As I watched Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow in Podunk, Penn., Sunday morning, I was reminded of Clark Griswold’s line in the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

“Where is Eddie?” Griswold says in the 1989 classic, “He usually eats these (blankety-blank) things.”

Griswold is, of course, referring to a squirrel that has gotten into the Griswold residence by way of his new Christmas tree.

But, clearly, this blankety-blank groundhog is causing just as much trouble for us winter-weary easterners as that squirrel caused for Clark Griswold and his unsuspecting family.

And, it seems to me, the best thing to do is to put the blankety-blank thing out of its misery and eat it.

For those who haven’t brushed up on their winter folklore, the groundhog seeing his shadow on Feb. 2 is an indication that six more weeks of winter remain . . . not good news for the eastern U.S., where we’re coming off one of our coldest Januaries in history with no end to winter’s gray doldrums in sight.

So why eat Punxsutawney Phil? Because, quite frankly, most of us aren’t going to be able to afford much else in the way of fine vittles after we’ve paid our utility bills.

You scoff — or snarl your nose, or retch — but there was a time when groundhog was common table fare, especially here in Appalachia. What is a groundhog but an overgrown ground squirrel? And while most of us know squirrels for what they are — rodents — it’s also undeniable that their are few dishes that are better-tasting when prepared properly than fried squirrel or squirrel dumplings.

I’ll admit that I’ve never eaten groundhog. I’ve tasted it, but it wasn’t my thing. Then again, roast goose isn’t my thing, and that’s a delicacy to many highfalutin types. And if I’m being honest, the groundhog I tasted wasn’t any worse than an ol’ goose.

If you can find a copy of the 1912 Caruthersville Baptist Ladies Aid cookbooks (disclosure: I haven’t seen one, but I can use Google), it has a groundhog recipe included.

Basically, you cook that ol’ varmint just like pot roast, with carrots and potatoes, onions and garlic, celery and herbs. Those who’ve tried it swear by it.

So it might not exactly be filet mignon, but groundhog stew would be putting Punxsutawney Phil to much better use than using him as a meteorology prognosticator. And all of us who were ready for spring’s sunny and 70 degree days by the middle of January will be much happier for it. Because, speaking strictly for myself: I don’t consider myself a violent person, but if someone had taken Phil out right there on live webcam Sunday morning, I wouldn’t have hated it. I wouldn’t have hated it at all.

■ Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at