I'm all for the "whatever is in the fridge" mentality when I don't feel like paying for takeout or running to the supermarket. So what if I have frozen chicken nuggets for dinner, or some questionably old leftover pizza for a late breakfast, or the last few scraps from a combination of meals I ate over the past week as a nice midday meal? I'm a 23-year-old kid that had been coddled by a great dining hall and super convenient campus eateries, not to mention the occasional care package from home, for a long time. I can't chef it up every night, you know?
But my fridge contains those things above. Chicken, pizza, beer, salads, microwave meals, more beer — the usual stuff. Ravens rookie Ben Cleveland has the "whatever is in the fridge" mentality too. But it's just that... well, his fridge has some different things in there. Like squirrels.
"I don't know if it was a specific diet. It's more so one of those things where, you know, you eat what you got in the freezer from the fall," Cleveland said. "So, I had a few squirrels freeze-dried in there. So, get a little hungry, ain't got no deer meat left, fry up a squirrel or two, and just go eat that."
Right... because deer meat is also my typical food source before I have to start looking for alternatives. But I guess that's the case if you're from Toccoa in northern Georgia, the small town in which Cleveland grew up. The Ravens' third-round pick joined "The Lounge" podcast to discuss his roots and the cuisine that came with the territory.
"That's what we did growing up. That was our thing," Cleveland said, referring to going hunting. "My dad, he took me in the woods before I could walk. Literally, he carried me up a deer stand. That was kind of bred into us."
So that's where the deer meat came from! Cleveland explains that deer was the typical target, though turkey and duck would occasionally become part of the day's bounty. And then there are the squirrels.
"It tastes like squirrel. I don't know how else to explain it to you," Cleveland said. "Some squirrels in south Georgia, they'll taste a little bit more nutty. Up here, our acorns and stuff aren't really as strong as the ones down south. Most of them up here, it just tastes like squirrel. If you put enough seasoning on it, you can make it taste like anything you want it to taste like."
Squirrel and sriracha — I'm salivating. Actually, Old Bay seasoning is what Cleveland recommended, and frozen biscuits were the perfect side dish in the instance when he decided to take some shots at two squirrels in a tree outside his living room window. I reach in a drawer for a snack; Cleveland reaches for a .22. More importantly, the Georgia alum emphasizes that it's not the easiest thing to cook in the world, given their fine hairs that are a bit difficult to completely remove.
While I'll admit that I'm curious, I'll probably hold off and just eat my chicken wings as Cleveland and the Ravens — boy, that's a confusing last name for a non-Browns AFC North player, isn't it? — take the field in Week 1 at Allegiant Stadium for Monday Night Football.