shotgun until I was 12 years old. At his age, I was very proud of my air rifle.

            Amy called upon a friend, Fran Hill, to help her prepare the squirrels. Fran, who lives across the road, was indeed quite skilled in cooking squirrels. Some she prepared by stewing them in brown gravy, with onions, while she fried the others. Both were rather tasty, though during the meal I wished that I had been hungry.

            Next time I attend a squirrel supper, if there ever is another time, I plan not to eat anything for the previous three days. I concluded quickly Tuesday night that a squirrel supper could be swallowed much easier if one is very hungry -- and I mean hungry.

            Hot biscuits were on the menu, along with a salad and dessert. Some of us were tempted to settle for biscuits and gravy. However, none of us wanted to be “chicken” about eating some squirrel, so we all accepted the challenge.

            I noticed that the fried squirrel pieces were more popular than the baked. It was easy to see why. The stewed pieces were larger and looked like half a squirrel. The fried pieces were smaller. One guest explained, “I could eat a fried piece by forgetting that it was squirrel. I tried to imagine that I was merely eating a piece of meat.”

            I tried to forget what I was eating also. This did not work. With every bite I took, my brain kept screaming, “Squirrel, squirrel, squirrel.” Even so, I prayed not to gag, kept eating, and asked the good Lord to help me make it to the dessert. If I can just make it to the chocolate cheesecake, and coffee, I will be all right.

            Jake’s mother, Amy, who is a white woman, was whiter than usual during the meal. She had arranged the meal but found herself unable to eat very much of anything, much less squirrel. This, despite the fact that her proud young son claimed the squirrel was delicious and ate heartily.

            Delicious? I cannot embrace that description myself. How would I describe it then? Did it taste like rabbit or chicken? No, not really. Did it have the taste of bear meat? No, I tried that once and was not impressed.

            Honestly, I must say that squirrel has a distinctive taste. The best I can say for it is that it tasted like squirrel, and each person must decide what that means.

            Sometimes when I am eating a small, fried pork chop, I feel my appetite accelerating, so that I want another one. My wife’s mother could cook pork chops that were out of this world. I could never stop with just one.

            However, at no time during the squirrel supper did I feel this urge for more. Instead, I questioned why I had taken two pieces rather than one. Eating one piece would have convinced everyone that I was a real man who could eat squirrel.

            The meat was sparse and I had to tear it from the many small bones. Like others at the meal, I enjoyed the fried more than the stewed. Even the biscuit with gravy was a little hard to swallow since my brain kept reminding me that the gravy was squirrel gravy.

            All in our family have heard that my mother prepared squirrel meals quite often when her children were growing up. Times were hard and squirrels were plentiful. 

Mamma and Lela, who cooked for her for 50 years, used several delicious recipes for cooking squirrels.

            Neither I, nor any of my siblings, chose to include squirrels on our menus when we began housekeeping. We all left that in the distant past. I reminded Jake as we ate that it had been probably 55 years since I had eaten squirrel. Still, for Jake, I met the challenge last week.

            I waited until most of us had about finished eating before reminding everyone that squirrels belong to the rodent family. In England, for example, squirrels are sometimes called “flying rats.”

            My reference to rodents was unwelcome and digestion slowed in every stomach. I tried to recover by praising Jake for being such a good shot and for providing us with a fine though unusual supper.

            Grandma and I decided that we would be “out of town” whenever we receive another invitation to a squirrel dinner.

            Our supper ended when Jake’s dad, Steve, gave us a good laugh with this comment, “After this good supper I like curling up in a nest and taking a long nap.”

            If you have a hankering to arrange a squirrel supper yourself, my advice is to be sure you have plenty of hot biscuits and cheesecake on hand. Then make sure you are very hungry, and I do mean hungry. + + + +