Friday, February 19, 2010

Beast #65: The Raccoon

There's a recipe in my copy of The Joy of Cooking—the edition from the mid-60s—that starts this way:

Skin, clean, and soak overnight:

1 Raccoon


Salt water

It goes on from there.

I checked the pantry. There was a bucket of salt water that I had squeezed out of some oysters a while back. I figured it was still good. Salt water keeps for a long time before going bad. They've found jars of salt water in the tombs of some pharaohs. They opened them up, and they were as fresh as the day they'd been packed. You couldn't say the same for the organs in the jars, but you really shouldn't eat those things anyway. Cannibalism is still cannibalism, no matter how long you age the parts.

I'm not sure about things like saints' bones. I think you can buy pills made out of ground-up saints' bones to cure whatever's wrong with you. You can also put a few of them in a dish on the windowsill to keep the locusts away. They're probably not real saints' bones anyway. With the number of pills they sell, each saint must have had a skeleton like a Brontosaurus. (Yes, okay, I know it's an Apatosaurus now, but that doesn't roll off the tongue the same way.)

I went to the Safeway, to the back of the store to the varmint section. They had possums, all laid out in a neat row with their pink tails hanging over the edge of the counter. They had muskrats, previously frozen, on little foam trays wrapped in plastic. They had squirrels, whole ones, skinned ones, packs with the Best of the Rodent, and just the haunches, which are the only part that's really good to eat.

There are, by the way, recipes for all of these things in my copy of The Joy of Cooking.

They even had some of the newer, trendy nutrias that all the foodies are eating. Things that look like beavers with giant rat tails. I wasn't sure one would fit in my oven, and they're too newfangled for my old Joy of Cooking to have a recipe. There's one for beaver tail, but the nutria tail is a scrawny thing you could barely nibble on.

No raccoons. I went to find the guy behind the counter, in his white hat and the apron with the watery bloodstains on the front.

"Help you?" he said.

"I was looking for raccoons," I said.

"Whole or steaks?" he asked.

"Whole," I said.

"Fresh out," said the man. "Yesterday was trash day, and we usually don't get any raccoons right afterwards. You could try again near the end of the week."

"Rats," I said."

"Those we got," said the man. "But just frozen ones, over in the frozen varmint section."

It looked like I'd have to find something else to do with my bucket of salt water. I'd heard you could make taffy out of the stuff. I didn't know how good that would be with salt water you'd squeezed out of oysters, though.

I stopped in at the QFC on the way home, just in case. But their wild game section is pathetic. Mostly pigeons, and I think they get those off their roof. God knows what they've been eating.

The salt water would keep. If it worked for the pharaohs, it was good enough for me. I could wait a few days and go back to the Safeway.

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