Friday, June 27, 2014

Some Things We ate

   I'm not sure where I was headed when I started this one. I was just sitting around one night thinking about the things that we used to eat as a matter of course in Oklahoma that everyone in Arizona would have turned their noses up and yell EWWWW at the thought. That lead to some of the stuff I've eaten while staying in the "wild". Since I started doing that when I was pretty young I thought it was an American thing. Even studying about other country's in school, the don't tell you much about what folks eat, at least not the schools I went to. People always say "One man's trash is another man's treasure", as I have found over the years that same saying goes for food also!

Some things we ate


    I guess to some folks we might have ate some strange things when we were growing up but they were just everyday food to us. Never seemed to hurt us in anyway and besides, most of the time we thought we were pretty special cause we didn't have to just eat the same thing as all the other kids. Most of the non store-bought stuff came to the house for two simple reasons, Stanley and I both loved to hunt and fish!

   The number one thing (at least to me) was squirrel. I don't remember having it fixed it a lot of different ways and I'm sure the "Foodies" of today would turn their noses up at it but if you've never tried it, don't knock it. I turn my nose up when it comes to oysters, but I know a lot of folk like them slimy things and I figure, more power to them! Anyhow, the way I liked squirrel the best was to dredge it in seasoned flour and fry it. Dorris (my wife) had never even thought of eating a squirrel before we got married but it was a great surprise to me to find out that not only was she willing to go squirrel hunting with me and help me clean all of them, she was a natural cook when it came to frying them. From the first pan full she was always able to get them crispy golden brown on the outside and nice and moist on the inside! I've seen a hell of a lot of southern girls that had trouble cooking a good squirrel so imagine my surprise when I got this little ole Yankee girl that could do it so well! Course that wasn't the only thing that she took to like peas and carrots when it came to cooking, more later.

   Of course we ate a lot of fish. The eating was good but the catching was a whole lot better! We did have a definite hierarchy in the kind of fish. Number one was catfish and at the top of that list was flatheads followed by blue cats and last but not least, channel cats. I know that's not the same order for everyone but it was for us. We also liked bass and number one of that group was white bass, better known to us as sand bass. Truthfully the main reason they were number one was because we could catch so many of them when they made their annual run up the river and creeks down home. Large and small mouth bass were really good but they were a lot harder to catch. Some of the best eating we had was from perch and the reason they were so god was because we cooked and ate more of them in the woods than any other fish. They were so easy to just scale and roast over a campfire and a couple of Bluegills about the size or your hand made a good meal for the two of us.

   We ate a lot of ducks, doves and quail but not to many geese. There was really only two spots to find geese and they both involved in wading through real swampy areas to get to the decent hunting areas. Since duck and goose hunting was the last of November and the first of December and we never owned a pair of waders, we weren't to excited about the idea of wading through knee deep water, breaking the ice as we went. We also like little pigeons. Get them right when they were ready to leave the nest and you gots a bird that's as big as a quail and a lot easier to catch. We thought, at the time, that we had found something new, it was till years later that We found out what Squab really was and then couldn't believe how much some places charged for feeding people baby pigeons!

   So far most of this stuff hasn't been anything special and I'm sure they're are thousands of people who have grown up eating the same things. Most of the nuts and berries that grew around home are also common place and even a lot of the wild greens can be found in any local grocery store. However, there are a few things that we ate, some of which we liked a lot and some of which we didn't like quite so much, that you won't find in many, if any, grocery stores.

   Now, everyone that knows me knows I love squirrel but when I was in the 4th grade and living with my dad I only got to take sandwiches to school for lunch. I didn't really care for them sandwiches too much but it just so happened that one of the boys in my class did and it also just so happened that he brought fried squirrel for lunch quite often. Needless to say, it didn't take very long for us to work out a trade. Things worked out for a few months, I got the fried squirrel and he got the sandwiches and we both thought we were the winners.

