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Steelhammer: A hearty helping of squirrel and Onion

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A story on West Virginia squirrel cuisine made the Washington Post's food section last week, reminding me of the long-ago autumn days when I hunted and dined upon the tasty woodland rodent.

The reason for the Post story was the 13th annual Squirrel Fest, Romney's tribute to the rural car radio antenna adornment and the morsels of alternative protein once attached to it.

The featured entrée as this year's Squirrel Fest was a giant vat of squirrel gravy, which the Post's food writer described as "lightly caramel-colored and smooth on the surface, with shreds and chunks of long-cooked meat waiting to be ladled up and onto biscuits and baked potatoes."

I learned from the story that the original Brunswick stew was created in 1824 in Virginia's Brunswick County, when four squirrels shared a pot with a few onions and some chunks of stale bread. I usually prepared the critters by parboiling and deboning them, and then frying them with onions.

For me, the hardest part of creating a squirrel dinner was removing the featured entrée from its tight-fitting body-length fur coat, which definitely could have used a zipper or two. The process reminds me of the "Friends" episode involving Ross trying with great difficulty to get into a pair of sweaty leather pants, only in reverse.

According to the article, eating squirrel is good for you. It cited a George Mason University nutrition professor who said a 3.5-ounce serving of squirrel contains 22 grams of protein and only 3 grams of fat, mostly the "good" kind.  Take that, Big Mac!

And, yes, in my opinion, squirrel tastes just like chicken -- if your chicken happens to be all dark meat, free range, on an all-nut diet and a jogger.

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Several years ago, the Beijing Evening News fell for a fake news story on the humor site The Onion about Congress acting like an NFL franchise owner seeking a new stadium and threatening to pull out of Washington, D.C., if it didn't get a new, upgraded Capitol Building.

Last week, the People's Daily, China's official communist newspaper, got taken in by another satirical piece, this one involving The Onion allegedly naming pudgy-faced North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un its "Sexiest Man Alive for 2012." Quoting The Onion's spoof report, the Chinese paper reported that the North Korean strongman was selected for the honor due to "his devastatingly handsome round face, his boyish charm and his strong, sturdy frame," which made the "Pyongyang-bred heartthrob every woman's dream come true."

In September, Iran's semi-official news agency fell for another Onion story, this one purporting that most rural Americans would rather vote for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than President Obama. The Onion story quoted a fictional West Virginia resident who said he would rather go to a ball game with Ahmadinejad than the American president because the Iranian leader "takes national security seriously, and he would never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does."

Editors of official state newspapers for oppressive governments may eventually learn that "satire" is not an English slang word for clothing worn on weekends. But until then, I'll keep reading the Onion to see who gets taken in next.


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