Just messing with you

Dateline: Wed 02 Feb 2011

If you've ever collected cookbooks -- before there was food.com and Martha Stewart online, there was the Joy of Cooking etc. -- you may have noticed that some contained mighty interesting material tucked in the pages.

My favorite was an older copy of Joy of Cooking, picked up at a yard sale eons ago, which contained a number of Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlets and scribbled phone numbers. One pamphlet, "The Merry-Go-Round of Denial," was actually more helpful and informative than most of the recipes.

Except, of course, the one for Opossum, which Irma S. Rombauer offers up in her 1967 edition, my cookbook of choice. No doubt this "receipt" has been included over the years, starting with the original 1931 edition, since some Americans once ate such vittles. (My edition also has recipes for raccoon, bear, woodchuck, beaver and peccary -- wild pig. For opossum, however, Irma wisely suggests, "If possible, trap 'possum and feed it on milk and cereals for 10 days before killing." As Guy, a Kentucky native, explains, "That's because possums eat s---."

However, I never saw a recipe for Ground Hog until this week, when I was cleaning out books. This is actually a quaint tract. "Ma's Cookin' Mountain Recipes" was published in 1966 in Osage Beach, Mo., which is probably now known as Branson.

In honor of Himself, and His day, here's the recipe, with the requisite hillbilly preamble:

"I know you jest kin't resist ground hawg meat an' you're always on the look-out fer one -- but if you see one on Feb. 2, pleeze leave him be... Thet's his day!"

OK, so you've been advised. Do not serve this today. With apologies to Walfredo de Freitas and Jolene Ketzenberger...


"When ground hog is dressed be sure to remove the kernel from under the front legs to keep from making it taste. Cut up and salt for taste.  Roll in flour, put in hot fat, and fry until brown. Then put in inset pans in pressure cooker wiith 1/2 inch water on bottom of cooker. Cook 70 minutes with 15 pounds pressure. Possum can be cooked the same way with good results."

Side note: Country and or/poor follks really did eat whatever was available, including almost all parts of an animal. My father, who was a gypsy newspaperman in the South, liked to tell the story of going to a rural home in Tennessee and being served coon or possum -- I forget which. The point was, it was served on a big platter with sweet potatoes and washed down with a great deal of moonshine, which actually was the first course.

Hence, if and when you do serve ground hog, don't forget the likker.

And watch out for that kernel under the front legs. It's a killer.




Wilson Allen [unverified] said:

I always appreciated the French grand cookbook, the Larousse Gastronomique, which included a recipe for ostrich !

2011-02-02 14:58:31

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

There goes breakfast and lunch.

My Great Grandma always cooked road kill of various kinds. She was a Depression mama, and nothing--I mean NOTHING--ever went to waste.

Possum Tail Soup. Yep. I'm not kidding. With tomatoes and okra and cauliflower and cabbage. I was 6 or 7 before she told me what it was. But was most-surprised me was her short-cut name for it:

Fart Soup.

2011-02-02 15:03:01

ruthholl [Member] said:

I've seen that cookbook in some of the finer homes I visited over the years, but it never graced my door.
Any AA pamphlets in that one?
I think a larger point is that many women, before "The Feminine Mystique," women's lib, etc, and perhaps this applies more to women of a certain generation, suffered in silence. Alcohol was just one way to smother the pain. To think of burying this material in a cookbook strikes me as especially poignant.
But then one relative by blood, when she was ready to run away from home -- she was an adult, with an adult child -- took her sewing machine with her. Packed it into the car, as if it was somehow protection...
Maybe better to have AA pamphlets...
Enough of sermon.
Bon apetit!

2011-02-02 15:07:20

ruthholl [Member] said:

You have not lived until you've heard Kentuckians go on (and on) about the best part of the squirrel -- and only "Papa" (the grandpa) ate the head.
I also have a Jewish cookbook, "Love and Knishes," by Sara Kasden, which includes old-fashioned recipes featuring beef lungs, spleen and tongue. (The former two are usually stuffed into something).
And Jewish friends who make "real" chicken soup would not dream of using anything other than chicken feet....

2011-02-02 15:14:59

Wilson Allen [unverified] said:

both of my grandmothers relished chicken feet -- the rest of the family reserved them as a special treat of honor for the ladies (who lived in different parts of the state and probably never met each other)

2011-02-02 15:47:50

hendy [Member] said:

Anthony Bourdain would be proud. There's little that man won't eat.

2011-02-02 16:37:16

ruthholl [Member] said:

Oops. Guy just told me woodchuck and ground hog are same thing.
At least "around these parts."
Anthony Bourdain has done a lot of good in his philosophy of consuming the entire animal, or at least I think that is what he's said.
Wilson, you can still get chicken feet -- I will have to ask Marcia where she buys them. Saraga is one place, I know. Not cheap, either.
But then neither is Jewish penicillin.

2011-02-02 17:23:20

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

A good friend invites me to Passover Seder every year. I go, and eat. And honest to God, it's the driest, most-tasteless food I've ever eaten. Heavy emphasis on dry, escept for the matzo ball soup. I just don't get it.

Nary a latke in sight.

I'll keep trying.

2011-02-02 17:27:24

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I married a farm girl. She told me one of her favorite delicacies was egg bag, from a hen. Then there are Kentucky oysters. Sure, folks Back Then ate pretty much anything. And with enough lard and likker, it all tastes good. Well, maybe not "good" as we know it.

