April 2015
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Memories of “Best Ever” Meals

 
  Rolley Len helps start training their new squirrel dog puppy Suzy by getting her interested in a squirrel tail on a string.

Most people my age have heard their parents talk about how hard life was when they were growing up without all of the modern conveniences we have today. Stories about walking through snow to school uphill both ways are always popular. My dad added his own personal touch: on his long walk to school, he carried a little metal pail that contained his sad lunch of a cold potato. We knew the stories were either made up or at least exaggerated, but they still told them and we got the point. 

My parents have always shared many stories about their lives with my sister, me and the grandchildren. Sometimes tidbits from the past even show up in conversations between family members on social networks like Facebook. Not long ago, I came across a photograph of an old wooden house posted by my mom’s brother Uncle Pat. The photo sparked this exchange between my mother and her brother:

"Thinking about the fireplaces my grandparents used for heat, no indoor plumbing to speak of, lights or electricity. The main idea was to have a place to cook, then maybe another for the bedroom on the other side, both with ‘ways out’ ...."

"I think about how they lived a lot. One time Mother told me that ‘Granddaddy didn’t eat chicken when he had visitors, so they could have the meat …."

"We drew water from the well for cooking and drinking, washed clothes in a wringer washer and cooked on a wood stove. The outhouse was past the pig pens and garden next to the chicken coops."

"Got new pair of shoes in Sept. when school started …. It was a wonderful childhood."

"I liked mine too, and, to be honest, the food was a whole lot better back then ...."

Mom and Pat are 12 years apart in age, so sometimes their age difference means they may have different perspectives and memories from childhood. But, no matter what generation they are from, all of my family members remember certain meals as being the best ever. 

Memories of "the best" lunches and dinners in years past are not just memories of trips to the grocery store and popping bowls in the microwave. The best lunches or dinners were the culmination of the process of growing, gathering, hunting and preparing the meal. The journey of the food to the table was a special part of the experience of dining with family. Having the preparers share hunting stories directly related to the food on your plate can only enhance the meal.

Squirrels, in particular, come up quite often in discussions about favorite dishes whether they are on social media or in the family living room. Another recent post by Uncle Pat mentioned former family neighbors Vernice and Lucille Cline who lived in Steele. Pat said Mr. Cline worked for the railroad and had taught him how to squirrel hunt. Recipes for squirrel may not be that popular in modern cookbooks, but, through word of mouth, such recipes will never disappear. After seeing his post, I quickly messaged Pat to see if he had any new recipes I could use, and, of course, he quickly responded with one. 

For Rolley Len and Cason’s birthdays in February, Jason got them a squirrel dog puppy. She is a feist-cur and the kids quickly named her Suzy, although sometimes they call her Suzy-Q or Suess. She is definitely a pet, but she is being trained as a squirrel dog and the kids have been getting her interested in a squirrel tail on a string. 

Jason has already been teaching Rolley Len and Cason about hunting squirrels, so soon they will take Suzy to the woods with them in search of squirrels. With any luck, it will not be long before they are bringing home a sack for their next meal of squirrel dumplings.

Maybe one day Rolley Len and Cason will be telling their own children about how they brought home their own dinner and how it was the best meal ever.

Brunswick Stew

2 grey squirrels

8 cups water

1 Tablespoon salt

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup whole corn, canned or frozen

2 onions, diced

1 cup lima beans

2 cups canned or strained stewed tomatoes

¼ pound salt pork, diced

1 Tablespoon flour

1 Tablespoon butter

Pepper, to taste

Skin, dress and clean squirrels. Disjoint the squirrel. Put water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add squirrels, potatoes, corn, onion, beans, tomatoes and pork. Cover and simmer 2.5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Mix flour with butter into a smooth paste. Add this to pot and mix well. Cover and cook 15 more minutes. Season with pepper and stir until slightly thickened.

Squirrel Pot Pie

3 grey or fox squirrels

½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon flour, divided

3 Tablespoons butter, divided

1 quart water, boiling

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Rounds of biscuit dough

Skin, dress and clean squirrels. Disjoint the squirrels. Roll in ½ cup flour. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add squirrels. Sauté until brown. Add water, onion, salt and pepper. Cover closely and simmer for 1 hour. Cook biscuits while squirrel simmers. Lay crusts of biscuits on squirrels, cover and let boil for 15 minutes. Remove squirrel with crusts and place on a platter. Blend 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter. Add to squirrel liquor in the saucepan, mixing well. Pour over squirrels and crusts.

Note: For variations, add lemon juice, sherry or Worcestershire sauce to gravy before serving.

To make this more like a modern-day pot pie, add vegetables like diced potatoes, peas and whole corn and use the biscuit dough to make a double crust.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.