Friday, February 27, 2009

Local eats (not for the faint hearted)

I work in an office with people from other states, or folks who were city bred. I was talking to them about the Outdoor show and that they were going to have muskrat on the menu and most of them were disgusted by the thought. Eat a rat? Yecchhh.... OK, so I don't care for them either, but I could tolerate them. Tonight, let me run down the wonderful foods that folks love or hate.

Muskrats. OK, my grandfather trapped them for years. I tried them didn't like them. Didn't get ill, but just didn't care for them. My mother and grandmother ate them til the days they died, but would only buy them with the heads still attached so that they knew they were getting the real thing. Seeing them on a platter stewed with those enormous teeth kind of put me off on them, but hey, they are edible, so why not?

Squirrels. Never saw them cooked, never ate them, have no clue.

Rabbits. Same deal, but think they are probably tastier than squirrels

Raccoons. Tried them once. Meat was tasty but boy were they greasy

Deer. Nothing wrong with their flavor once you get past the "Bambi" factor.

Wildfowl: Ducks and geese, have eaten both, they taste delicious. Pigeons, doves and other small birds, have not tried. I assume they are like chickens.

Fish: Have not eaten blue fish or Drum, but well prepared are supposed to be edible. Have eaten farm raised catfish. Love the creative labeling for shark (steakfish) and ocean perch (blow toads), both of which are delicious, though I found blow toads to be a bit chewy. When I told one city boy that ocean perch was blow toads, he actually turned green. Oh, well....

Shell fish: Love them all, including those little black mussels

Arthropods: Crabs and lobsters are wonderful, including soft crabs, but non-coastal raised folks seem aghast at eating softcrabs. Hey, they cut the eyes off!

Prepared meats.

Scrapple: I grew up eating scrapple and have even eaten raw (but not in 30 years). I still love scrapple and just had some a few days ago. Mid-westerners seem to be disgusted if they are told what its made of first. Oh, well....

Souse loaf and head cheese: Yeah, you know what part of the pig it comes from. Souse is less meat carried in a transparent gel of rendered fat that is delicious on crackers (so I am told). I am not adverse to eating either, just never have done so. Ate plenty of liver loaf and liverwurst, so figure its about the same

Pigs feet. My grandmother loved pig's feet, but seems like a lot of trouble for little meat.

Chitterlings: I can eat pork rinds all day long, but the insides? Man, it smells strong unless its properly rendered. Some ladies got some today and I was OK til I got about three feet from them and then that smell wafted up and my stomach flip flopped. Visually, they looked sort of like creamed chip beef, but the nose knows. I ate them many, many years ago and while it stayed down, it was not an experience I plan on repeating.

I am really looking forward to a big oyster fritter tomorrow at the Outdoor show. Has to be on Sunbeam sandwich loaf with lots of ketchup. Yep, now that's a treat. Well, if I survive the show tomorrow, I'll try to give you a report. I'll get to see who is champion muskrat skinner this year. So, visit Your Humble Scribe and I'll see if I can post something on Sunday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Pac-14 shows air

That's right. The latest Pac-14 episode of the Write Stuff will start airing next Thursday and feature my cohost Gianni Hayes interviewing Ann Foley, author of Having My Say about Wiley "Gator" Abbott, the 13 time champion muskrat skinner, and other Dorchester County Books. Next month, Gianni and I will discuss tips on getting publishers to look at your stuff once you write it. Be sure to check the Pac 14 website for times. This is only for Comcast viewers in Wicomico, I think.

National Outdoor Show next weekend

The 64th National Outdoor Show will be this weekend (Feb. 27 and 28) at Golden Hill, in Dorchester County. Besides crowning some kings and queens of the outdoors, there will be contests, including muskrat skinning, and lots and lots of food, including those savory rodents, oyster fritters and other local delicacies. Your Humble Scribe will be there along with fellow writer Ann Foley, on Saturday only, but the opening until we are near exhaustion. Please come by and chat with us, tell me your ghost stories, and check out our books.

Another week ends, more uncertainty begins

Just got done with a pile of dead limbs in the backyard with the family. The smell of burning wood sure takes me back to when I was a kid down in Mt. Vernon. I was talking to the head of our office's cleaning service today and he grew up in the country just like me. His experiences were similar to mine. Let me share some of the stuff about 45 years or so ago.

We first talked about chickens. Both of our families raised chickens. His was the standard production chicken house while we raised ours mostly for eggs and consumption. We both remembered getting the baby chicks or biddies in and how cute they were, little balls of yellow fluff. I remember going to the old Cohn and Bock feed mill in Princess Anne to get chicken feed and how it smelled in there, so rich and exotic. Todays kids would just think it stunk, but smells were a unique part of any experience for me.

Anyway, our methods of getting chickens ready for a meal were similar. Our mothers held them chickens down on the chopping block and we used the cleaver or axe to behead them and then let them run around until their nervous systems realized they were dead. I have heard that people that were guillotined during the French revolution talked a bit after their heads rolled into the receiving baskets. That was parodied in the film version of Whitley Streiber's The Wolven.