   I was out wondering along the creek one day when I realized that I was not to far from his house and decided to mosey up and see if he was at home. When I got up to the house his mom told me he was out in the barn and I was welcome to go on out and see him. Bout the time I got to the corner of the barn I heard  a gun shot. I didn't have any idea what he might be shooting in the barn, but, he somebody was shooting and that's all it took to spark my interest. I came around the corner and saw him standing at the barn door holding a rifle and looking inside. I didn't want to scare away whatever it was he was shooting at so I eased up close enough to get his attention, waved at him then stuck my head around the door to see what he was after. I couldn't see a thing that he might be shooting at at first but then I saw him aim and looking in that direction I saw something moving in the straw. I couldn't tell what it was for sure, then he fired and I saw whatever it was jump. Next thing I new he was running toward the rear of the barn so of course I headed right along after him. My questions were answered when he bent down and picked up a large wood rat. Rat hunting out at the dump was a fun hobby back then but even though I knew that most barns down home were full of mice and rats this was the first time I'd ever seen anyone shooting them there. He brought the rat back to the door and tossed it on top of pile of other ones that I hadn't noticed. "You're doing good" I said.

"Not to bad so far" he said " I all most got enough"

 "Enough for what" I asked

 "Supper" he said.

   It took just a couple of minutes for what he'd said to sink in.

"I didn't know people would eat rats" I said

He just smiled and said "You do"

   Now I will admit, I was just a little pissed to find out the squirrel I been trading my sandwiches for had really be wood rats, but after I got over the being mad part I started thinking. Wood rats are really just a slick tailed squirrel. They eat the same things a squirrel does and I had to admit that they tasted the same. I ended up still trading my lunch the rest of the forth grade and since then there's been lots of rodents that have found their way into my stew pot. Wood rats, pack rats, chipmunks, ground squirrels even lemmings and deer mice, you just need a lot of them. Now keep in mind, I didn't eat all of these things because i was hungry, I ate most of them just out of noseyness to see what they would taste like and if I could survive on them. Stanley ate them for the same reason.

   Stanley and I have had fried beaver and beaver stew. Ground hog stew and even a couple of pieces of fried skunk (not bad as long as you're real careful cleaning them). Possum, coons and ground hogs have found their way across the dinner table, (Stanley's dad was a real whiz at cooking wild game but even he wasn't able to fix a possum to where we liked it).

   The weird thing is that we thought we were really something because we were willing to try almost anything. Later in life I even added quite a few more things to the menu while trying to learn survival skills. I was pretty proud of myself right up until I started traveling around and seeing what other people thought of as regular meals. It did surprise me at how many things we ate growing up down home that were the same or close to what poor folks ate in other countries. It surprised me even more to find how many things I ate will while out in the "wild" and thought of as survival food turned out to be a regular, everyday meal to so many folks! Of course I knew that a lot of things I ate were food for other people here in the U.S. (after all, I wasn't bore about this stuff I learned it from other people, either alive or in books) but I always thought of it as mountain man or native american food and everything you could by in a store as civilized food. Yes, that was, and is, kind of arrogant on my part, but it's just the way it is.

   Snakes, squirrels, rabbits and other things we grew up hunting, catching including plants, nuts and berries we gathered were easy, most of those things I thought of as regular food anyway. Things like coons, beavers, muckrats, groundhogs and the like were still pretty regular food to us even though they stepped outside the bounds of lots of folks. Insects, scorpions, worms, bee and wasp grubs, I really thought I was pushing it with those things. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out that all those were common fair in lots of countries! At least I did luck on to one thing on my own, I fried almost alll the above without anyone needed to tell me, mainly because I just enjoyed them more that way, even though I did find out later that frying was the most common way for other people to eat the also. And I lied about the "enjoying", for a whole lot of things it was because frying was the only way I could choke them down.

   There were a few things that had me patting myself on the back for being brave enough to try it, but really to me the bravest person in the world had to have been the first starving human that was wondering done the coast. picked up an oyster, pried it open and said "I can eat that."