October 31st, 2012
Last night a went to see a fantastic D.I.Y. Taxidermy lecture/demo/performance by artist Charlie Tuesday Gates in a dark cellar at The Book Club. The event was sold out in advance and people were turned away at the door!
“D.I.Y Taxidermy LIVE is an interactive journey. Giving first hand knowledge and the confidence to take life into your own hands, proving that you can do it yourself, at home, with little more than the contents of your kitchen cupboards. Through the medium of performance, video and story telling, you are taken deeper than ever into this seemingly dark art and mind of an artist.”
I have to confess that I found the whole thing very funny, interesting and entertaining (down to the artist’s witty banter). Charlie skinned a lamb live (not alive) and invited members of the audience to come up and skin a rabbit and squirrel.
The animals themselves were mostly roadkill and the lamb was sourced from a farm, already dead by natural causes. Charlie was quick to point out that fresh smelling animals with bright eyes are easier to work with – much like my advise on cooking roadkill.
I have often wanted to do something with the skins of rabbits I have eaten, or birds that I have plucked. I currently have half a pig skull on my kitchen windowsill (a leftover from roasted pig’s head) and a string of bones from Osso Buco.
In essence the skins of animals are carefully removed with a scalpel and heavily salted to cure them. The bones and body can also be salted and dried to make a framework for the skin, though a considerable amount of time (months) is required for the curing. A quicker method would be to make a metal frame (out of chicken wire or similar) for the skin, which is sewn back over the new skeleton.
So what does all this have to do with food? Well, I chopped up a skinned rabbit and cooked it on a griddle before serving it up to a willing audience. I’m sure Fergus Henderson would approve.