16 (Mon) November 2020
Morsels of Golden Squirrel and Rabbit
-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-
with the DJ and IZ
Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (17)
Endeavoring to read the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book. Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, literally give us this day our daily bread. The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.
(For additional posts relating to Newbery Medal books, see NEWBERY)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1977) by Mildred D Taylor. The book is about the Logans, a black family in rural Mississippi during the Great Depression. Told through the eyes of 9-year-old daughter Cassie, the story touches on a wide range of cultural, economic, historical issues that the family members and their neighbors face in their daily lives, mostly stemming from racism. Despite the gross injustices that the characters experience, the tone of the book is never angry or fearful, always courageous and righteous; Cassie’s clear and steady narration kept me engaged in what’s ostensibly a broccoli book – I love broccoli, when cooked right.
[paraphrased in part]
The best part of the revival was the very first day. The mass of humanity which had squished its way into the sweltering interior of the church poured out onto the school grounds, and the women proudly set out their dinners in the backs of wagons and on the long tables circling the church.
Then it was a feast to remember.
Brimming bowls of turnip greans and black-eyed peas with ham hocks, thick slices of lat winter’s sugar-cured ham and strips of broiled ribs, crisply fried chicken and morsels of golden squirrel and rabbit, flaky buttermilk biscuits and crusty cornbread, fat slabs of sweet-potato pie and butter pound cakes, and so much more were all for the taking. No matter how low the pantry supplies, each family always managed to contribute something, and as the churchgoers made the rounds from table to table, hard times were forgotten at least for the day.
As much as I would’ve loved to cook squirrel and rabbit, alas, the animals are unavailable for sale in Korea, at least for purposes of human consumption, as far as I’m aware. My mother tells me that rabbit kinda used to be a catch-’em-eat-’em thing in the countryside, also frog and cricket, but never part of mainstream culinary traditions.
In 1985, when I was 13, we moved back to Korea, whereupon my grandfather bought me a pair of pet squirrels in a cage as a welcome gift. I don’t think that squirrels were ever really embraced as common pets, but anyway they could be purchased from street vendors in those days. I named them Jake and Elwood, after the Blues Brothers. A few days later, I looked in the cage to find the decapitated body of Elwood, his body in one corner, his head in another; Jake was covered in blood, so we accused him of murderer. We took the cage out to the hills behind the house and let Jake free.
I’ve had rabbit twice in my life. Once, in France, in a bean cassoulet. Once, in Egypt, grilled (see 4.303 Molokheya with Rabbit and Rice). Both times, it tasted like chicken.
To realize the morsels of golden squirrel and rabbit in the book, I had to settle for chicken. Ultimately, I made “crisply fried chicken.”
(For more details re food, see WHAT)
(For more details re venues, see WHERE IN KOREA)