Friday, January 01, 2016

Paddy Ashdown, Malcolm Saville and eating hedgehogs

Today in someone's review of the year I came across an interview Nick Clegg gave to the Evening Standard on the eve of the general election:
Looking back at the campaign, it is the comic moments he remembers. For instance, his first visit was to a hedgehog sanctuary, with Paddy Ashdown. Ashdown muttered under his breath to Clegg: “When I was in the Special Boat Service we used to eat hedgehogs.”
Talk of eating hedgehogs inevitably reminds those of us who grew up on Malcolm Saville of his second Lone Pine story Seven White Gates.

At the beginning of the book Peter (Petronella) Sterling is cycling to her mysterious uncle' farm under the Stiperstones.

On the way she comes across a Gypsy caravan whose horse is running away with the little girl driving it (Fenella) after being frightened by a tank (the book was published in 1944). Peter risks her life to bring the horse under control.

Later she eats with the Gypsy family:
Peter stood by and watched the other gipsies rake away the hot embers of their wood fire, until two cylinders of baked clay were exposed. Fenella ran for a dish from the Reubens' van and one of the glowing cylinders was poked on to it. Then, with mutual expressions of good will, the cooks and the Reubens with their guest parted. 
Round their own fire, Peter watched how the baked clay was cracked and peeled off, bringing with it the spines of the hedgehog and leaving him bare but beautifully cooked. From the pot came a stew of gravy and vegetables, a generous helping of which was piled on to the plate of the guest of honour.
She didn't see how Reuben divided up the hedgehog, but her share was certainly tasty - something between rabbit and chicken - and she was so hungry that she finished her plateful almost as soon as Fenella.
I don't know if that is how they cooked hedgehog in the SAS. And, though this method would deal neatly with the spines, Saville does not mention what has happened to the giblets.

As to the taste of hedgehog I am reminded of Jonathan Meades' comment:
People say frogs' legs taste of chicken. They are wrong. They taste of frog.
Read more on Malcolm Saville and Gypsies.


Tom Barney said...

I do know of this method, and I gather that there would be no giblets: the gut shrivels to nothing in the cooking.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you!