2008-12-29

How to Serve Raccoon

For some reason, Deputy Fife didn't bark. But I heard the crunching of the driveway rocks. Then the man was talking to Miss Hattie. They were standing under the carport. I moved closer to the kitchen window to eavesdrop. The conversation turned from the usual pleasantries to the reason for the visit: raccoons.

Nothing was said about how cute they were, or how fascinating. To Miss Hattie, who lived to garden, raccoons were a kind of collateral damage -- unlucky guests of traps she had set to catch armadillos. To her visitor, raccoons were a delicacy. These different, but complementary views had brought Miss Hattie and the visitor together previously to do a little business. Miss Hattie had caught one or two raccoons and wanted nothing to do with their removal. Someone referred her to the visitor, who was only too happy to help. He charged nothing for his services, and she charged nothing for the raccoons.

Now the visitor was back, hoping to renew their mutually beneficial association. He asked if he could set some of his own traps on the place. Miss Hattie gave her permission. The visitor needed raccoons, he said -- 18 to 20 of them -- for Superbowl Sunday. On that day each year, in what was a settled local tradition, he and his wife opened their house and sold plates of raccoon and sides to the many folks came over to watch The Game.

Miss Hattie's daughter, visiting from out of state and in the food service business herself, asked the man how he prepared raccoon. Boiled it, he said. Then deep-fried it. Then baked it, surrounded by sweet potatoes.

Some of you, on reading this, will be brought back to another December a few years ago, not in the rural southland of my tableau, but here in Athens. Animal Control responded to a fraternity house to investigate a report of animal cruelty. A story in the Banner-Herald quoted Animal Control as saying that one of the members of the fraternity, on encountering an "erratically-behaving" raccoon near the frat house, had killed it with a construction pylon and a pellet gun. A second fraternity member then had skinned the raccoon in the bed of his pickup truck. And a third fraternity member then had cooked and eaten parts of the animal.

Down the road apiece, the killing, skinning, and eating of a raccoon would be a matter neither for Animal Control nor for a write-up in the local paper. It would mark only the coming around of another Superbowl Sunday. -- Bob Brussack

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