Friday, December 22, 2006

Kentucky fears loss of traditional roadkill stew
Kentucky, the untamed western frontier when the American colonies declared independence in 1776, is struggling to keep a taste of its past alive -- a stew traditionally made from roadkill and veggies.

Burgoo is a stew-like soup of meat and vegetables that the settlers who poured through the Cumberland Gap survived on as they tamed this region. It featured whatever meat -- squirrel, rabbit or possum -- the backwoodsmen bagged on any given day.

But Owensboro in the western part of the state is now one of the few places where burgoo is still served in restaurants, at church picnics and barbecue cook-offs, albeit in a slightly updated form.

In many ways, burgoo is similar to Brunswick stew, another one-pot, slow-cooked dish popular in the south.

But unlike Brunswick stew, which has been embraced by epicures, burgoo is just a generation removed from its roots as a roadkill-and-veggie ragout. Indeed, in the late 1990s, during the scare over mad cow disease, health officials warned Kentuckians to stop eating squirrel brains, which, like squirrel meat, remains a something of a delicacy here.

A burgoo-making contest is also one of the highlights of Owensboro's annual International Bar-B-Q Festival where there as many recipes as chefs.

But Bosley says as time passes, the taste for burgoo even here in Owensboro is waning as chain restaurants push the traditional mom-and-pop restaurants out of business.

"We sell less and less of it every year," said Bosley. "It's a folk food so the old timers still want it. But fewer and fewer young people are eating it. The tradition's being lost... (and) it dilutes the food heritage of this country. It's sad."

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