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Pick a Possum: 1916

New York circa 1916. "Opossums hanging up outside shop." 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress. View full size.

New York circa 1916. "Opossums hanging up outside shop." 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress. View full size.


50 shades of gray?

Possums come in all shades of gray, from such a light gray as to appear almost white to such a dark shade that they are nearly black.

This Opinion From a "Possum Expert"

I grew up in rural Alabama and trapped rabbits and possums in what were called "rabbit boxes". Consequently, I have caught many possums. My family would eat the rabbits I caught, but I sold the possums locally to those who did eat them. Generally, the price of a regular size possum was 50¢ and the larger ones would bring 75¢. This was during the 1940's. The animal carcasses in this photo do not appear to be possums to me. Among other things, they are much larger than any I have ever seen.

I love these books

I have both the volumes of Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking as well, the fifth printing 1956, I suspect they were a wedding gift as my parents were married in 1956. I love them, they are a treasure of not only unique recipes, but everything else from buying fruits, storing food and entertaining!


Like Chicken

I actually cooked a possum, in a Dutch oven over (and under) coals, as a part of a historical reenactment of the 1830's in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas. It tasted like chicken.


The old (unexpunged) versions of The Joy of Cooking actually have a brief bit on dressing and preparing Opossum. You have to look under O and not P in the Index. Sadly, my copy is newer and doesn't have this lovely tidbit, so I'll have to rely on someone else.

Possums look different

Dunno bought y'all but the only possums I have ever seen are white, no where near that furry, and much much smaller- do they have bigger possums back east?

[Possums are not white. Maybe you're thinking of armadillos. - Dave]

New York

This is funny I am in Tennessee and have had dealings with New Yorkers and have been called possum eating hillbilly..

I tried to explain that it was Turkey deer fish squirrel rabbit and other game birds before possum.

But it looks as though it was Sunday dinner in New York.

Meta Given

My cookbook treasure, "Meta Given's Encyclopedia of Food," has a recipe for roast possum as well. (First printing 1947.) I found it among such culinary delights as turtle soup (and how to dress a turtle), muskrat Maryland, and a complete American Legion raccoon dinner. Courtesy of the Chillicothe, Missouri chapter.

[Meta rules. I have both volumes of Meta Given's "Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking," the 1959 edition. They've been in my family since they were new. A great cookbook! - Dave]

The Dixie Cookbook

From the Dixie Cookbook.

OPOSSUM. — Scald with lye, scrape off hair, and dress whole, leaving on head and tail; rub well with salt and set in a cool place over night; place in a large stone pan with two pints water and three or four slices bacon; when about half baked, fill with a dressing of bread crumbs, seasoned with salt, pepper and onions if liked. After returning to pan place sweet potatoes, pared, around the opossum, bake all a light brown, basting frequently with the gravy. When served place either an apple or sweet potato in its mouth.

— Mrs. L. S. Brown, Atlanta

Where'd they come from?

Opossum are able scavengers. I'd imagine at that time they were all over the trash bins and alleyways of NYC. I'll bet armed with a small club or a slingshot one could kill quite a few at night. Probably a sort of cottage industry.

Playing Possum

How do we know they weren't just playing dead? And those guys were just the Allen Funts of their day, waiting to see a customer jump out of their shoes when the 'possum suddenly scampers off the counter. Candid Glass Negative Show. We need those little cartoon X's over the eyes maybe.

Taste of Possum

I've actually had possum - very greasy, dark meat. My dad was quite a hunter when I was a kid, and being a child of the Depression, he wouldn't consider us not eating whatever he brought home - that would be wasteful. However, I'd go out of my way not to eat possum again - yuck! Same goes for raccoon and beaver. Bear, on the other hand, was quite delicious - though I oppose killing them on moral grounds.

Recipe Corner

No mention of possum in my 1904 White House Cookbook but several rabbit recipes. My grandmother grew up in Texas and has had possum and she said it wasn't worth trying. But for those that care, here is the recipe for Fricassee Rabbit from the 1904 White House cook book.

Clean two young rabbits, cut into joints, and soak in salt and water half an hour. Put into a saucepan with a pint of cold water, a bunch of sweet herbs, an onion finely minced, a pinch of mace, half a nutmeg, a pinch of pepper and a half a pound of salt pork cut in small thin slices. Cover and stew until tender. Take out the rabbits and set in a dish where they will keep warm. Add to the gravy a cup of cream (or milk), two well-beaten eggs, stirred in a little at a time, a tablespoonful of butter, and a thickening made of a tablespoonful of flour and a little milk. Boil up once; remove the saucepan from the fire, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, stirring all the while, and pour over the rabbits. Do not cook the head or neck.

Well dressed, but...

The possum dealer is indeed very well dressed under his coat, but look how filthy the gutter is! Must have been hard to keep nice clothes clean, even if you weren't slaughtering vermin all day.

Frontier Fast Food

I'm pretty sure there isn't anything in the world that would induce me to eat an opossum. Why no squirrels, I wonder?

Hangin With the Possums

I'm wondering less about the merchandise and more about the location. This is New York, by which they presumably mean New York City. One wouldn't think there'd be enough of a market for possum in the Big Apple that you'd have nine or ten of the critters hanging outside your shop. A sign of the times?

[This is Chinatown. - Dave]

But are these . . .

free range possums?

Seems like rabbits?

Under the table 'possums, it looks like there is a pile of rabbits as well. And what is on top of the table? I love this site, my favorite time of the day.

[No one's said anything about the ducks yet. - Dave]

Jeb and Willy

There is something about this picture that just makes want to put words into the mouths of the two men with their opossums. I don't know what exactly - something to the effect that they can offer the photographer a good deal on a nice one - skinned out and ready for stew. Just makes me want to write a story....

I always enjoy these little looks back to times gone by - Thanks so much!

Hello, Possums!

That appears to be Granny Clampett herself hurrying to buy up a few for supper.

The Possum Dealer

I guess it's a sign of the times, the man in the bloody butcher's smock is wearing a derby hat, a high starched collar (detachable), a white shirt, a necktie, a suit jacket and shined shoes. All he has to do is ditch the coat and he can be off to lunch with Evelyn Nesbit.

Yumm yumm

We got them! Possums! Possums! Get your fresh hot possums!

Tastes like...

Anyone know what possum tastes like? In one of the fancier restaurants in Florida, I've had gator meat. Alligator meat really does taste like chicken (when grilled and marinated like chicken).

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