On this night in 1897, somewhere in the United States of America at an establishment called Bugbee House, a group of men (we can safely presume that the guests were all men, cant we?) sat down to a ‘Coon Supper’.
The menu was as follows:
G.O.Benison, Prop. C.J. Blackner, Clerk.
*Morse’s Coon Supper*
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1897
Eastford Coon Jericho Sauce.
Potato Salad Squirrel Pie.
Quail on Toast.
Mashed Potato. Sweet Potato. Turnips.
Red Cabbage. Stuffed Peppers. Celery.
Pickled Onions. Queen Olives.
Mixed Pickles. Tomato Catsup. Gherkins.
Apple Pie. Squash Pie.
Grapes. Pears. Bananas.
There was a Bugbee House in Putnam, Connecticut (and Eastwood and Jericho are in the same state) – Thomas Bugbee was a prominent businessmand and hotelier in that town. A Mr. Orrin Morse was the president of a manufacturing company in Putnam in the late nineteenth century, so perhaps he was hosting the dinner, or alternatively he was being honored in some way?
My own best guess, on a topic I know absolutely nothing about, is that most ‘coon was (is) cooked over a campfire, not in a restaurant. Certainly there is a dearth of recipes for it in conventional cookery books, even those of a certain age. To find out how to prepare, cook, and enjoy raccoon therefore, we must go to one of the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ types. Alonzo Delano gives the instructions in his book Life on the Plains and Amongst the Diggings … (1857) – although please note, he does not give an accompanying sauce.
"First catch your coon and kill him, skin him, and take out the entrails; cut off his head, which throw away; then if you have water to spare, wash the carcass clean, but if you have not, omit the washing. Parboil an hour to take out the strong musk, then roast it before the fire on a stick. While it is roasting, walk ten miles, fasting, to get an appetite, then tear it to pieces with your fingers, and it will relish admirably with a little salt and pepper, if you happen to have them. A tin cup of coffee without milk, taken with it, makes, under the circumstances, a feast fit for the gods".
A mere few minutes after posting this, I received an email from Gary Allen - and I thought you would enjoy it.
Once, some 30 years ago, when I was young and new to hunting, I found I had an opportunity to shoot a plump raccoon. It was a long and tricky shot, so I was pretty proud of my trophy.
I planned to make a feast of the beast, so I took it home, skinned and dressed (or rather, un-dressed, it -- I wonder why removing an animal's skin came to be considered as "dressing?") it on our kitchen
table. I was rather surprised -- 'though, in retrospect, I don't know why -- at how much fat there was. After trimming away most of it, the raccoon didn't have nearly as much meat as I had hoped. Little did I know that the limited supply of meat was a GOOD thing.
After cooking it for some time, we dug in to our first taste of wild raccoon.
Why specify "wild?" No one in his right mind would try to farm-raise raccoons.
First of all, they're a nasty brutish bunch who would, no doubt, prefer to eat their handlers -- or would if they did no so much despise us.
Second, when not thinking about eating US, they would much prefer to eat our food. Or our garbage. Either way, raccoons have an innate ability to make a mess of anything we hold dear. Inviting them to be
a part of our lives is just stupid. It reveals an over-weaning lack of foresight.
Third, it's one thing to raise an animal that prefers to eat as we do (pigs, for example), when the food we get in return is worth it. Few would argue that trading excess corn for bacon and pork chops is a
bad idea. It's quite another to convert perfectly good food into raccoon flesh.
Raccoon, as least the one I ate, tasted like very old and stringy beef -- perhaps the dessicated flesh of some super-annuated ox, an over-worked creature who might very well have expired in mid-furrow.
Aside from the poor quality of the meat, a certain amount of residual fat remained, despite my earlier efforts to remove it. This fat had the remarkable property of not melting in the mouth -- so that, after
eating the raccoon, I was convinced that someone had coated the inside of my mouth with tallow, or possibly axle-grease.
Needless to say, the tribe of raccoons has been safe from my predations during the past three decades. I have not yet had, nor do I expect anytime soon to have, an urge to experience another bout of ring-tailed dyspepsia.
Quotation for the Day.
There is a passion for hunting something deeply implanted in the human breast.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870), in Oliver Twist.