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Have taste buds walk on wild side
Around the table
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Courier staff members rarely take lunch at the same time. So when our copy editor returned from lunch and asked if anyone in the news department had ever tried alligator, I assumed that was what he had for lunch.

Not so, or at least not yet.

Surprisingly, several staff members have tried “gator.” It doesn’t taste like chicken, by the way. It tastes like alligator, which is pretty good when fixed right. Skippers Fish Camp in Darien serves up some great gator “bites.” I recommend the Buffalo-style.

Speaking of buffalo, it tastes enough like beef to trick the squeamish into taking a second or third helping. It’s a lot leaner and, therefore, much healthier than beef. Buffalo can be purchased at some of the local butcher shops, thanks to Georgia Buffalo Inc., a buffalo ranch located on Highway 17 just south of Eulonia.

Eating wild game is not a fad for me like it is for those folks prepping for the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s just another meat. Genesis 9:3 says, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you.” It doesn’t say every critter has to be meat; I draw the line with some animals and all bugs.

I eat lots of wild game, though. When I was 3 years old, Daddy was taking me hunting in the piney woods outside Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Papa was taking me fishing in his private pond near Meigs, Ga. They never allowed me to think the hunting and fishing skills they were instilling in me were just sport. I was expected to eat whatever critter I shot (unless it was a snake) or whatever fish I caught.

Wild game became as much a part of my diet as store-bought meats. I “harvested” my first squirrel shortly after I started the first grade. Daddy showed me how to skin and clean it, then Mama fried it pretty much the same way she cooked chicken. It was delicious. Ditto for rabbit.

It was another six years before I got my first deer, but years earlier I developed my palate for venison. My love for venison is greater than my success as a deer hunter, but my brother keeps me well-supplied with venison. He’s killed more deer than I have swatted mosquitoes, and he’s not adverse to giving it away or teaching little brother how to cook it properly.

“Now look hea’,” he said, sounding like Papa. “You wanna slice across the grain, not with the grain, which’ll make it tough. And ya don’t wanna overcook it.”

The knife he was using was sharp enough to slice a tractor tire into ribbons. I watched him slice off tender nuggets one at a time, then season them with a Cajun seasoning salt. After coating each fillet in flour, he took the tray of meat and a large yellow onion outside to the deep fryer.

Before adding the meat, he first sliced up the onion and dropped a handful into the fryer. The onions were followed by a handful of breaded venison steak strips.

Not all the wild game I’ve tried has been good. In fact, some has been hard to swallow, like the iguana lizard I tried during survival training in Panama. Yuck! Ditto for otter hash.

Rattlesnake is pretty good, though. I’ve also tried ostrich, which has a beefy taste. The wild hog and wild turkey I’ve had tasted just like the domestic variety. If it helps, consider them “free-range” hogs and turkey.

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