How does squirrel meat taste?

Chicken of the branches

One morning a dead squirrel lies in our garden. I pick it up from the lawn with pointed fingers. The gray fur is very soft - as if the little animal had just fallen from the walnut tree. My first thought is to bury it asap. I remember a recommendation that I recently read on a US website. Should I rather strip the squirrel's fur and serve it for lunch on Sunday?

In other countries it is not that uncommon to eat squirrel meat. In England, for example, the gray squirrel, introduced decades ago from the United States, is hunted rigorously to protect the native red-haired squirrel. Thousands of animals die every year - and some of them are processed into squirrel sausage in butchers. In the USA, hunters have always trained their marksmanship by hunting squirrels, they call the animal "chicken of the branches". Bentonville, Arkansas hosts a yearly cooking contest to try squirrel pizza and squirrel ice cream. The US author Steven Rinella advocates hunting edible wild animals in the cities as well: In his garden in Brooklyn he catches squirrels and then cooks them with lemon, garlic and thyme.

I find a recipe for squirrel soup in my mother-in-law's old Viennese cookbook. Two or three generations ago it was still normal for us to eat squirrels; It is said to taste similar to lamb, and to some people it is reminiscent of duck. But when, after the war, peasant agriculture turned into agro-industry, when people began to raise huge numbers of cattle, pigs and chickens in large stalls, the meat of which was affordable for everyone, the squirrel disappeared from our plates - and no one cried for him a tear after.

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But the increasing discomfort with factory farming is making many vegetarians - and some have an appetite for squirrels again. Unlike tortured turkeys and tortured pigs, squirrel meat is one hundred percent organic. And if you try to approach the matter not emotionally, but logically, you come to the conclusion that the best way to eat meat would actually be to only eat wild animals that have lived their lives in the wild. So squirrels too.

It is not that easy to get hold of a squirrel in Germany. The animal is protected by the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. Hunting is not allowed, and you are not allowed to set traps in the garden, like Steven Rinella, anyway. So if you eat a squirrel and don't want to become a poacher, you currently have no choice but to wait until a dead squirrel falls at your feet. And so I stand with us in the garden and look at the dead animal. If I wanted to eat it, I would now have to make a four centimeter cut below the tail, step on the tail, grab the hind legs and forcefully pull the fur off the animal. I get the shovel and bury the squirrel in the back by the compost heap.

Illustration: Zeloot