Next, the bodies would be put in scalding water to loosen the feathers and the chickens would be plucked. Feathers would pile up around the back of our house and would blow around for a while. Once plucked, there were still fine, hairlike pin feathers left. My mother would take a piece of newspaper and roll it into a cone shape, then light it and singe off the feathers. The other fellow's mom would use paper grocery bags. We also found out that we liked the hearts and livers from the chicken. I still like chicken livers and miss the old Bonanza in Delmar.

We heated by wood until I was a teenager. We had two stoves, a big one in the dining room and a smaller one in the living room. They were nice for the room you were in, but beyond that, the rooms were cold. In the winter time, we all slept in the living room by pulling the mattress and box spring out of the bedroom and my grandmother slept on a studio couch. After my grandmother died, I got her room, but by then we had oil heat and you could sleep in the bedrooms during the winter. Mother kept a woodstove in the dining room up to the end, though.

I see by the papers and blogs there is a big scandal down in my old Somerset. My advice to readers is not to believe everything they read. Blogs and newspapers get viewers/readers by gussying up trash and innuendo. Remember the old Glen Frey song "Dirty Laundry"? Some things never change. Like William Randolph Hearst, one of the original Yellow Journalists said when it was reported that there was no civil war in Cuba: "You provide the pictures and I'll provide the war."

I also see that nobody wants to give Obama a chance. He's be president for less than a month, handed a worse crisis than any president has faced since Pearl Harbor, and nobody will cut him any slack. I am not happy about all in the stimulus package, but hey, he did something and he admitted that he wasn't perfect. Better than some other folks claiming unrealistic stuff like "Peace in our time" and "Mission Accomplished". If things aren't better by the end of this year, well, maybe I'll change my tune, but for now, I am willing to wait and see. If the folks I see at the office are any indication, its very, very bad and we need to pull together as a community and a nation to help the folks who are worse off than we are. I thank God I have a job and a roof over my head. I get a handful of people each week who have neither. What good would more tax cuts do them? Their houses are being foreclosed on and their usually guaranteed year round jobs have gone to seasonal.

Maybe the Tribulation is starting? Who knows? When a day's wages only buys a loaf of bread, then I'll wonder about that. The pre-Nazi Germans under the Weimar government carried a wheelbarrow load of paper money just to buy a loaf of bread and Hell surely followed after them. Is it our turn next? I pray not. I really mean that. Come visit your Humble Scribe again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Just came back from being stuffed at JR's in Ocean City! I ate next to nothing all day in anticipation of eating out and was not disappointed. This was my first time eating there and their ribs were fantastic! Their onion loaf is delicious also.
OK, so Happy Valentine's Day to anybody who reads this. Traffic is so slow here that I have pretty much decided to go weekly until the comments pick up. Congress just gave a big heart full of candy to everybody as well, but it came with a high price tag so unless the economy picks up big time, we are in danger of passing along this debt for the next few generations.
Anyway, I'll keep it short tonight and hope everybody is well and that you'll drop some comments every so often.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Muskrat love (or not)

I read the Daily Times every day, though it seems that I am getting more informative city and county news over at the Salisbury News blog. Both outlets have their agendas, so the mix kinda gives a balance. I have to say that the Times reporting of late has been so bland that I think they fear local government and their spell checking remains atrocious. However, I read Brice Stump's articles faithfully. Why?

When I first started treasure hunting inthe 1980's, it was the late Milford Webster that called my attention to two books written by Brice Stump. One was It Happened in Dorchester County and the other was A Visit With The Past. Both these books were full of vanished lore of lower Dorchester County, a place where houses and graveyards were slowly eroding into the Nanticoke, a wild, history filled area between the Blackwater and the Nanticoke, the name of another book of his. I devoured all three of them, and they inspired me to research the history of that part of Delmarva, along with Milford and friends.

Brice's writing about the Lewis Wharf area and its links to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and even the Civil War made a compelling story, one that is still evolving, as new evidence comes to light. Brice was also the first person to publish a color photo of me in any newspaper, and his camera didn't break. Anyway, today's column had to do with the Expo at Golden Hill and the fact they will be serving up muskrats and rabbits. I'll be there on Feb. 28, along with fellow author Ann Foley.

Later today, at dinner, my daughter and a friend were eating dinner (roast beef with vegetables, including mushrooms. Her friend noticed the mushrooms and my daughter said: "I thought it tasted different" to which my stepson told her : that's because its muskrat, to which she turned several shades of green until he confessed it was beef. This is pretty much the modern reaction to muskrats, the rodential delicacy of the Eastern Shore.

I have to confess I can't blame her, but I did point out to her that she was the great-granddaughter of a muskrat trapper. It's true. My grandfather, Louis H. Horner, trapped muskrats on our marsh property in Mt. Vernon until he died and then the traps lay on the chicken coop roof and rusted. Why? Well, my dad was an urbanite and I only saw him fire a gun once and he missed. My grandather died when I was six, so there went my only chance at learning the trade. The marsh lay peaceful, though poachers did trap it. My mother and grandmother still occasionally bought muskrats and served them up stewed with potatoes, onions and carrots.

