Friday, January 7, 2011

Roadkill: An Appalacian tradition

So.......What's for lunch?

Eating organic on a budget is a good thing. So eating roadkill makes perfect sense – it’s all about using what’s available. It has an even lower environmental footprint than being a conventional vegetarian who buys groceries at the market, plus, it’s free.
In West Virginia, no one used to argue with the notion that there “ain’t nothing better” than finding a fresh-killed animal on the side of the road. The dirty work already done, all folks had to do was throw that critter in a pot and get ready for some groundroots grub. But times have changed and so have most of our tastes and sensibilities. Despite the fact that the rest of the country has given up on RoadKill and gone onto to more domestic pasteurs, there are still those who prefer their possum hot off the pavement instead of the grill.
.So, where can you find hundreds of visitors whooping it up over a big bowl of Rattlesnake stew or Biscuits and Groundhog gravy? You guessed it: at the West Virginia Road Kill Cook-off in Marlington, WV. Every September about 10,000 people from all over the country come to the gathering.
All dishes featured in the festival must have animals commonly found dead on the side of the road…such as deer, squirrels and snakes as their main ingredient.
Yum! Possum stew
Poking fun at the state’s hillbilly image, Marlinton began the Roadkill Cook-Off ( see Video)13 years ago as a way to draw visitors to their scenic, historic town. “It brings a lot of people out,” notes chef and president of the county commission, Joel Callison. “Roadkill happens here every day…” In past years’ crowds have sampled dishes like Pothole Possum Stew, Fricasseed Wabbit Gumbo and Smeared Hog with Squirrel Gravy. The RoadKill Cook-Off is so popular that it fills all the motels and hotels in the county when it takes place on the last Saturday in September”, said David Cain, who runs the event and samples all the dishes.
Cain explains: “The animal one cooks must be one that is commonly found dead on the side of the road (possum, beaver, raccoon, snake, deer, etc.), but the animals must not actually come from the side of the road. That’s part of the official rules.” Does anybody actually ever check? If you plan to cook, you need to bring all of your own equipment. As far as what to cook, the sky is the limit. Grilling, chilling, baking, flaking, flipping , dipping, whatever.
What will you be up against? Try Stewed Blood with Moose Balls on the Half Shell or Stir-Tired Possum. The competition is tough. But the winner can go away $300, which to most who enter means they don’t have to scoop up animals from the highway for the rest of the month.
So, do the popularity of festivals like the RoadKill Cook-Off mean more Americans will become open to the idea of foraging for food? Probably not – it’s all about the novelty factor for most. But it’s an intriguing idea.

How about a big bowl of Pothole Possom Stew?

  • One possum, skinned, pieced
  • Couple of onions, potatos, other veggies, chopped 
  • 1 can of mushroom soup
  • 2 cans of beef gravy
  • 1 can of water
  • Tbsp each of pepper and salt
  • Boil the possum meat in a large pot of water
  • with a half cup of salt for about half a day.
  • Pour the water out and add all the stuff to it.
  • ring to a boil, then simmer covered 4 to 8 hrs.

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