No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Friday, April 03, 2009

#24: The Original Road Kill Cookbook -- B. R. Peterson

Never tell your dinner guests what they are eating until they are done! (p.46)

I suspect that the very existence of this book, let alone my possession of it, will upset a few people. I BookMooched it primarily to appall a young friend for information about collecting roadkill corpses -- how to tell when it's gone off, etc. (Hey, it's difficult not to run over a pheasant or two if you drive on English country roads.) I may also use the recipe for Roast Cat some day -- in a work of fiction, of course.

My take on the matter: animals and birds are often accidental victims of traffic. If the meat's in good enough condition to eat, why waste it? I grew up eating roadkill rabbit and pheasant (my mother generally didn't mention the provenance of the meat until we'd finished pudding), though I don't eat dead mammals, found or purchased, any more. I do also find the sight of dead animals at the roadside distressing: but if I killed something, even accidentally, I like to think I'd be prepared to eat it.

The Original Road Kill Cookbook is a short book crammed with anecdote -- hence my reading it cover to cover rather than just flipping through as per usual with a cookbook -- though there are some useful recipes and preparation techniques. It was written by an American (a perceptibly right-wing American) for Americans. However, quite a few of the recipes, and especially the preparation tips, are useful in the UK too. Collecting roadkill is apparently illegal in the US; the legal position here is less clear, but Google turned up an interesting article by Rose Prince in the Independent:
Ownership of roadkill is debatable. Most country people assume that the driver who kills the rabbit, pheasant or pigeon may not make a meal of it, but the driver of the car behind can. In 2004, when I was researching my book on economic cooking, 'The New English Kitchen', the Highways Agency told me that it owns roadkill, but this rule is rarely enforced.

If you have ever wondered how to cook a snake, or wished for a decent recipe for squirrel, this is the book for you. It's also rather funny, in a slightly pugnacious, frontiersman sort of way. And yes, it's unsentimentally cavalier about dead bunnies (and dead dogs and dead deer and dead duck and ...) The sensitive should steer clear.

edit to add Author not entirely oblivious:
Buck and his publisher receive "crank" letters from those offended by the book – several of which have been framed by the author, who admits that some recipes, such as the ones concerning domestic pets, are "incendiary."

Some relevant links:

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