Naturally, they had to have the heads attached so they could be sure it wasn't some lesser rodent. So, at dinner time, out would come the big platter, smelling of pungent musk with the carcass of the muskrat swimming in his own gravy, curved incisors pointed right at me. I disliked the taste and never voluntarily ate any, though I don't begrudge anybody chowing down on them. They represent a time when many people came up hard, living off whatever the land could provide, including muskrats, squirrels, rabbits, racoons and deer, or turkeys, geese, ducks, quail or pigeons. Fishing, however, was something my dad liked, so I learned how to do that early and got to be decent at it.

Anyway, thanks to Brice for another fond memory (even if it wasn't tasty). If this economy gets any worse, we might all be reduced to eating such creatures. Not sure if Nutria are edible, or snakehead fish, but hey, if its them or me.....

Well, at any rate, visit Your Humble Scribe again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Help is on the way?

Is the stimulus package DOA? Did it die of excessive pork or not enough bipartisan beef? With Obama wounded by the excising of Dashcle and that other lady, it looks like the Republicans have recovered from the defeat over two months ago. Obama's perceived mandate for more social spending appears in trouble. One of our allies (Kirgystan) wants to shut our big airbase that supplies our troops in Afghanistan. Can the grim hand of Putin be behind that or aren't we paying enough bribes to keep us there? I have changed my news feed to get international news and added local weather for folks visiting here. I also added the weird news since a UFO or Bigfoot story might surface. Finally, I put an Edgar Rice Burroughs slideshow so I can display one of my favorite author's works. Not sure what to add next, maybe a YouTube search engine. How do you like the blog now? People were saying they had trouble posting, so I loosened up the requirements a bit.

I read with interest today about a local sex abuse scandal. The defense for the teacher involved said nothing about the allegations themselves being false per se but launched into a diatribe about the accuser's misdeeds. So, the defense seems to be to slime the accuser, not prove innocence? I await further news on this. Meanwhile, my next Pac-14 show with co-host Gianni Hayes will tape on the 20th and air shortly thereafter. Look out for it!

Finally, I will be at the Golden Hill wildlife expo on the 27th (that Saturday anyway) with author Ann Foley, so if you feel like watching folks skin muskrats and see the crowning of the new Muskrat Queen, come check it out! Let your Humble Scribe know what you think of the new decorations!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Long Time, no blog

Sorry for delay, folks (I assume somebody reads this stuff), but have been busy editing Against the Odds for the next issue (25). If you like wargames, this is the avant garde mag for you. For everybody else, here comes more snow! (maybe, perhaps, possibly). The more I read the local news (Salisbury), the more saddened I become as the city slides into an abyss of partisanship and backbiting. Growing up in the 60's and 70's, Salisbury seemed like a magical place for a country boy with no income and no transbertation. I have mentioned subs around Salisbury before (and L and F subshop came up, a place I can't recall whether I went to or not), but what I remember most about Salisbury then is visiting it in cold weather. My mother and I would catch a ride with her friend and our neighbor Irene Bruce, who worked at Sunshine Laundry and her mother worked for a time a White's Jewelers downtown.
We would be dropped off right there at Division and Main St. and the adventure would start. Usually it was cooler weather because Mom worked late spring and summer either picking strawberries or in the canning factories. Conveniently, we lived right next door to McIntyre's. That's another story. Once turned loose in Salisbury, Mom and I followed a routine. We'd have a snack at Read's drug store (now Channel 47), visit Woolworth's and a couple of other stores, then spend the afternoon at the matinee either at the Boulevard or the Wicomico (where the library is now). In between, we'd usually have lunch at Woolworth's and walk down to the park, where we looked at the animals and I'd play with whatever toys I got at either Read's or Woolworth's. They were the usual boy toys for the time, soldiers, or airplanes or spacemen.
I got to see a variety of movies in those days, depending on what was playing. They ranged from the more adult (like David and Lisa and Operation Thunderbolt which I really liked) to Walt Disney, to even my first James Bond movie (You only live twice). I was hooked on Bond after that and had an assortment of Bond toys like a gun, a ring, a game, and even some fake James Bond business cards (I still have one). Around five,we'd meet Miss Irene's mom back at the entranceway to White's where it was a little alcove and protected from the elements and from there we'd get picked up and head home.
As I got older, the toys gave way to books after we discovered a little book and magazine shop near Read's. It was 1968 and I was buying Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks along with anything else that struck my fancy and Mom would let me buy, along with a few comics like Gold Key's Flying Saucers Serious Business. I remember picking up a sequel to War of the Worlds called Invasion of Mars and it was so engrossing to me that I read it as we walked to the park. I still liked visiting the animals and take the grandkids there when the weather is nice even now. At least once we walked all the way from downtown to the old Salisbury Mall.
The little book stall that I loved so much packed up and a new bookstore opened up in the mall, so I had to depend more and more on secondary places like Salisbury Drugs, Super Giant and the drugstore down by Safeway. Salisbury was changing, growing up and getting more sophisticated, and I was growing up too.