Father’s Day causes me to remember my childhood when “daddy-went-a-hunting” and came home with wild critters that the family was expected to consume. [If you are vegetarian, stop reading now.] If like most homo-sapiens you are a meat eater, you may be able to understand that meat does not always come from the meat counter at the local supermarket.
Daddy’s Gone a-Hunting
“Did you have to eat wild game when you were a kid?” I asked Honey the other day. A program on the radio about eating game had triggered a flash-back to my childhood.
He thought I was crazy. “We were Jewish. I grew up in the city. The only unusual thing I remember eating is lamb.”
“Lamb isn’t wild game,” I commented. “It’s mutton.” My mother fixed both lamb and goat on occasion. It was considered a treat. It tasted something like a cross between beef and pork and was always cooked with a dash of vinegar, I supposed to tenderize it.
Growing up in the South, nearly all grown-up men that I knew were hunters. When you hunted game, you were supposed to eat what you killed. First of all, it would be wrong to kill simply for the sport of killing. Secondly, free food helped to stretch the family budget.
Daddy owned a shotgun for hunting. Guns made mother nervous, but she had grown up in an environment where guns and hunting were a way of life. Once when daddy was cleaning his gun, it went off in the house and he shot a hole in the chest of drawers. Needless to say, mother was not happy about that episode — not happy at all.
Daddy’s favorite wild game to hunt was rabbits. He and a friend or relative would go out to hunt and come home with a sack of dead rabbits which were skinned, gutted, and fried by mother in her big black iron skillet, like chicken. They did not taste “just like chicken” however. They tasted just like rabbit.
Another of daddy’s game items was squirrel. Squirrels were more difficult to shoot, and it was hard to kill a “mess” of squirrels. However, if a squirrel happened to scamper into sight during the rabbit hunt, chances are that it too would end up in the bag and, later, the big iron skillet.
One of the oddest creatures Daddy hunted, though, was frogs. He and a friend would decide to go frog “gigging”. This was done with a flashlight at night when the frogs were out. The only parts of the frog that we ate were the legs. Frog legs were also fried and tasted rather fishy. Probably with enough breading and grease, anything wild could be fried.
One of our worst experiences with wild game, however, was with venison. Daddy never hunted big game, or at least never had any success if he did. A deer hunting friend of his, however, gave us a big venison roast. Mother dutifully tried to cook it, just like beef.
I don’t know if she knew about soaking it in salt water, to get the game taste out. The longer the deer meat cooked, the more like game it smelled. It became stronger and stronger. By the time it was ready, we were all sick from the smell and no one could eat. That particular treat ended up in the garbage, wasteful or not. It took days to air out the house and get rid of the smell. After that, no more venison was ever cooked in our house — only squirrels and rabbits.
I know that some people eat wild things a whole lot stranger than rabbits, from snakes to ‘possums. Thank goodness daddy didn’t know how to hunt for opossum. We didn’t have wild duck or quail either, probably for the same reason.
Nowadays, we are pretty far removed from the reality of hunting for food. As far as I’m concerned, meat comes from the supermarket, butchered and wrapped in plastic wrap. Honey would not touch a piece of pork with a ten foot pole, so it is beef, chicken or fish around here.
That’s okay with me. If I want anything that tastes just like chicken, I’ll eat chicken.