Things aren't going so well in America's Second City this summer. Chicago's murder rate is through the roof. More than 20 percent of its residents are food insecure, and the town is mired in the same lousy economy as the rest of us. But that's OK. Because for a subset of Chicago foodies—"with au courant appetites for sustainable, healthy, and locally sourced meats"—squirrel eating is making a comeback. Just call your dinner the "Chicken of the Trees."
Now, you might ask: When was urban squirrel-eating a thing in the first place? Or: How do you legally kill one within the city limits? And for those questions, and any other queries into the niche world of urban squirrel eating, we point you to this week's Chicago Reader, which today published a definitive guide on the subject. The alt-weekly's Mike Sula details everything from the typical diet of an urban squirrel (the cover suggests hot dogs), along with recipes, cuts of meat, and the sticker price for having a private, state-licensed company do the killing for you. But the question everyone wants to know the answer to is, How does it taste? Apparently it isn't all that bad. Here's what Sula's dinner guests say:
"It was so good that I got kinda depressed," my neighbor e-mailed later. "There are so many people who don't get enough protein and here is this menacing squirrel, there for the taking." ...
"If I hadn't known in advance," said another, "I doubt I would have been able to tell. But I tasted the cheek and even that, while incredibly delicious, tasted like something between pork and lamb. I never would have guessed it was squirrel in a blind tasting."
Most guests communicated a general surprise that city squirrels didn't taste like the wild muskiness of bigger wild game. I don't think that's an indication that it was overseasoned. I think it's because squirrel doesn't have an assertive flavor to begin with, at least not one that corresponds with its brazen behavior.
Proverbially, it tastes like chicken.
For more squirrel-related intelligence, read Sula's entire primer on the subject here.