Saturday, March 1, 2008

From the Archives: Eating Crow

OK--how serious are you about local eating?

Here's a report from one of my all time favorite Northwest books, The Northwest Coast: or, three years residence in Washington Territory, by James Swan. Swan lived on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1850s and reported colorfully and sympathetically on everything he experienced including the Chehalis Treaty of 1855 and a variety of culinary adventures. His descriptions of tribal uses of food plants are also well worth the reading.

As Christmas drew near the game seemed to decrease; and, although we had a plenty of salt salmon and potatoes, we thought we could not celebrate the day without having a goose, or duck, or some kind of a bird; but nothing came near us but crows. the captain said crow was good, so was eagle, so was owl; he reasoned in this manner: A crow, he said, is good, because it has a crop like a hen; and eagles, hawks and owls are good, for, although they have no crops, yet they do not feed upon carrion. So we addressed ourselves to the subject of procuring a Christmas dinner.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I shot a couple of crows. They were very ancient, entirely devoid of fat, and altogether presented to my mind a sorry picture of a feast. But the captain was delighted. "I will make a sea-pie of them, said he, "and then you can judge what crow meat is."
The birds were cleaned and cut up, and a fine sea-pie made with dumplings, salt port, potatoes, and a couple of onions. And precisely at the meridian on Christmas-day (for the old captain liked to keep up sea-hours), the contents of the iron pot were emptied into a tin pan, and set before us smoking hot.
I tried my best to eat crow, but it was too tough for me. "How do you like it?" said the old man, as with a desperate effort, he wrenched off a mouthful from a leg. "I am like that man," said I, who was once placed in the same position: 'I ken eat crow, but hang me if I hanker arter it.'"

Personally I've eaten plenty of metaphorical crow, which I also find too tough for dining pleasure, but never the actual animal. I have however cooked and eaten porcupine, moose, and bear, all on account of my pal Curt Madison, who lives in Alaska and will try anything at least once. Moose is terrific, bear (like pork) depends a lot on what the beast was eating in the weeks before death. I didn't take to the porcupine. It had a strange, sweetish taste that put me off.

1 comment:

Curt said...

Although crow has not been on the menu, maybe just because we only have ravens here in the Interior, I have tried barn owl. It was good but sparse of meat. Lynx and red squirrel are actually good and score just above survival food level. Muskrat, especially half dried, is not to be missed.