Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Squirrels squat Finnish open-air museum

HELSINKI (AFP) — A popular open-air museum in Helsinki showing the traditional Finnish way of life on Monday begged the public to stop feeding local squirrels, saying they were eating away at the displays.

The 87 buildings that make up the Seurasaari museum, including cottages, manor houses, barns and other storage buildings, offer plenty of good places for the squirrels to nest and hide food.

"The squirrels have learned to hide food between wooden shingles on the roof. We saw a squirrel pulling at a shingle with its two paws until it broke," Seurasaari museum building conservator Risto Holopainen told AFP.

"Squirrels run into the buildings through open doors, they nibble on the museum textiles and make holes in the walls," he said.

He said the squirrels were causing extra work for employees.
The outdoor museum is located some four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the city centre on a small island and displays the Finnish way of life over the past few centuries.
Seurasaari is very popular among tourists and locals, not least because of the tame squirrels. An easy life has led to a dramatic increase of the squirrel population on the small island.

The museum said it was trying to tackle the problem by asking people not to feed the squirrels and preventing them getting into buildings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The ultimate ethical meal: a grey squirrel

It tastes sweet, like a cross between lamb and duck. And it's selling as fast as butchers can get it

Caroline Davies
Sunday May 11, 2008
The Observer

It's low in fat, low in food miles and completely free range. In fact, some claim that Sciurus carolinensis - the grey squirrel - is about as ethical a dish as it is possible to serve on a dinner plate.

The grey squirrel, the American cousin of Britain's endangered red variety, is flying off the shelves faster than hunters can shoot them, with game butchers struggling to keep up with demand. 'We put it on the shelf and it sells. It can be a dozen squirrels a day - and they all go,' said David Simpson, the director of Kingsley Village shopping centre in Fraddon, Cornwall, whose game counter began selling grey squirrel meat two months ago.

At Ridley's Fish and Game shop in Corbridge, Northumberland, the owner David Ridley says he has sold 1,000 - at £3.50 a squirrel - since he tested the market at the beginning of the year. 'I wasn't sure at first, and wondered would people really eat it. Now I take every squirrel I can get my hands on. I've had days when I have managed to get 60 and they've all sold straight away.'

Simpson likens the taste to wild boar. Ridley thinks it is more a cross between duck and lamb. 'It's moist and sweet because, basically, its diet has been berries and nuts,' he said.

Both believe its new-found popularity is partly due to its green credentials. 'People like the fact it is wild meat, low in fat and local - so no food miles,' says Simpson. Ridley reckons that patriotism also plays a part: 'Eat a grey and save a red. That's the message.'

A glut of back-to-the-wild TV programmes featuring celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also tickled the public's palate, but squirrel is still unlikely to be found in the family fridge. The Observer's restaurant critic, Jay Rayner, said he had never tasted squirrel, but if he did have it for dinner 'it would have to be a big, fat country squirrel and not one of the mangy urban ones you see in cities'.

'People may say they are buying it because it's green and environmentally friendly, but really they're doing it out of curiosity and because of the novelty value. If they can say, "Darling, tonight we're having squirrel", then that takes care of the first 30 minutes of any dinner party conversation. I see it remaining a niche. There's not much meat on a squirrel, so I'd be surprised if farming squirrel takes off anywhere some time soon.'

Kevin Viner, former chef-proprietor of Pennypots, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Cornwall, who now runs Viners bar and restaurant at Summercourt, believes it will remain a niche market. But with a plentiful supply of meat - there are estimated to be almost five million grey squirrels in Britain - there is room for the market to expand.

Viner - who comes from a rural 'if you shot it, you ate it' background - said the trick was to serve squirrel fresh and not to leave it hanging like other game. 'It looks a lot like rabbit, though it is a drier meat and slightly firmer. Most of the meat comes off the rear leg. The loins are so thin they need much shorter cooking time,' he said.

'A large squirrel would be enough for one-and-a-half people. The public really are being drawn to it. I think that it's because it is being perceived as a healthy meat. Southern fried squirrel is good. And tandoori style works. It is especially tasty fricasséed with Cornish cream and walnuts. But the one everyone seems to like is the Cornish squirrel pasty.'

