My attempt to make squirrel cobbler went downhill in a matter of hours. First off, I had no Worcestershire sauce and second, they were out of parsnips at the store. Heading home empty-handed, I pondered the next challenge: acquiring the main ingredient. Where would I find two perfect squirrels willing to die for my recipe? I didn’t want to hunt them. I wanted happy volunteers.
I found the recipe in The L.L. Bean Game & Fish Cookbook. I’d bought the book six months before but hadn’t used it yet. The stories and recipes were amazing — like, I can’t believe muskrat is an appetizer amazing — but I never had any caribou or brown bear lying around.
“How does one trap a squirrel?” I asked the back of my partner’s head. He was immersed in a game called Guild Wars at the time, which was described to me as “not World of Warcraft, never call it that.” I jumped up and down on the bed, yelling JUSTIN every time my feet touched down. I made it to nineteen Justins before he finally turned around.
“One might trap a squirrel with some kind of squirrel trap, I imagine,” he said.
“But what kind?” I whined, flopping onto my stomach. “I don’t know the difference between a squirrel trap and a whale trap.” He rubbed his temples and spoke over his shoulder.
“Well, one would be rather large in scale and built for the ocean… and the other would be for squirrels.”
“A-ha ha,” I said. “Now let’s design a trap for snarky assholes.”
“Have you looked this up online yet?” he asked, face completely neutral.
I rolled my eyes and opened my laptop. Obviously I had asked him the question so I wouldn’t have to do any actual research. I typed squirrel traps into Google and found a forum on Critter Ridder and a website offering “squirrel eviction.” Neither of those seemed right to me. One sounded like a torture device and the other was for landlords. I just wanted my squirrels to drift off into an Ambien-like sleep and die peacefully in the pot they would be cooked in later. Why was this so difficult?
“I need help,” I wheedled, hoping to pass the torch on to my partner. As he rambled on about possible traps we could make, plus the materials and physics needed for the job, I wondered about the success rate for this particular recipe.
I’ve always been a carnivore – except for a brief vegetarian aneurysm I had in the Nineties – but eating cows and ingesting The Chipmunks are two very different things. Squirrels have adorable families who scamper about trees collecting nuts for the winter. Cows stand around like daffodils in the wind, dependable and free from personality. By eating them, I imagined that I rescued cows from the monotonous grind of sweating in a field. I gave cows purpose, really.
Flummoxed, I checked the recipe, hoping for guidance:
2 squirrels, cut into pieces
liquid to cover (half water, half dry white wine)
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, each cut into 4 chunks
2 leeks, sliced, or 1 onion
2 parsnips, sliced
2.5 cups Bisquick
6 Tb. butter
6 Tb. flour
½ cup milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
15 small white onions, cooked
1-2 Tb. melted butter
From this, I deduced that the two carrots should be cut into four chunks – not six or eight or thirty-five -and that the onions should be small and white and cooked (with no more than 15, thank you very much), but nothing addressed how one might cut two squirrels into pieces of unknown size and quantity.
I turned to the beginning of the chapter for clarification. The author, Angus Cameron, began with glowing reviews to the hunting and ingestion of squirrels – phrases like “most rewarding” and “succulent fare” – but he couldn’t be bothered to include a simple slice-and-dice diagram for squirrel-killing virgins. The book did contain information on beaver gland removal, but that seemed like a special occasion food.
I returned to the internet, my accomplice and friend.
After multiple searches, and typing proper dismemberment of a squirrel into Google, I started to feel ridiculous. Who else was memorizing proper squirrel leg-breaking techniques on a Friday night? Making the cobbler didn’t feel wrong, exactly, just really unnecessary.
I’d originally picked up the book for two bucks because of the shocking dolphin recipes, something I thought was simultaneously cool and inappropriate. After reading it from cover to cover, multiple times, I realized it was the most brilliant cookbook made in the history of ever. So when my friend said, “How could you buy this?” in a tone reserved for girls 20 years younger and 90 pounds less than us, my response was “How could you not?” Which was followed by hanging my head in fake shame, at least until the Mountain Goat section of the book was discovered.
Despite receiving helpful squirrel trap photos from an interested family member, I decided that the cobbler didn’t want to be made. While I’m generally up for adventure, I’d gone from making a simple meat pie to committing a double homicide; that made the endeavor less woodsy sustenance and more like Hannibal Lecter. I could cobbler up something else, if need be, like opossum or raccoon or beaver. Maybe veggies. Or a chicken pot pie. Just keep it simple.