The late Euell Gibbons, naturalist and author of the book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” once said, “Most people do not know that many parts of the pine cone are edible.”
Euell was right. I did not know that. But unless I am lost in the forest and starving to death, I am not going to test that theory.
I may be a high-volume eater, but I am a discriminating one. Unlike most toddlers, who will put anything in their mouths, including buttons, coins, dog food, and the key to the safety deposit box, I will not eat anything that looks or smells funny. For instance, I would never eat a raw oyster, in spite of the claims that it is a natural aphrodisiac, because it looks like nasal secretions. I won’t eat lobster either because it looks like a sunburnt cockroach on steroids. There isn’t enough melted butter in the universe to erase that image from my head.
I have read many articles about peculiar food choices around the world. Among them are hippopotamus snouts and hyena eyes. Many cultures also prize a meal of insects, which are known to be very high in protein. I have seen recipes for sauteed grasshoppers, chocolate-covered fried ants, wax moth trail mix, mealworm spice cake, and insect popcorn crunch. I will not be eating those either.
While on a hiking trip in the remote and rural area, my friends and I stopped at a small local diner for lunch. The service was poor and the food worse. As I was waiting at the register for my turn to pay my check, I perused the menu board. Nestled among the day’s specials were the words, “Sorry, we are all out of possum and Spam.”
I wondered if possum and Spam were two different dishes, or one, such as “possum and Spam stew” or “possum and Spam casserole.”
Possum is one of those foods that I could never order because I cannot erase the mental image of the cook, standing in the middle of a country road in her stained apron, hunched over the flattened possum carcass with a spatula in her hand.
In reality, the restaurant’s possum probably was provided by a hunter. I almost wish that I had seen the restaurant’s menu board before I had ordered lunch. I would like to have ordered the possum and Spam special just to hear the waitress say in her nasal twang, “Sorry, we are all out of the possum and Spam.”
I noticed that the other special of the day on the menu board was “smothered chicken.”
The chicken had been smothered? I don’t really need to know how the chicken died. Who smothered it anyway? Was it the result of a rowdy henhouse menage a trois gone horribly wrong? Perhaps a drunken tumble from the perch into the bed of straw covering the floor?
Or did the restaurant’s server have to sneak into the henhouse, choose a victim, and cover its beak with a tiny pillow?
I can tell you this: judging from the size of the fried breast I had, that chicken probably was a popular hen amongst the roosters in the henhouse. That was a mighty busty chicken. I found what looked like a scrap of tassel in the gravy. I’ll bet she sneaked out of the henhouse every Saturday night to earn a few extra bucks dancing on stage at the local strip club, where she billed herself as Giblets Galore and plucked out her own feathers one at a time to the tune of that old classic, “Poultry in Motion, see her gentle sway, a wave out on the ocean could never move that way.”
Next time I go to that restaurant after I ask if they still are out of possum and Spam, I plan to order either the “shot-between-the-eyes beef steak” or the “neck-whacked-on-the-chopping-block turkey.” If they are going to advertise the cause of death of the chicken, they may as well let diners know how the other menu items met their demise.