Culinary Issues

I’m off to Texas tomorrow, but this time to west Texas. Twice this year I’ve dawdled and missed a timely last visit with friends who’ve died suddenly on me. Most recently, Mr. Manasek, the framing genius and owner of a framing and art supply store on Market. He’d been ill for a year with poisoning from the toxic chemicals he’d been using all his adult life, and I’d been taking in jellies for him and his wife. Well, I’d run out of jelly in the late winter and had earmarked one of the jars from this spring’s first batch for him. Forgot to take it with me on a Thursday. Went in with it on the following Tuesday only to learn he’d died suddenly of a heart attack on Saturday but had been doing OK on Thursday. Damn me. He could have died with a smile on his face and my jelly on his lips. 

My old friend Mel lives in Midland, where I met him when he moved there while I was teaching at Midland College. He’s 88 and in poor health. Realizing that the old fart could pop off any minute, I’m flying there for a long weekend. Maybe I can feed him so well that he’ll just drop dead of overfeeding. A splendid death, I think. I’m taking him some San Francisco treats, and I expect to find some very Texan items to bring back, like the killer tamales made in that little place in on the wrong side of Main Street that I can’t remember the name of but am sure could find again.

Not that I expect to find them in Midland, but there are a couple of Texas treats that I have never eaten and am just dying to try: opossum (called ‘possum) and armadillo (called ‘dillo). Both are reported to be delicious, but there are culinary class distinctions.

Middle-class white people don’t eat them. Our redneck parents ate them during the Depression when times were so bad that they ate anything they could catch. But now they don’t. And upscale blacks won’t touch them either. And downscale blacks would die before they’d serve either to me. They just enjoy them secretly.

It has become increasingly clear that if I am to eat either of these delicacies, I’m going to have to catch it, kill it, clean it, and cook it myself. And frankly, my prowess as a hunter has seriously declined over the past few decades, as has my inclination to go slogging around in river bottoms with the water moccasins.

I may just have to settle for smoked pheasant breast.

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