Monday marks our thirtieth wedding anniversary and I don’t know what better characterizes our life together than John’s recent adventures in cooking. Civet d’écureuil. One of our many cookbooks that we read more often than we cook from is Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France. For a couple of years now John has been eying the bunnies in our yard with the cookbook opened to the recipe for Civet de lièvre, or Rabbit Stew. In classic French style, it calls for meat to marinate in wine and cognac for a couple of days before cooking. And the accompanying sauce requires ingredients like duck fat, prosciutto, French cèpes mushrooms, herbs, spices, and heavy cream. It’s a lengthy three page recipe.
Well, hunting season has begun. It’s not bunny-hunting season yet. It’s bow season for deer. John heads across the yard to sit in the woods with his cigar and a bow. While most hunters try to disguise their human scent so the deer will not notice them, John has a different strategy. He smokes cigars out there in the woods all year long, so when hunting season comes along, the deer don’t think anything of it; it’s just John. Still, it can get boring out there waiting for the deer to stroll along, so John takes along with him his air gun for knocking off annoying woodland rodents like chipmunks and squirrels. (The squirrels seem to think that John built a log home as their personal five star hotel.)
One afternoon, John shot a couple of squirrels. He brought them home, skinned them, gutted them, and marinated them in the wine and cognac. And then he made Civet d’écureuil, Squirrel Stew. There’s something about seeing him skin a squirrel that makes me not want to eat one, but I must admit that the dish had the fine aroma of a good stew. John was quite pleased with the results. And it gave him something good to eat while I was at my grad class.
The next day in school I told a couple of students about John’s cooking adventures. They were part of the group that traveled with us to France this summer, and they enjoyed sharing SlimJims and beef jerky with John at the Louvre.
“I would definitely have tasted his stew,” said one.
“I love Mr. Harp,” said the other, “He’s so white trash!” (This was a compliment from her, although she insists that she did not say it.)
John enjoyed the compliment but was a little perplexed. “How can I be white trash? It was a French recipe!”