The joy of the ‘Joy of Cooking,’ circa 1962

This posted is rated NV: Not for Vegetarians.

Possum recipeA friend in the book-publishing industry was dining at our house last week and rhapsodizing about old Joy of Cooking editions, particularly the illustrations from the ’60s. Lo and behold, on my shelf was a 1962 edition my father had given me.

The book opens with an epigram from Goethe’s Faust: “That which thy fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.”

I was willing to try, but wow, culinary traditions have changed.

Alan went straight for the opossum recipe. If possible, the home chef is to trap this nocturnal animal and feed it on milk and cereal for 10 days before attempting to parboil, roast, and eat it, perhaps with some turnip greens. Okaaaaaay!

On the same page as this delightful recipe was a helpful illustration of how to skin a squirrel. (Gray squirrels are apparently preferred, as red ones are “small and quite gamey in flavor.”) I suspect this is knowledge no longer commonly bequeathed, so I’m reproducing the drawing here to preserve it.squirrels.jpg

11 Responsesto “The joy of the ‘Joy of Cooking,’ circa 1962”

  1. funny you should mention as i was just in south carolina and, upon my return, engaged in a lengthy convo with the mister and a friend as to whether people still eat possum, squirrel, raccoon, and (zoinks!) pigeon–all staples i remember from the regional cookbooks of my youth. we decided the answer is likely yes, but then we let it be and went back to noshing on our organic hummus.

  2. Corn Maven says:

    i was tricked into eating squirrel once when i was a kid by someone who told me it was chicken.

    to compensate i’ve become quite open to all kinds of cuisine… though i wouldn’t want to eat a squirrel again. but i think that’s likely because its more taboo than eating a chicken in my particular food culture.

  3. I have a lovely old White House cookbook from late in the 19th Century (I purchased it for research purposes at one time as I was engaged to package a comprehensive White House cookbook in conjunction with a fellow who had access to the largest private collection of White House dinnerware), anyway, it was quite delightful to see therein now-historic recipes for Squirrel Stew — an Andrew Jackson favorite– as well venison and other hunter provided victuals. It’s a far cry from the Frenchified provender found in more recent versions of haute cuisine cookbooks. Ah well, if the current economic trends continue much longer most of us will be eating spit roasted rat while the folks at the top of the food chain dine on lark’s tongues in aspic.

  4. Hunter's son says:

    My father hunted squirrel as a boy in Kansas, but never talked about the taste. I’ve always wondered what squirrel was like.

  5. Man of La Muncha says:

    Not quite tricked, but I ordered hare from a French restaurant, thinking that it would be like rabbit. Hare is nothing like rabbit. The meat was gamey and stringy and not very satisfying.

  6. DairyQueen says:

    The previous page of that edition of “Joy” has an even more disturbing — for those of us who had rabbits as pets — illustration of how to skin a rabbit. I really don’t think I could ever eat it, to me it would be like eating cat. Just an association I can’t shed.

  7. Ness says:

    I grew up in a family where we ate venison a lot. My grandma cooked rabbit,etc, but my parents did not. I happened to be staying with her when my uncle went squirrel hunting and I swore I would not eat what he came back with. My grandma had a strict rule of trying what she cooked and forced me to eat it, even after my uncle came back, pulled the squirrels from the deep pockets of his quilted hunting coat, and used them like little puppets telling me “You have to eat us…..” I can’t say it tasted bad, but it messed me up. Probably part of the reason I went veg!

  8. Ness says:

    The venison mention was sort of to explain I did not have a wild game aversion…..squirrels just look too much like kitties or hamsters….pet like.

  9. Kerry Robb says:

    DUDE. I have the SAME COOKBOOK. It’s my mother’s from the 60′s, and my husband and I totally checked out the same recipes. By the way, did you notice the one for head cheese? Try reading the instructions on that one…

  10. Tara says:

    I love how everyone in America probably has one or another Joy of Cooking edition, even if they don’t know it. Check out the recipes involving aspic and jello molds- they put everything in a freakin jello mold back then! Cheers and happy eating!

  11. mayda says:

    The town of Danville, Ohio has an annual Raccon Dinner. It is has been a fundraiser for the last 60 years. Many diners claim it tastes much like a melt in your mouth pot roast. The local article below includes the recipe. Bon apetit.