Old cookbooks are always a curiosity, and I've long envied the fact that one of my sisters inherited my mother's old Joy of Cooking, most likely an early 1960's edition. A fortuitous benefit of marrying Paul is that he owns a 1975 edition of JoC. My more modern edition (the front 116 pages are missing so I'm not certain of the publication date) has been updated and, alas, purged of what I consider to be all the really great quirky stuff. There is no recipe for marshmallows, for instance, something I made as a teenager and finally do again thanks to the seemingly infinite number of recipes online.
But what's really been scrubbed bloodless of all interest is the "Game" chapter. Where now there is Lapin a la Moutarde, there used to be Rabbit with Chili Beans, and Jugged Hare. Gone is the black-and-white illustration of a rabbit hung upside down by its feet, being skinned by a pair of gloved hands, as well as this gloved-and-booted skinning of a squirrel:
There are instructions for the skinning and cleaning of porcupine, raccoon, muskrat, woodchuck, beaver, beaver tail, and armadillo. My favorite, though, is this passage concerning the preparation of oppossum:
If possible, trap 'possum and feed it on milk and cereals for 10 days before killing. [Does this mean that I should feed my 'possum Lucky Charms for 10 days? Quisp?] Clean, but do not skin. [Well, okay.] Treat as for pig [pig? I've never cooked 'pig'] by immersing the unskinned animal in water just below the boiling point [If any blog readers know where the boiling point of an unskinned 'possum is, let me know]. Test frequently by plucking at the hair [no, thank-you]. When it slips out readily, remove the oppossum from the water and scrape.... Serve with: turnip greens.
As for beaver tail, "Hold over open flame until rough skin blisters."
And in case you were wondering, "small game such as rabbit, squirrel and muskrat may be substituted in most recipes calling for chicken."
I still haven't made peace with game meats after several winters of my childhood faced with a freezer-full of neatly-wrapped packages of dead Bambi and his cousin The Mighty Elk. Some aversion settled in me during those years of tender teen tastebuds where I suffered through elkburgers on Thursday and a bloody haunch of venison for Sunday dinner. I know, I know, venison and any number of odd meats (goat, for one) are fashionable dinner meats among current-day foodies, but if I'm going to eat something that tastes just like chicken, it damn well better be chicken.
So what's on your holiday table? Crow? Vole?