Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Recently on one of the high-toned animal listservs, a book was reviewed that said that if humans would eat “weed” and nuisance entities that are overabundant, it would be a good thing. A lady with delicate sensibilities immediately responded, “If any species is "overpopulated," it's the human species. To view blackberries, dandelions, pigeons and possum, deer, elk and/or porcupine as "daily annoyances" is to have a very sad outlook indeed, in my opinion. Unless one was starving, I can't imagine any good reason why it would be important to cook or eat the animals mentioned.”

So I thought that if someone out there had a sad enough outlook, probably brought on by the state of the economy, I would help them out. (Some people here ARE starving.) One can often collect a porky or two while driving on Montana highways. Here’s what to do with them. (Recipes from the home ec column of the local ag rag.)


Leave porcupine whole. (After skinning and evisceration!). Chill meat to remove all fat. Parboil in simmering water to cover for 15 minutes with 1 teaspoon of baking soda.

Drain. Make your favorite stuffing. Stuff the porcupine and place on roasting pan. Cover with lid or foil. Bake at 325 degrees F. until meat is done, one to five hours, depending on the size of the porcupine.


1 porcupine, cut into serving pieces
Salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons shortening
Dijon mustard
3 slices thick-sliced bacon
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup carrots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet sauce
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sweet cream.

Soak the porcupine pieces in salted water overnight. Rinse and dry. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Add pieces of meat and shake to coat. Saute pieces in fat until browned. Remove pieces of meat and spread with the mustard. Place bacon strips in a shallow baking dish. Add meat. Saute onion, carrots and mushrooms. Add parsley, Kitchen Bouquet, more salt and pepper to taste, and also both creams. Stir thoroughly. Pour over meat. Bake 45 to 55 minutes.

In Montana it’s illegal to eat roadkill, partly because of public health issues, but also because sometimes poachers claim their victims were “roadkill.” Generally, poachers don’t “accidentally” kill porkies much, but those deer and elk do jump out in front of us. So if you prefer the version of porcupine below, you could grind up those ungulates and use the same recipe. The operative ethic would be “recycling” which is the whole principle of meat/meat-eaters anyway.

If you do have an actual dead porcupine in the back of your pickup and the highway patrol challenges you about it, claim that you’re an American Indian and you do quill work, so you only wanted the quills. Or I suppose you could just claim that you beat it to death with a shovel -- I don’t think porkies are protected animals. They are certainly not endangered -- at least not by anything short of a fisher or bobcat who has learned to flip them over on their back and go at their soft stomachs. Anyway, most highway patrol officers will not suspect that you intend to eat your porky.

If you don’t HAVE a porcupine, here’s an alternative.


1 - 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup regular rice
2/3 cup milk
1 medium onion, chopped
1 - 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
One 10-1/2 oz can tomato soup
3/4 water

Combine ground beef, rice, milk, onion, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well. Drop by rounded Tablespoon into a 13x9x2” baking pan. Combine tomato soup and water in a bowl. Mix well. Pour over meatballs. Cover baking pan with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F one hour. 6-8 servings.

I apologize for not having a recipe for vegetarian “porcupine balls” but no doubt a resourceful person could invent one. When it comes to blackberries, a person can just go for it -- they don’t need cooking -- but if they are the himalayas that overwhelm buildings in the West, you’d better be armored. As for dandelions, they say the roots, if roasted and ground, make a passable coffee substitute. My cousin one year tried making dandelion wine and it was eventually a big success, though it took a long time. But never eat plants close to highways, since they are contaminated with lead from gas fumes. And be wary about dandelions since so many people pour herbicides on them.

If you insist that the main species overpopulating the planet is the humans and that the solution is eating them, then you might want to follow the recent case of the fellow who called the cops to tell them that at that moment he was eating his girl friend. When they got there, his fork was stuck in part of her, which was prepared on a plate. The newspaper didn’t provide a recipe. I guess he found her a nuisance.

It’s odd how our ethics thread in and out of such issues. We are horrified and entertained in equal amounts. Jokers named the cafeteria at a Colorado university for the survivors of the Donner Party, who ate each other to survive. Then there is the sexual aspect -- not many jokes about porkies, but beavers?

Boria would like us to go to the sensory and anecdotal level. Okay. On my desk in my pencil cup is an eight-inch quill, black and white. It’s off an African porcupine at the Lincoln Park Zoo. I was spending an afternoon sketching the animals in the small mammal house and the keeper gave it to me. I sometimes take it out and hold it for a while. That porky was big enough to feed a lot of people for quite a while. But the quills were far too long and stiff to do quillwork.

Incidentally, one of the most gorgeous early-days Indian dresses I ever was was white-tanned doeskin (they rubbed it with white clay) embroidered with naturally black-and-white American porcupine quills, carefully worked into the traditional bands across the top from wrist to wrist. I would take the position that human beings are meant to participate in the world in many ways.


Whisky Prajer said...

Now if we can just do something with skunk...

Rebecca Clayton said...

Hmmm....all those plants and animals are considered delicacies somewhere in this country. We're not big on possum in Pocahontas County, and some of those things don't live here--elk, porkies--but dandelion greens, blackberries, deer, and ramps are favorite wild foods. (Although dandelions are escaped cultivars.)

One man's meat is another man's sad outlook, I guess.