The Truest Meaning of ‘Local’

There are always interesting things happening in the canyon.

A hot, lazy Southern California afternoon. As I was driving my kids on a winding country road through horse ranches and chaparral the other day, I got a text from my friend Dan:

“Yo bro. Just got a big ol rattler. You want some slither wid yo dinner?”

Daniel with his prize

Daniel with his prize

Rattlesnakes are pretty common up here, and I’ll often see one or two a year. In some of the hotter parts of the canyon, people may see one or two a day. Turns out Dan had a couple workers from Mexico out in his yard doing something or other, and one of them had nearly stepped on a very large, very venomous snake. Now Dan was embarking on the particular kind of extreme culinary adventure one can only undertake when one’s wife is out of town — as was his.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your feelings about eating rattlesnake), we had a quiet evening at home planned so I declined the invitation. But the texts kept coming. Since my route back into the canyon proper after dropping the kids off at friends’ houses took me within a snake strike’s distance of Dan’s house, I decided to drop by and investigate.

I’d missed the skinning by a few minutes. One of the workers held the head like a trophy, while Dan carried the cleaned snake toward the kitchen. I took a photo.

“Do you want to hold it?” he said. It looked like the pale, dripping phallus of some particularly well endowed animal.

“No thank you.”

I was pretty sure I didn’t want to eat it, either.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“I’m thinking beer battering and frying.”

If anything could make something unappealing more appetizing, it was beer battering and frying. Dan’s kids hovered nearby, glancing at the carcass skeptically.

“I don’t want to eat it,” 6-year-old Ben, famous for eating nothing much more than chicken nuggets and bagels, said philosophically. “But I guess I’ll have to.”

I was distracted briefly by my own daughter, Imogen, who wanted to be pushed on the swing. When I returned to the kitchen, Dan was attempting to cut through the snake with a variety of knives.

Dan trying to carve up the catch with Ben watching

Dan trying to carve up the catch with Ben watching

“Bonier than I expected,” he said. I asked him about the bones — was there some way to fillet the meat off? I’d had rattlesnake once at a restaurant in Arizona — beer battered and fried — and didn’t recall any bones. But Dan had researched online and found nothing. Apparently bones were just part of the experience. And looking at the meat, it seemed as if bone would be most of the experience.

“I figure if we’re going to kill the animal, we owe it to it to at least eat it,” Dan, a particularly soulful man, offered. I agreed, although I would not extend that theory to flies, mosquitos and rats, which brings up the obvious issues of subjectivity.

I’m also a big proponent of local food and wild food movements. I can often be found in the mountains where we live, collecting bay leaves, wild sage, mustard greens and chanterelle mushrooms. There are plump quail and rabbits all about, and majestic deer, but I don’t eat any of those. My pal Nat has my son Flynn convinced he wants to shoot and eat a rabbit. I have a feeling his enthusiasm would wane once he actually killed an animal. My wife was repulsed by the photos Dan was sending me of the rattlesnake dinner project.

“That’s sick,” she said watching the video (below). Guess I might’ve been solo had I accepted Dan’s invitation.

The final product didn’t look bad (if still a bit more phallic than anything I would normally put in my mouth).

Dan's beer-battered rattlesnake with coconut rice and black beans

Dan’s beer-battered rattlesnake with coconut rice and black beans

Of course, the final final photo — after he’d eaten the snake — showed the price: A massive pile of vertebrae and rib bones.

I asked him how the dinner was. “Tasty,” he replied. “Like chicken. Tough chicken.”

He lamented the toughness and wondered if there wasn’t a way to make the meat more tender.

“There is,” I said. “It’s called CHICKEN!!

If you happen to catch a rattlesnake and want the recipe, I’ll put a shout out to Dan for you.

 

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Gaskin
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 01:27:19

    Absolutely gross

    Reply

  2. Michelle
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 02:17:06

    A bridge too far. Dead or alive, I just can’t take the snakes.

    Reply

  3. Nonie
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 03:39:12

    Classic Sean, thank you for the playback. From the wife that wasn’t there.

    Reply

  4. Amy Sawelson Landes
    Jun 28, 2013 @ 03:50:36

    Eeeeeewwww! An otherwise excellent blog.

    Reply

  5. Greggie
    Jun 29, 2013 @ 05:27:38

    I’m with Leslie on this one. I think I threw up a little in my mouth reading this. Ugh!

    Reply

  6. Glennis
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 23:43:36

    Thank you, no. I almost stepped on one at Red Rock a couple years ago.

    Reply

  7. The Kat and The Falling Leaves
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 13:59:10

    I think that I am adventurous enough when it comes to trying different foods but I am not sure I’d be brave enough to try this dish 🙂

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 20:49:59

      I would’ve tried a really tiny piece. Like the way when I’m forcing my kids to try something new, they amazingly manage to bit off one atom, and declare they don’t like it.

      Reply

  8. Dan
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 23:06:55

    Back yard to table it was! Glorious in its connection to source, we honored the animal for its contribution to our ecosystem and our bellies. Though I have to admit it was way outside of my comfort zone. Another rattler came into our yard the next week and I was just as glad it decided to move on.

    Reply

  9. Trackback: Leftovers | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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