There I was, sitting at the table of one of my relatives, having a meal of fried squirrel and cottontail rabbit. My cousins had been doing a lot of small game hunting that year, and were very successful in bringing home meat for the table. I really like fried squirrel, especially since my mother usually just pressure cooked it and put it on the table. (In case you have never had the pleasure, a pressure cooked leather work boot would have been about as tasty.) But fried rabbit or squirrel was one of my favorite dishes.
Growing boys always seem to be hungry, and as they get close to being teenagers, the hunger pains only seem to get more common. I knew that I was perhaps a little hungrier that particular day than I normally was, however it may have been partially because of how much I was looking forward to this meal. I watched carefully as my Aunt rolled the meat in flour and put it into the sizzling frying pan. After cooking each pan of meat, she placed it in the oven to keep it warm till she was finished cooking the rest of the meal, and it was time to eat.
I watched that wonderful plate of meat being passed around the table and when it finally came to me, and I put three pieces of the fried meat on my plate. I ate the first piece and it was excellent. Oh, how much better it was prepared this way than it was at my house! I started on the second piece, and what happed next is something that I will never ever forget. I took a bite and got a big wad of rolled up hair, dirt, tree bark, and who knows what else! A couple of small BB's also rolled out and bounced off my glass plate! I was instantly very nauseous, and was very close to leaving what I had already eaten back on the table. And yet I did not have the heart to tell them, for fear of causing hurt feelings about their obvious lack of attention when it came to cleaning their game.
For those of you that are not very familiar with small game hunting, anytime a BB or bullet enters game, it takes anything in its path with it. If your shot grazes the edge of a tree first, it might bring some bark and dirt with it. BBs tend to roll up in the hair or feathers of game, and drag them into the meat as they penetrate. That is why it is very important when you clean any game, to follow in any entrance points made by the shot, to look for such things as I already mentioned as well as fragments of both bone and lead.
Consequently, because of that experience, I never ate another meal at that house, and I am quite sure I never will again! But it has made me very cautious about how I clean my game, and I make sure I am the one (quality control freak) that looks over everything before it goes into the freezer or on to another person's home.
Through the years I have watched many people take care of their fish and game, and it has bothered me so much to see how careless they can be that I am leery to accept anything from them to eat.
I have known people who have allowed a fresh harvest of deer to be left hanging for months outside in rain and very unusually warm weather, and yet these people finally eat this stuff! I have seen fish packed on ice for 5 days, and then frozen whole despite already smelling bad! I have seen people go dip netting and come back with way more fish then they can handle, or have room for. Guess where many of these fish end up? Have you ever thought about those gifts of fish, clams or other wild game, and how long they have been lying around before they where given to you?
In my old stomping grounds of west central Wisconsin, there was a country bar that was famous for a wild game feed that they put on each fall. They had everything you could imagine there, including possum, mountain lion, squirrel, rabbit, deer, armadillo, raccoon, turtle, beaver, pheasant, and all those other animals or birds I forgot to mention. If you ever wanted to try something different to eat, this feed was the place to do it. I have no problem eating wild game, but I do not want, or desire, to eat wild game processed by people I don't know. It was especially because of that reason, that I could never bring myself to attend this wild game feed, despite the fact that I have eaten most of the animals listed above.
Through the years, I have truly witnessed many cases of poorly cleaned or processed meat, but one of the worst I ever saw was on an ice fishing trip. One of the guys offered me some smoked pheasant. I declined at the time, since I was too busy getting my poles rigged up. So he sat the bag down on the floor and went to fish outside the fishing shack. Later that day, I felt a little hungry, so I reached into the bag and hauled out the smoked pheasant. One glance told me that smoked pheasant was NOT for me! The whole rear of the bird had not even been removed, and right below the tail was a pheasant dropping that was also smoked!
Preparing our food is very important and something that I take great pride in no matter what kind it is. I want clean, quality food on my table, and to all those I am able to donate food to. My theory is, if it is not clean enough for me to eat, I would not give it to anyone else. You will not ever get a black garbage bag full of half-cooked, unclean fish from my house. My fish are put on ice as soon as they are caught and guaranteed fresh. You should take the same approach to insure quality food on your table too.
See you next week!
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