The literary raccoon

The coon question is not settled. The old “Joy of Cooking” had a raccoon recipe, I am told, but the new version we have is silent on the subject. So is Alice Waters’ “Simple Foods,” for which I had such high hopes. Does Julia Child address the matter? “Italian Classics” does not. I suppose Italy doesn’t have many raccoons.

But there is a gold mine, if you look. From the ever-supportive parents: The Original Road Kill Cookbook (a present from me years ago). Roast Rocky Raccoon — three hours in the oven, baste with drippings, serve with yams. Pretty basic. The raccoon does not rate as one of Mother Nature’s “Special” Animals: beaver, muskrat, opossum, porcupine, badger, wolverine and skunk. “These animals may need special handling,” B.R. Buck Peterson writes. He means removing the stink glands and brining. Do procyonids have stink glands?

In case you’re just coming into this discussion, my coon came from a proper butcher, and bears no signs of dorsoventral flattening, a term for which I thank my deer biologist friend Stacie.

Procyon lotor, raccoon. Procyon means “before the dog,” but please don’t take that description of my eating agenda.

Between Rabbit and Radish, you have Coon, according to the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 10., 1966. “Raccoons feed on a great variety of things, including fruits, green corn, fish, frogs, birds, small animals, and occasionally poultry.” They do not add “—also trash,” as they ought.

As nobody’s paying me to structure this blog, I guess I get to digress from procyonids to rodents when I feel like it. I happened to have the John McPhee Reader as my airplane book this weekend. So I was reading “Travels in Georgia,” from “Pieces of the Frame,” about an enterprising young woman with whom McPhee ate a lot of roadkill. D.O.R., someone says, and they stop the car. McPhee has a lot of good food writing. She skins a weasel—

“Isn’t he in perfect shape?” she said. “He was hardly touched. You really lose your orientation when you start skinning an animal that’s been run over by a Mack truck.” From time to time, she stopped for a taste of The Glenlivet, her hand, brown from sun and flecked with patches of the weasel’s blood, reaching for the silver cup. “You’ve got to be careful where you buy meat anyway. They inject some animals with an enzyme, a meat tenderizer, before they kill them. That isn’t any good for you.” Where the going was difficult, she moistened the skin with water. At last it came away entire, like a rubber glove. She now had the weasel disassembled, laid out on the deck in cleanly dissected parts … The weasel’s tailbone was still in the skin. She tugged at it with her teeth. Pausing for a sip, she said that sometimes you just had to use your mouth in her line of work, as once when she was catching cricket frogs. She had a frog in each hand and saw another frog, so she put one frog into her mouth while she caught the third. Gradually, the weasel’s tailbone came free. She held it in her hand and admired it.


5 responses to “The literary raccoon

  1. I’m thinking that this “Coon in a Bag” recipe could provide a nice guide for the pressure cooker, with the cooker substituting for the roaster and 1 hour instead of 8.

  2. This seems simple:

    Stewed Groundhog (or raccoon)

    1 groundhog, cleaned, skinned, head removed
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
    5 large carrots, peeled and cut in slices
    3 potatoes, peeled and cut up as desired
    Salt and freshly milled pepper to taste


    Cut groundhog (or ‘Coon) into pieces. Place in a large pot. Cover with water, add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to hard simmer and simmer for 1 hour.

    Remove meat from water. Place pieces in a large roasting pan (or tear the meat from the bones and cook just the meat) along with 2 cups of the water in which the beast was cooked. Cook for 40 minutes.

    Add onion, carrot and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and bake another 20 minutes or until vegetables are done.

    Remove vegetables to a platter, and leave meat in the pan. There should be some liquid in pan with meat. If not, add some of the original cooking water to make about 3/4 cup. Bring quickly to a boil on top of the stove, adjust seasonings and thicken with a little flour dissolved in water. Remove to platter with vegetables and serve hot.

    Serves 4 – 6 people.

  3. I saw 2 coons under the 101 on the way home from work last night. If yours comes out tasty, I’ll aim better next time.

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