Rats, mice, foxes, owls, pigeons, moles, snakes and pheasants: the makings of a pleasant episode of Winnie the Pooh, an autumnal diorama of woodland life at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia — or, for one 44-year-old UK man, 30 years worth of dinner.
Jonathan McGowan, a professional taxidermist, started eating roadkill at age 14, when he found a dead adder on the side of the road and decided to cook it, reports the Daily Mail. That first snake wasn’t very tasty, but he was intrigued. Over time, McGowan came to see the ecological and culinary benefits of eating only meat he found dead on the side of the road. (It seems his forager-instincts were limited to the flesh: he would buy fruits, vegetables, grains, spice and so forth like any other person.)
McGowan detailed the logistics of his diet in a rollicking essay in The Guardian last spring. He writes:
Rabbits, badgers and pheasants are my most common finds. Rabbit is actually quite bland. Fox is far tastier; there’s never any fat on it, and it’s subtle, with a lovely texture, firm but soft. It’s much more versatile than beef, and has a salty, mineral taste rather like gammon. Frogs and toads taste like chicken and are great in stir-fries. Rat, which is nice and salty like pork, is good in a stir-fry, too – I’ll throw in celery, onion, peppers and, in autumn, wild mushrooms I’ve collected. Badger is not nice and hedgehog is hideous.
In a way, McGowan’s roadkill-centric diet is the logical terminus of a few recent strands of thought in the culinary world. He is at once a locavore forager in the tradition of Rene Redzepi, a nose-to-tail carnivore like Fergus Henderson and a freegan in the same vein as Gio Andollo. (Never mind that he embarked on his unusual project decades before any of those figures rose to prominence.)
McGowan doesn’t fess up to any negative consequences of his roadkill diet, except for the occasional grimace from a friend or acquaintance. So if you’re feeling cavalier, eco-conscious and in the mood for meat the next time you see a deer carcass on the side of the highway, you might want to consider following his lead — at least after reading this guide to roadkill on Slashfood.
McGowan’s story was featured on CNN Monday. Here’s the clip: