Appalachia Appalachian Food

Ever Eat An Owl?

When I picked the girls up from school yesterday they were starving, as usual. Chatter asked “what’s for supper?” (like she does everyday) and I had a surprising answer for her-owls.

Never missing a beat-Chatter said “I’m not eating any feathery owl and neither are you.”

quick meals
Back a few months ago, when I asked for make do dishes or recipes, Jenifer M. sent me this one:

I remember, when we were growing up, having what my mom called “owls”.  I have no idea why they were called that, maybe because they looked like owl eyes. I’m the youngest of 6 kids, and I never remember feeling like we were experiencing hard times, but looking back, I realize we went through some lean years when my dad’s business went through some ups and downs. Anyway, an owl was a pre-toasted split hamburger bun that had a thin layer of hamburger meat spread on it then broiled in the oven. I loved them!  It must have been fairly lean meat, because I don’t remember them as being very greasy, and it could make a little meat go a long way. A ketchup smiley face was all it needed to be delicious! 

I made hamburgers for supper on Monday night-leaving enough meat in the package for one more hamburger, not enough to feed us all. So I thought Tuesday night was the perfect time to try out Jenifer’s Owls.

I’m not exactly sure how her Mother made hers, but I browned the meat then put a thin layer on a toasted hamburger bun. I added cheese to mine and popped them all under the broiler for a minute or two.

Then I called the girls to come get their owls. I even put smiley faces on them like Jenifer’s Mom. Chatter decided she liked owls after all and Jenifer’s make do recipe made the meat for one hamburger stretch to feed us all.

The Owls were yummy, but Jenifer and I are still wondering about the name. Do you think her Mother made the name up because the buns reminded her of owl eyes or maybe she called them owls because that’s what she was told they were when she learned to make them?



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  • Reply
    Gail Bentley
    January 5, 2021 at 9:14 am

    My mom used to make owls in the late 1960s. I think they had oregano and possibly fennel or caraway seed mixed in. I loved them!

  • Reply
    December 29, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    My mom used to make us “Owls” for dinner, too. She would pat a thin layer of hamburger on a piece of bread, sprinkle with a little bit of garlic salt, put a pat of butter in the center and broil for 7-8 minutes. Delicious! I may have to make for dinner tomorrow.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    August 6, 2012 at 9:35 am

    We used to have a similar dish. Momma would brown hamburger then add tomato sauce and season it up “kindly like” spaghetti sauce and spread this over cheese toast–we called it pizza. I was grown before I realized this was not what pizza actually was.
    Did the old folks ever tell ya’ll what the animals were saying? The guinea hens sing “good luck-good luck-good luck” the hoot owl (Great horned owl) said ” who– who cooks for you—who cooks for you awwwwwll”. You listen, that’s what he says.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I guess she just wanted to make supper time a little different. Her kids probably got a kick out of telling their friends they ate owls.

  • Reply
    Ron Corley
    February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Now … I’m all about the comfort food … and these “Owls” fall right into that category. I think I’m going to give this treat a try this weekend. You share the best ‘stuff’, especially for this CO boy now living out his days here in East TN.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Tipper, The “Owls” looked mighty tasty but here is an addition to that that we all love at my house, brown your hamburger meat and add a can of ABC soup to it, and eat it over hamburger buns, My kids call them “Open-faced hamburgers”. they sure are tasty.
    The girls are really growing up fast on you Tipper! Can’t wait to meet you all hopefully in 2011. hahahahaha Keep up the good work!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    February 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Tipper: You may laugh at me, but if you take the ketchup off, the shape looks just like an owl. The head even has eyes and a beak and wings and a clws for feet. You did a great job on that one.
    The girls are really looking so much older.

  • Reply
    luke sherman
    February 17, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I really like your blog. Up here in the great white northern michigan, my family and I enjoy a wide variety of wild game, vinison and rabbit and the occasional trout I bring home, but Our favorite is a late fall porcupine. Thank you for your wonderful music and recipes.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Ethel, my husband makes that same recipe….he loves it, me I don’t eat red meat so much, but I do love pork and poultry. Now and again I get a craving for a good old fashioned hamburger. I never made plain hamburgers when the kids were all home, we could eat steak for the amount of burger it would take to feed my two boys, my daughter wasn’t so much of an eater, but those two had “hollow legs” as my daddy always said.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Tipper, never eaten and owl, never even thought of eating an owl but that’s a good idea for a little leftover beef.
    Ken, alcohol is probably the only thing that could make one mistake and owl for a pheasant! lol
    Jim, if you ever decide to write another wild game cookbook you might want to talk to the Deer Hunter. He can cook some fine venison. By the way, did you really eat a muskrat? I don’t believe I’d a told that!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    When I moved in to my house, I had crows that would make such a racket on my roof early in the morning that it would wake me up. I went out and bought a fake plastic owl and put it up on the roof. It worked! No more crows! I was later out in my yard raking leaves when I saw my neighbor with a camera in his hands motion to me, “Shhh!”, while pointing to my roof. I started laughing and he then figured something was up with the owl. I explained why I got the owl, and he then said, “I guess that explains why I have crows bothering me at my house lately!” — true story!
    I never had any food called owls, but if I had a leftover hamburger, I used to make my college goulash: chop up the hamburger with a chopped onion (if I had any) and add can tomato soup, soup can of water, soup can of elbow macaroni, 2 tablespoons paprika. Boil then simmer until macaroni el dente. Nice additions were canned tomatoes, chopped green peppers, and mozzarella cheese if I had it.
    Maybe “owl” have two bowls of goulash?
    John Pallister
    Twitter @PointlessPicks

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Those girls are so gorgeous! And
    the owls look delicious, especially with the ketchup smiles.
    I personally know about three ‘old
    timers’ who stayed in the mountains alot. They were OK guys,
    but they were all drunks and one
    time while camping near their
    liquor still, one of them shot an
    old hoodowell (hoot owl) and he
    said they cooked that thing for
    3 days thinking it was a pheasant
    and still couldn’t eat it…Ken

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I have got to make me some owls! Boo is always asking “What’s for supper?” And I always tell him “food”. Ha
    I can’t wait to tell him we’re having owls for supper!!!
    Love the picture of the girls! I can’t believe how fast these kids are growing up!!!!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 16, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Tipper–Taking a bit of a different track on “make do,” since you’ve raised the issue of eating critters, I haven’t eaten owl (killing raptors is a federal crime), but I have, among other tasty treats, eaten the following:
    armadillo, gar, rattlesnake, muskrat, beaver, ground hog, ‘coon (but not ‘possum–one has to draw the line somewhere), and cougar. Incidentally, the backstrap from a cougar is delicious–sort of like a boneless pork chop. Of course Miss Ann and I have written a bunch of wild game cookbooks, so maybe we are a bit more willing to experiment than most.
    As for the cougar (mountain lion, painter, or what you wish), I was talking about game dishes yesterday with family members of Beulah Suddreth, a wonderful Black lady and neighbor who had just passed away. They loved talking of rabbit, squirrel, and catfish, but when I mentioned mountain lion, one of her nieces stated emphatically: “I ain’t eating cat!” All of us got a laugh out of her visceral reaction.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Can’t say that I have eaten an owl? When burger got short, we fried two burgers and cut them in half, making a thin burger. Also have eaten open faced light bread sandwiches when bread got short. If we had buns with our burgers the left over ones where cut in half, buttered and toasted and eaten for breakfast. Guess a lot of folks do that!
    Could this be an early Sloppy Joe without the sauce..or ketchup sauce…Maybe!..We used to eat our Sloppy Joes open faced!
    The scrambled burger actually does look like an owl with fluffy feathers…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 8:56 am

    A mother’s creativity is never ending…from stretching food to feed her family, to fun names. Love it!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 8:52 am

    what ever you call them they look good to me. i love burger anyway you can fix it, great idea, hubby would love the cheese one. probably becuase her mother called them owls like most things.

  • Reply
    Nancy @ A Rural Journal
    February 16, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Owls… hmmmm. Not sure why they would be called that. I’m thinking they resemble owl’s eyes? Must do some googling… 🙂

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 7:37 am

    I can just hear her saying that ‘feathery owl’ thing. That’s hilarious.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Have never heard of this recipe,but it’s a great way to stretch your food. With grocery prices on the rise,we need to get more inventive.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2011 at 7:20 am

    What a beautiful picture of Chitter and Chatter!
    Maybe Jenifer’s mom called them owls just because it sounds fun! It’s a bit late, but this reminds me of a make-do dish my grandmother-in-law taught me when I was a new bride. She made this at the diner in West Virginia she worked in during the Depresion. All you do is fry and drain a pound of hamburger and some onion, add a can of baked beans and white sugar to taste, and heat it through. This is served on buns and tastes divine!

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