Smoked Ham and Peaches
Friday Ephemera

Diary of a Hunter-Gatherer

Picture the scene.

Last weekend, I camped with my family at a barn-raising party on the western foot of the Quantock hills, in Somerset. On Saturday I crept out of the tent at 5am, when the faintest skein of red cloud netted the sky. Below me, mist filled the valley floor. I slipped through the sagging fence at the top of the field and found myself in a steep, broad coomb, covered in bracken. I climbed for a while, as quietly as I could, until a frightful wail shattered my thoughts. I crouched and listened. I could see nothing on the dark hillside. It came again, from about 50 metres to my right, half-shriek, half-bleat, a wild, wrenching, desolate cry, a cry that the Earth might make in mourning for itself.

Yes, dear reader, we’re visiting the pages of the Guardian. Specifically, the latest transmission from the strange, anguished mind of Mr George Monbiot:  

Walking without a map, I reached the valley floor too soon and found myself on the main road. In some places there were no verges and I had to press myself into the hedge as cars passed. But on such early walks, almost regardless of where you are, there are rewards.

Wait for it.

Just as I was about to turn off the road, on to the track that would take me back to the barn, I found a squirrel hit by a car that must have just passed me, dead but still twitching. It was a male, one of this year’s brood but fully grown. Blood seeped from a wound to the head. I picked it up by its hind feet, and though I had played no part in its death, I was immediately gripped by a sensation so discrete, so distinct from all else we feel, that I believe it requires its own label: hunter’s pride.

Gasp ye at the dark, animal side of a Guardian columnist:

It’s the raw, feral thrill I have experienced only on the occasions when I have picked up a fresh dead animal I intend to eat. It feels to me like the opening of a hidden door, a rent in the mind through which you can glimpse a ghost psyche: vestigial emotional faculties that once helped us to survive.

Ah, the savage romance. Of roadkill. 

I showed the squirrel to the small tribe of children that had formed in the campsite, girls and boys between the ages of three and nine, and asked them if they’d like to watch me prepare it.

Creepy man waves dead, twitching squirrel at bewildered children.

I borrowed an axe and sharpened it on a stone, told the children what I was about to do, in case any of them had qualms, then chopped off the head, tail and feet. 

Creepy man now has axe in hand. Run, children, run.

It was exquisite: tender and delicately flavoured.

As this is apparently still breakfast we’re talking about, I’ll settle for coffee and some toast. However, George seems to have opened a psychological floodgate. A confession ensues:

I’ve eaten plenty of roadkill. I’ll take anything fresh except cats and dogs (my main concern is for the feelings of the owners, rather than the palatability of the meat, though it would require an effort to overcome the cultural barriers). But I was never before foolish enough to mention this eccentric habit on social media.

Happily, Guardian readers can now peek inside George’s head, his “ghost psyche,” and behold the passions therein. While pondering the various health concerns raised by peeling flattened squirrels from the roadside and, after waving said objects at any passing small children, reaching for the camping stove. 

To seek enlightenment, about ourselves and the world around us: this is what makes a life worth living.

That, and the contents of the Guardian.