Squirrel stir-fries, badger bolognaise and the unlikely new dining trend gathering speed in the UK…
What if someone told you there was a simple way to save money and slim-down, all the while allowing you to eat your fill of hearty food? What if they then revealed that this magical health-and-wealth combination was to come from a roadkill diet? I’m guessing your enthusiasm might begin to wane…
But slam on those breaks and think again, because you may well have just driven past a wonderfully healthy – not to mention tasty and satisfying – dinner on the side of the road there, at an impressive knock-down price. Experts in the field of roadkill (yes, they are out there, lurking) point out that capitalising on these mown-down meats actually has many benefits. Besides being ecologically-friendly, sustainable and cost effective, apparently it may even improve your wellbeing – ‘professional forager’ Fergus Drennan famously spent a month living on roadside and woodland offerings, and ‘felt absolutely wonderful for it’ at the end.
To be fair, I’m told motorway meals are organic, additive-free, and rich in vitamins and proteins. In general, they are lovely and lean, containing very little saturated fat – think deer, badger, hedgehog and pheasant. A whole world of whacked-out game is waiting to be exploited when you think about it, with a few interesting additions to boot. The lucky foragers across the pond in America and Canada can enjoy an even more extensive roadkill menu, with elk, moose, armadillo and even bear served up on their highways, too. Jealous?
Crazily enough, some people still don’t get it; when diners at a Chinese restaurant in the States recently saw staff pushing a done-for deer past the buffet in a wheelie bin, they were outraged, especially as it was headed straight for the kitchen. Chef Smartie-Pants had obviously been reading up on the advantages of rustling up some tasty roadkill. Unfortunately, he’d neglected to take a look at the rule book issued by the Department of Health, which absolutely forbids this kind of product-sourcing for restaurants – who knew? The poor old deer had barely made it to the fridge before someone called the authorities, who promptly shut the restaurant down; even though the owner insisted he had no intention of serving it to his customers. Too right, he was obviously planning to have that yummy, nutritious deer-dinner all to himself.
As much of a new and altogether stomach-churning idea as this is for us, there are whole cultures (albeit of the sub-variety) that celebrate roadkill as a respectful, primary source of food. Roadkill restaurants, cafés and cookbooks are all out there – look at Jeff Eberbaugh’s book, Gourmet Style Road Kill Cooking.
I’m still unsure to say the least. But for those who feel like joining these hare-brained hunters, here are the top five roadkill rules to consider before you go scouring your nearest A-road.
- Don’t go purposefully mowing down innocent animals just because Tesco was out of chicken. This is illegal… You are more than welcome, by law, to pick up the fruits of someone else’s accidental hit-and-run, but if you hit it with your tyre, it can’t go on your fire.
- Try and get your kill fresh, prior to the best-scavenged-before date, to avoid infection. Worms are among the most common source so be wary – even if you like a rare steak, always serve your roadkill well-done.
- If you find your pheasant in a winter frost, then hurrah! Even if it’s been there for a week it’s good to eat. Apparently…
- Avoid rat, won’t you? Needless to say, most of them are riddled, and there’s a great risk of Weil’s disease if you eat these little guys.
- Obviously, go for knocked-over as opposed to splattered-flat. If you have to scrape it up, it’s pretty unsalvageable.