"she was an adult, with an adult child -- took her sewing machine with her." Ruthie, she took the sewing machine so as to find work. Women who could sew could usually find piecework or better. At a minimum, they needed it to keep clothes on their backs. It wasn't an object of sentiment.

2011-02-02 17:37:14

ruthholl [Member] said:

Our daughter's boyfriend comes from ranch stock in Montana, or Wyoming, or one of those faraway places. Prairie oysters were on the menu when she visited -- cooked right out on the range, too.
Egg bag, ew.
Thanks for the enlightening comment on the sewing machine. I think you must be right. I still find it heart-breaking (the person she was going to see, as she ran away, was her adult son, who had joined the Marines...she headed out to San Diego boot camp Pendleton to get him back. I guess she thought, if she needed to support herself at some point, she could do so by sewing, as you suggest...)
Really, it is a better time for women now. More choices are, for the most part, better than few or no choices....

2011-02-02 17:44:32

OINK [Member] said:

I'm Ruth's husband. Squirrel is quite tasty when fried like chicken. I've never tried possum; allegly very dark and greasy. The most 'gamey' tasting meat I've tried is antelope. Back in the Great Depression people ate armadillos -- called them Hoover Hogs.
Our Jewish friend Marcia said that for every box of Matzo bread you also buy a box of prunes.

2011-02-02 18:05:17

Ellen McKinney [unverified] said:

my grandma on my dad's side was kentucky bred and born, and was a coal miner's wife, so she knew how to get through hard times. .after he died, leaving her with three of their six kids yet to raise, she married a railroad man, and they bought a little farm near cloverdale.

my brother and i visited them there a few times, and i well remember grandma telling her husband, "frank, go shoot me a messa squirrels for breakfast,: and frank setting off with his .22. as i recall, squirrel was damn good when grandma was done with it.

my son must be her rightful culinary heir: while regaling me with tales of camping out one summer, he mentioned that he'd roasted and eaten road-kill raccoon the night before.

me, upset: "eewwwww, gross! you could have gotten really sick on something that had been lying there dead for who knows how long."

him, in a flat, matter-of-fact tone: "mom, chill. i saw it get hit."

2011-02-02 19:25:10

hendy [Member] said:

One of Carl Hiassen's characters is big on road kill as food. Seems there's a lot of that in Florida....

2011-02-02 21:36:40

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Two things flashed through my head when i read this post... no, three. The "Rabbits, pets or meat" sign from "Roger and Me" and "Taste of Country Cooking" by Edna Lewis, which I inherited... and the groundhog next door, actually all the wildlife in our 'hood. Ewww, the kernel :(

2011-02-02 21:37:17

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

One last word on the sewing machine. Mr. Singer's machine was more important to American life in its day than, well, the telephone. At a time when much clothing was bought by catalog, was expensive, and was recycled often, the home sewing machine suddenly enabled women to make and repair clothes for the family. My mother recycled much military wear given to us by friends of my dad's after WW2; I wore well made but recut-to-my-size officer's "pinks" in high school.

My wife was raised with domestic skills thought important in the 1950s: cooking, sewing, gardening. It was a time of much greater self sufficiency. And all women could sew. My daughters do not. They ask Mom to make and fix. However, My Son The Marine does sew, took it in high school, and it has been very useful to him in the Corps; I'm thinking that OINK has some needle skills. I think all boots once were taught some basic sewing skills.
We seem able to do less and less for ourselves with each passing generation. Is that because everyday life has grown more complex, or is it because we have grown more lazy and thus more dependant?

2011-02-03 04:52:54

ruthholl [Member] said:

OINK, in college, post-Marine Corps, once used a nail (bent) to hold his pants together rather than sew on a button. But I imagine he did not have the luxury of thread and needle back then. Today, he does indeed sew. It's crude, but it is sewing. (He can sew on a button in a pinch, or patch a pocket).
Yes, we were once more self-sufficient. Think of the pattern industry that proliferated during the 1950s. Many women enjoyed sewing for themselves and their children. How else did girls get ice-skating skirts and boys pirate Halloween costumes? To say nothing of an entire wardrobe, as you suggest...
I used to believe that such domestic talents skip a generation, since my mother could crochet, knit, sew, quilt, bake, etc. I'm not much shakes at any of the sewing arts..but then neither is my daughter.
However, a daughter-in-law raised in Bangkok is a whiz on a sewing machine. Must be cultural as well as time-sensitive.
I have no adult women friends who can sew, or do sew, alas....
Thanks for the little essay on Singer. My mother had a pedal machine that sat in our dining room; she used it regularly. I, on the other hand, cut my bodice in half in 8th grade, making a dress to model..."I've taught for 30 years," said the teacher, "and I've never had a girl cut her bodice in half."
Nobody is perfect.

2011-02-03 11:10:50

whosear [Member] said:

I made the acquaintence of a naturalist/storyteller Doug Elliott in the Smoky's over 20 years ago. I visited his website and blog, to find how to harvest and prepare Persimmons:


I attended an event in the 90's at Wayne State University in Detroit. The evenings session was attended by many choffered persons. Doug described, "twisting" which the settlers used in the winter when food was scarce.

Great post Ruth.

2011-02-07 12:35:48

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