'Road Kill Cookbook' author: Feed needy with roadside recipes
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The man who helped put West Virginia on the map as a mecca for road-kill cuisine wants to put more vehicle-harvested venison in the refrigerators of the needy.
"I want to start a road-kill hotline," said Jeff Eberbaugh, the author of 1991's "Gourmet Style Road Kill Cooking and Other Fine Recipes," and "Road Kill Cooking Redneck Style and More Tails From the Fast Lane," published in 1992. "I see so much good meat lying along the road going to waste. It's meat that a lot of people could use, if there was a road kill man to take care of it."
Eberbaugh wants to be that road-kill man.
He also wants his home phone number, 304-275-1071, to become a regional road-kill hotline number, "something people can program into their cellphones and call if they hit a deer, or see one that's just been hit."
Eberbaugh, a former Kanawha County resident who now lives near Palestine, Wirt County, said each year he drives past hundreds of salvageable deer carcasses as he commutes to and from his job as a registered nurse. He has operated a deer processing service as a sideline for 13 years, and knows from experience that some road-kill venison can be as good as, or even better than, some venison dropped off by hunters.
"I've picked up a lot of animals off the side of the road that have been in better shape than deer that have been shot multiple times or have been improperly field-gutted by some of the hunters," he said. "I had a deer run into the side of my van last fall that hit his head and died. He was in perfect condition for processing."
After reporting that kill to a DNR conservation officer within 12 hours of the fatal deer-van collision, in keeping with the terms of a state law enacted in 1998 legalizing the possession of road-killed game, Eberbaugh converted the deer into ground venison and venison sausage. If his road-kill hotline catches on, he would do the same with donated road kill, giving away venison blended with pork shoulder in one-pound chub packs to churches and food pantries for distribution to the needy.
"It's good food. I've been eating it for years," Eberbaugh said. "If God didn't want us to eat road kill, he wouldn't have made it out of meat."
During his years of commuting to jobs at hospitals and other medical facilities as far away as Marlinton, Eberbaugh said, he has had fatal encounters with more than 30 deer, including eight in a single year, many of which ended up in his freezer.
More than 200,000 of his poetic, tongue-in-cheek, self-produced recipe books for serving up fender-harvested foods have been sold over the years and are now out of print. He said plans are in the works for a third book, with the working title "Road Kill Cooking, Government Style: We've Already Cooked Your Goose."
Eberbaugh's first book was the inspiration for Marlinton's annual Roadkill Cook-Off, which began in 1991 with Eberbaugh serving as its first and only judge. He returned to the Pocahontas County town last month to judge the competition again. Over the years, the Roadkill Cook-Off, which helps draw more than 10,000 visitors to Marlinton each fall, has been covered by the Food Channel and the Travel Channel, and was featured on Andrew Zimmern's "Bizarre Foods" program after Zimmern served as a judge in 2010. Among media outlets covering this year's cook-off were Yahoo.com, whose video crew interviewed Eberbaugh, and the Times of London.
Eberbaugh said he plans to respond to calls to pick up vehicular venison only if the deer has been freshly killed, and is located in the Wirt, Roane, Wood, Jackson and Calhoun county areas. "If the deer is really torn up bad, or if you didn't kill it or just see it get killed," he said. "we don't want it."
If road-kill-hotline calls come in when he is at work, Eberbaugh said his son might be available to pick up the road kill. "We won't be able to get to all the deer that could be used in this program," he said, "but we can get to a lot of them."
Eberbaugh said he doubts his roadside recycling program would violate any health laws since, in West Virginia, "there's basically no regulation in deer processing. And I don't think there's any law against giving away ground meat. But if I'm wrong, I guess I'll find out soon enough. I'd like to get this hotline up and running and see where it goes. The idea is just to give some good meat to people who want it."
Eberbaugh encourages those interested in his road-kill plan to contact him at email@example.com or at 304-275-1071.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5169.