Hedgehog Crisps were launched in the UK in 1981 as an ironic comment on crisps as fashion accessory. When it transpired that No hedgehogs were killed in the manufacture of these crisps, the Office of Fair Trading issued a cease-and-desist notice and Hedgehog were up in court for duping the public. The Man has no sense of humour. After consultations between genuine Romany hedgehog-eaters and Hedgehog's food chemists, the bye-line was changed from hedgehog flavour to hedgehog flavoured and honour was satisfied. The species at issue is Erinaceus europaeus, of the Order Eulipotyphla - which used to be Order Insectivora - hedgehogs, shrews and moles aNNyway. According to George Borrow (Lavengro 1851 and Romany Rye 1857), the gypsies would pack clay into the spines of the rolled hedgehog and bake them in and open fire. When done, the ball is cracked open and the spines remain in the discarded crust.
So what else will people eat in the small mammal department?
- Don't eat shrews Blarina brevicauda! They are poisonous and taste horrible particularly the front end.
- When in Rome, do as the Romans do and eat the edible dormouse Glis glis.
V identifies the Islands of the Vole: Westray, Sanday, Rousay, Mainland, and South Ronaldsay. For many years it was considered a separate species - it is about twice the weight of its continental cousin and has paler fur; but modern taxonomists put it firmly as a sub-species of the Eurovole Microtus arvalis orcadensis. A couple of years ago they did some DNA testing which pointed to an origin in-or-around Belgium and the supposition was that Vikings had somehow brought the field voles home to Orkney in a bale of hay fodder looted from Brugge or Antwerpen or indeed <parity of esteem alert> Bruges or Anvers. But a dig at Skara Brae, the extraordinary Neolithic settlement on the West coast of Mainland, revealed hundreds of charred spit-roasted vole skeletons in several heaps which were carbon dated to 5000 years ago. That's long and long before any Viking was a twinkle in his father's drinking horn. It looks likely that the trading network of the Skara Brae civilisation ran as far as continental Europe and included an order for some of those delicious furry morsels that the Belgae do so well. We think of those neolithic lads as bashing two rocks together to amuse themselves but are brought up short when we see the ruins of their buildings and monuments and, for me especially, the evidence of stuff travelling enormous distances to amuse and delight people at the ends of the Earth [prev stone axe from Umbria to Canterbury].
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