Alert: Today’s column may be offensive to PETA members, vegans and others who don’t regard animals as food. Proceed at your own risk.
I just got back from the grocery store, where I tried to pick a fight with Ryan, the manager of the meat counter. He refused to cooperate with a legitimate request. As a customer — who is supposed to be right — I’m still fuming.
The confrontation stemmed from the recent discovery of my Grandma Pearl’s cookbook, which hasn’t been opened since she died 25 years ago. Flipping through it brought back a lot of memories.
One of the recipes is for fried squirrel. Grandma Pearl must have made it once, because I had an involuntary salivatory reaction to it. Perhaps a trip down memory lane was in order. Had she made us fried squirrel?
Armed with the recipe, I went to the grocery store and asked how much a pound of squirrel meat would cost.
Ryan said the store didn’t carry it. Furthermore, he couldn’t order it. His grocery chain simply wasn’t in the squirrel meat market.
We were standing in front of the meat case as Ryan explained this. I pointed at the lovingly arranged shrimp, crab and lobster.
Me • “Are you telling me that it’s easier to scrape bugs off the bottom of the sea and bring them to Utah than it is sell squirrel? Hell, we got squirrels in Liberty Park.”
Him • “Yes, sir.”
No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to provoke Ryan. He explained — not to my satisfaction, though — that the market for squirrel just wasn’t there. In his years of being a butcher, I was the first person to ever demand squirrel.
The same was true of ferret, rat, possum, alligator, monkey, stork, ape and dog, all of which are consumed in other parts of the world, just not in Utah.
As a military brat with a mother who firmly believed in social acclimation, I’ve eaten bugs, snakes, kangaroo, whale, spider, squid and other forms of protein.
Although I’ve eaten cat — as part of military survival training — I don’t believe it was anyone’s pet.
How hungry would you have to be to eat any of the above? It’s a fair question, given that people who never believed it could happen to them have been driven to cannibalism.
That brings up an interesting point — or at least it does to a guy looking for a bit of squirrel. How hungry would you have to be to eat your pet? Sounds impossible, right?
Not for the pet. Trapped indoors for a few days with a dead you, it’s amazing how quickly you could go from being a beloved owner to a source of protein for Skipper and Snuggles. I once worked a job where I occasionally saw them do it.
I have to concede that Ryan has a good point. What’s for dinner depends a lot on supply and demand. It’s easy to be moralistic and superior when there’s plenty of something else to go around.
On the way out of the store, I decided it wasn’t Ryan’s fault that he didn’t have any squirrel for sale. I bought some Pop-Tarts instead.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.