Elvis ate squirrel

What a night. It was about the time that it became what a morning that P, legs stretched out long across the thick carpet as he lay nearly horizontal in the embrace of the pale oxblood leather sofa, imparted this choice piece of information.

“Elvis ate squirrel.”

M, the internationally renowned artist, writer and something to do with a seminal British band, still huddled in a large black coat and wooly scarf with his couture sub-bondage-trousered legs curled beneath his hunched form, nodded in agreement.

The waiter, for whom the word “sashay” had been invented, shimmied across the room, tray balanced on the flattened hand of one elegantly up-curved arm, his tall, handsome dancer’s grace slightly marred by excessive diameter of the circles described by his hips. Another round of drinks was placed carefully on napkins on the low table.

Those familiar with the calibre of my mind will realise that I immediately assumed this remark referred to a sexual practice popular among popstars of the 60s with which I was not yet acquainted. Either personally or by repute.

“He, uh, ate squirrel? Elvis? The Elvis?”

P nodded silently, his electric blue eyes conveying not a hint of the salacious.

I was at a loss. J, for whom these surroundings were equally unexpected and unfamiliar, studiously avoided my gaze and seemed preoccupied with her dry white wine. I took refuge in my capybara*, sucked vigourously on the straw and managed to produce the revolting rattling noise so beloved by small children with fizzy drinks.

We were in London’s legendary haunt of artists, glitterati, media daaahlings and other variants of the uncommon or hothouse luvvie, the Groucho Club, but the evening had started much earlier at an equally unlikely venue – The Fly, for the album launch party of Akira the Don.

J and I hadn’t been entirely optimistic about the quality of the entertainment, but it’s not every day that one can say “I’m on the guest list” so we went along. And although the support acts were less than brilliant Akira the Don was really very good and the evening was described by the Don himself on his blog as “so, yeah, dope“.

Akira the Don

That’s him in the middle there. The long blonde hair is clearly visible but you can’t see the Dali moustache and generic beard. The presence in the audience of a white-haired vicar in a suit wearing a poppy in his buttonhole and a woman older than I was accounted for by the woman on the right being their daughter. They pulled up the average age of the crowd closer to our own, but it still hovered around 19 years.

How did two staid middle-aged matrons without offspring in the band end up at such an event? If you visit Akira the Don’s music page you’ll see a small boy dressed as a pirate with big blue eyes. He is my son A’s best friend as well as being the son of my friend F and P, manager of the Don.

It was they who wafted us off to the Groucho after the gig for “a quick drink”. I in my dog-walking jeans and bull-dyke-arse-kicking-boots, J in the clothes appropriate for a work-related course on the oncology of the head and neck. I was worried we wouldn’t be let in, but entirely groundlessly so.

Even when F and P left us there because they had to rescue the baby-sitter nobody stared or pointed us out as obvious interlopers. The drinks are possibly the most expensive in London but fortunately I’d found a £10 note on the pavement so that about covered one capybara, which helped. Even habitué M left to drive back to the home counties and listen to the new Dylan album. We eventually staggered out at nearly 2am feeling thoroughly decadent and more than somewhat smug.

And what about “eating squirrel” I hear you ask. Well, it was no more than the literal truth. His family was poor so to supplement their diet they shot and ate the local arboreal residents. Yes, I know. Slightly disappointing. But it might have been some really gross rodent abuse which you’d much rather forget about but be unable to put out of your mind having once heard the details, so be grateful.

* More generally known as a caipirinha but I can neither pronounce nor spell it, unlike the rodent referred to above.

13 Replies to “Elvis ate squirrel”

  1. Actually, squirrel wasn’t an uncommon dish 50 years ago in the American South. Or even more recently. The pharmacist who lived next door to my grandparents when I was small ate them for breakfast (particularly the brains). That would have been the late 70’s/early 80’s. About a decade ago, I was staying at a well-off friend’s house and her dad walked in with handful of squirrels he had just shot. Being PETA-loving vegans at the time, we glared at him and stomped off to her room.

    Squirrel isn’t something you’ll see on most Southern menus, or on most Southern middle-class tables these days. But it’s not unheard of or just poor-people food either. And it wouldn’t have been at all unusual in Mississippi in the 1930s and 40s.

  2. One of the great omissions in the new edition of the Joy of Cooking is how to skin and cook a squirrel. The drawing in the 1973 edition is priceless.

  3. Elvis ate squirrel, and you drank capybara. Excellent. I used to date a guy who grew up hunting in Louisiana and I’m sure he told me he had eaten squirrel. I remember he preferred his momma’s groundhog (aka woodchuck) stew.

    Pica – I once gave a friend a “white trash cookbook” which had a recipe for cooter pie (it began: “wait until the cooter sticks its neck out of the shell and grab it…”)

  4. Woodchuck I’ve had – but not squirrel. In case you want, uh, too much information, there was a New Yorker story a few years back about the high incidence of a mad cow-like disease among squirrel-brain eaters in the Appalachians. Fascinating, horrific. But like Dave says, I guess the rest of the critters ‘r yummy.

  5. Ten pounds a drink?! Blimey. Definitely not going there then.

    Finding a tenner on the pavement’s a bit of a coup, though. Although I think I might have spent it on cake. Especially seeing as I haven’t a clue what a capybara is… (oh all right then, I’ll click on the link)

  6. Duh, I just finally got the joke here – I knew what a caipirinha was (ooh, yes, memories of a birthday in Brazil… I don’t think I got such bad hangovers back then), but not a capybara… Seriously impressed that you are frequenting the Groucho Club.

  7. Finally, Jean, someone who is impressed! I was deeply depressed by the attention to the culinary history of the squirrel, not because it is uninteresting but because it wasn’t people being impressed by the Groucho Club! I mean, I’ll never go there again. I have to make the most of my one visit. Sad, sad, sad. I know. But I was sooo excited. And frankly, I got sooo, um, merry. Drunk would be too strong a term for it.

    At least I know where to go to find out how to skin a squirrel, I suppose, looking on the bright side.

  8. Oh all right then, I’m impressed that you have been to the Groucho club. And slightly jealous. But I’m still not going there unless someone buys me drinks. Or I am pregnant. Or I have foudn a tenner on the street. Or… oh hang on, you have to be invited, don’t you?

    Oh all right then. Officially Impressed.

  9. Squirrel schmirrel, I am *very* impressed by your decadent pop star-ish night out ending up at the Groucho. Those foreigners, huh, they don’t understand how high The Grouch ranks among the A-listers. So who else was there, celebrity-wise? No tit-bits of salacious gossip?

  10. I’m so sorry to confess, Natalie, that I mostly wouldn’t know a celebrity if I trod on their foot. I did see Zadie Smith and her husband the other day but only because I was admiring a rather pretty puppy and as my eye travelled up the lead I realised vaguely who was attached to the other end. But that wasn’t at the Goucho.

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