Seattle Resident Takes Eating Local to a New Level - Backyard Squirrel Anyone?

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

In all of our local eating exploits it has never once dawned on me to trap and eat the squirrels that frolick in our back yard, but Melany Vorass in Seattle has done that and more. 

This according to the Seattle Times:

In a city that savors local food initiatives, allowing up to eight chickens and three goats in every back yard, Vorass is exploring new frontiers.

"I don't see any reason why we would object," chuckles City Council President Richard Conlin, prime mover of Seattle's locavore agenda. "From a public-policy standpoint it's an individual making a choice, and that's fine."

Her culinary innovation arose from frustration with the little gray critters that were camping out in her eaves. Her husband was already in the habit of trapping them and relocating them when she learned about British squirrel eating habits. 

In England, eating nonnative gray squirrels has been viewed as a way to save the indigenous red squirrel. Following a "Save a red, eat a gray!" campaign, some of London's finest restaurants started serving up the Yank transplants, according to The New York Times.

The Seattle Times article gives me the impression that either Vorass is quite a character or the reporter just couldn't resist poking fun at the quirky nature of the story. 

Choice passages from the article:

There's no denying squirrels are cute, Vorass says. "But so are cows."

Snails are the next challenge for Vorass. Instead of spending time and money trying to get rid of them, she says, "we could be eating the enemy." She collected and cooked some, and liked them enough to buy a terrarium for snail-ranching.

And finally this from the City Council president Richard Conlin

"There could be lots of people doing things we don't know about. The most important thing is be respectful of your neighbors. I mean, don't trap their cats and eat them."

She has a blog that gives the run down on how to dress a squirrel.

Most people will probably snicker at the article but others will take great afront to the practice. A 2010 article from the Guardian in the UK gives a taste of how some may respond as they describe the sale of squirrel meat at a grocery store run by Mr. Budgens:

The animal welfare group Viva accused Budgens of profiting from a "wildlife massacre".

Its founder and director, Juliet Gellatley, said: "If this store is attempting to stand out from the crowd by selling squirrel, the only message they are giving out is that they are happy to have the blood of a beautiful wild animal on their hands for the sake of a few quid."

One bit of advice from the Appalachia where squirrel eating is common: don't eat the squirrel's brain. The NY Times reported the following in 1997:

Doctors in Kentucky have issued a warning that people should not eat squirrel brains, a regional delicacy, because squirrels may carry a variant of mad cow disease that can be transmitted to humans and is fatal.

Although no squirrels have been tested for mad squirrel disease, there is reason to believe that they could be infected, said Dr. Joseph Berger, chairman of the neurology department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Elk, deer, mink, rodents and other wild animals are known to develop variants of mad cow disease that collectively are called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

In the last four years, 11 cases of a human form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, have been diagnosed in rural western Kentucky, said Dr. Erick Weisman, clinical director of the Neurobehavioral Institute in Hartford, Ky., where the patients were treated. "All of them were squirrel-brain eaters," Weisman said. Of the 11 patients, at least six have died.

I think I'll pass on this latest locavore trend.