Imagine opening a menu and perusing the entrees. You might expect scallops or sea bass, duck or quail, short ribs or veal. Less prevalent offerings might be frog’s legs, or wild boar, or rabbit. But what about—squirrel?
Over the last two years, squirrel meat has become a widespread favorite on British menus, as this New York Times article reports
. In the United Kingdom, there are two types of squirrels: the rust-colored red squirrel, native to the region, and the gray squirrel more familiar to North Americans, a non-native species that has crowded out the reds. In 2006, a campaign called “Save Our Squirrels”
began to encourage Brits to eat the invading gray squirrel, as a productive (and tasty) way to limit their impact.
As the squirrel caught on with chefs and butchers, demand exploded—so much so that Chef Kevin Vyner, of the Kingsley Village shop in Cornwall, took it off his menu
for several months so as to prevent the depletion of local stocks. Down in London, at St. John
restaurant, Fergus Henderson braises the squirrel with bacon and pig’s trotter, served with shallots, porcini, and watercress. While Henderson aims to mimic the animal’s earthy habitat on the plate and in his flavors, others encourage serving it with nuts, to bring out what some claim are the meat’s “nutty” undertones.
In the United States, squirrel is still largely confined to the Appalachian and Southern plates. (Indeed, in a much-publicized interview, onetime presidential contender Mike Huckabee claimed to have eaten fried squirrel from a popcorn popper, back in his days at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.) But over in London, the squirrel is making a decidedly high-end break—and American cities might not be far behind.