We spend a lot of time at Food52 offering up ways to improve your home life, with inspiration for cooking, handsome home goods, and tips to keep it a beautiful, organized, welcoming sanctuary. We don’t spend a lot of time on the realities of home ownership. Well, buckle up—that’s about to change. In Where the Wild Things Are, Amanda Hesser introduces us to some of the critters with whom her family has not-so-willfully cohabited over the years, hoping to inspire you to share your own stories. Bring on the funny disasters. The rants. And the helpful solutions, too!
(This is the second in Amanda’s six-part series—check out her prior story here.)
My family lived with squirrels for too many years to admit. We had our stove repaired 73 times, but did we try to consciously uncouple from the rodents? Nah.
Perhaps it was because life had gotten more complicated since the first squirrel moved in. I was working around the clock getting Food52 off the ground, and my husband, Tad, was working around the clock trying to make up for my lack of a salary. We had kids now, too—boy-girl twin toddlers. Dealing with the squirrels became another item on our to-do list, the kind of item that gets dragged to the bottom by scope and infeasibility and expense and sheer dread.
Ignoring the squirrels only made them bolder. They felt right at home. One day, back when we used to do weekly Food52 photo shoots at my apartment, we put a dish of Korean short ribs in marinade out on our deck to rest before grilling. The dish was covered with plastic wrap. Admittedly, this wasn’t a smart move, but the kitchen was crowded with cooks and steaming pots and laptops.
The squirrels caught on quickly. They didn’t try to eat the short ribs, as you might expect. Instead, I caught them fornicating on top of the plastic wrap, as if it were a picnic blanket at Woodstock. When I clapped my hands in a rage to scare them off, they left droppings on the dish. They could have gone about their business anywhere else on our deck, but squirrels turn out to be pretty rude.
They took it up a notch one night a few months later. Tad and I were getting ready to go to sleep. At the foot of our bed is a long upholstered bench, handed down from Tad’s grandparents. Under the bench, just a few feet from where Tad was standing, I saw a fluffy gray tail. I wanted to warn Tad but no words came out. I resorted to waving my arms like I was flagging down a taxi. Having gained his attention, I pointed, and we both froze.
The tail didn’t move, either. When we mustered the courage to look more closely, we discovered the squirrel was not cowering in fear or poised for a pinball run through our home. It was dead.
But it was not yet very dead. Which meant that during the evening, while we were home having dinner, washing dishes, tucking our kids in bed, this squirrel had entered our apartment—how, we’ll never know—and had carefully made its way to the foot of our bed to die.
I tried to see this as validation, as a sign that we’d created a welcoming home. In darker moods, I wondered if it was some kind of Godfather-like warning from the squirrel gangs of Brooklyn.
If only I’d known what was next.
P.S. You may be asking yourself how you dispose of a still-warm dead squirrel? Four easy steps:
1) Standing over the squirrel, unsure of what to do, yell to your husband, “We need to call my mom!” He’ll reply, “And what will your mother do?” Move on to step 2.
2) Get a broken-down box (Fresh Direct boxes work well) and wedge it under the squirrel like a pizza peel while your husband tentatively holds a heavy duty black garbage bag open for you to drop the carcass into.
3) While he takes the bag down to the garbage bin, ponder whether or not it would be gross for the vacuum cleaner, which is also used on your bathroom floor and kids’ bedroom rug, to be used on this spot. Conclude that you have no choice.
4) Vacuum and go to bed. The next morning, when a handful of editors and cooks from Food52 show up for the weekly full-day photo shoot in your bedroom, pretend everything is normal.
Check back next week for part three of Amanda’s series.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.