by Dan Gibson
No matter how bad things get, at least we're still one step ahead of Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of an annual squirrel cookoff:
Entering its second year, the contest held just off Bentonville's bustling town square Saturday included 30 teams with contestants from nine states, who competed to come up with the finest squirrel-based delights possible.
This year's culinary creations ranged from squirrel with cashews and spring rolls to Caribbean jerk squirrel and fried plantains. The dishes were a step up in sophistication from last year's fare, which included squirrel jalapeño cheese poppers and minced squirrel brains with cream cheese in pastry dough. Still, the same winning duo as last year, brothers Brandon and Blayne Estes, once again took home the $500 prize and bragging rights with a simpler, more countrified entry: squirrel sausage.
Brandon, who owns a custom cabinet business in nearby Rogers, Ark., won the previous year with squirrel sliders. He has come to believe that grinding the meat and obscuring its origins is the secret to success.
"I don't think people like eating food that looks like rat," he says, admitting he himself is no fan of eating squirrel.