And his own favourite recipe? 'I must admit, I'm a beef man myself,' he said. 'But my huntsman swears by squirrel with sausage meat and bacon.'

How to make squirrel pasties
Kevin Viner's recipe for two pasties

140g squirrel meat cut into 1cm cubes;

100g sliced potato; 100g sliced swede; 50g diced onion; 30g smoked bacon;

15g chopped hazelnuts; 75g butter;

5g chopped parsley; a good pinch of salt and pepper


· Egg wash edges of pastry circles.

· Place the potato, swede, hazelnuts, parsley and seasoning on to each circle followed by the bacon, squirrel meat and, finally, the onion.

· Place butter in each pasty, then fold over the pastry and crimp the edges.

· Put the pasties on to a greaseproof baking tray, egg wash both pasties well, place in a pre-heated oven at 180C or gas mark 5.

· Bake for 45-50 minutes. The juices should start to boil and the pasties should be able to move on the tray with ease.

Monday, May 12, 2008


SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- A man who has spent the past two years living in a treehouse has a new, terrestrial home just in the nick of time, thanks to neighbors.

David Csaky pulls up the ladder to his treehouse in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday.

David "Squirrelman" Csaky, a self-taught carpenter, learned Tuesday that neighbors had found an aging recreational vehicle for him to occupy.

"I'm overwhelmed," Csaky said. "I started crying when they told me."

For two years, Csaky, 52, has lived about 30 feet above the ground on city land, on a 300-square-foot platform that he built, accessible by a ladder counterweighted with sandbags on pulleys.

Csaky outfitted the treehouse with a tent, wood stove, three chairs, shelves and a counter with an unplumbed sink. His pets include Lucky, a rat; Rainbow, a ferret; and Tilt, a squirrel. Video Watch Csaky at home in treehouse »

He was lately threatened with eviction because the treehouse is a health and safety concern.

Brandon Ferrante, 28, and Maria Bolander, 27, who befriended him after watching the treehouse take shape, found an aging 22-foot RV online after they learned of Csaky's situation.

"It broke our hearts," Ferrante said. "He's taken care of the neighborhood. We couldn't sleep at night. We decided to make it happen."

They and their landlords, Janet Yoder and husband Robby Rudine, agreed to buy the rig for $500 after the owner offered a special "Squirrelman" discount.

"David's a unique character but a good neighbor," Yoder said.

After delivering the RV Tuesday evening, owner Timothy Custer decided instead to sell it to Csaky for a penny.

"It's Dave's new house," Custer said.

To make the house a home, Ferrante said, the task is now to find a permanent parking place.

"We don't want to see it get towed," he said.

Csaky, who got his nickname for his ability to tame squirrels, said he was amazed at the public attention, including television and radio interviews and talk show appearances.

"This is the beginning of a new life," he said.

Shoppers go nuts for squirrel pasty

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Squirrels have long been on the menu at some top restaurants – but now they have found their way into the humble pasty.

May contain nuts: Butcher Dave Simpson with a wild grey squirrel pasty

And it seems shoppers can't get enough of the healthy meat which tastes great, is good for the environment and is very free range.

Butcher David Simpson, who sells the pasties in Fraddon, Cornwall, said: 'People like the fact it is wild meat, low in fat and local – so no food miles.'

David Ridley, who owns a fish and game store in Northumberland, is also surprised by the success of grey squirrels, which apparently taste like wild boar or duck.

'I wasn't sure at first, and wondered would people really eat it. Now I take every squirrel I can get my hands on,' he said.

'I've had days when I have managed to get 60 and they've all sold straight away.

'It is moist and sweet because its diet has been berries and nuts.'

There are about 2.5million grey squirrels in Britain and killing them for food could help control numbers as they are over-running the native red squirrel.

Keith Viner, former chef of Michelin-starred Pennypots in Cornwall, said: 'Southern-fried squirrel is good. And tandoori style works.

'It is especially tasty fricasséed with Cornish cream and walnuts. But the one everyone seems to like is the Cornish squirrel pasty.'