Big Mouth or I Just Don't Know

00:00 September 24, 2013
By: Phil LaMancusa
The most exotic Louisiana food these days, the one that every visitor has to try or reject is alligator. This has not always been the case. This is a recent (by recent I mean this century) occurrence and, you may ask, "how did that happen?" I'll tell you. Some entrepreneurial yayhoo who started off selling alligator skins to cobblers and dried heads to the Rubes. When the business took off, they were left to either endure the pile of stinking, rotting reptile (or amphibians or whatever the hell they are) carcasses or something with the meat while it was still fresh. Ergo, "Have an alligator po-boy to go with those boots, belt and dried gaping smiley toothed heads, Bubba?"
Today, eating alligator is something that every cute couple from Des Moines has to experience when they get in the lowest of the forty-eight. You can buy 'farm raised' alligator meat here. Yep, go on over to your local Rouse's and there it is, in the frozen food section, right next to the turtle meat. $15 a pound. More expensive than filet mignon. Go figure.

I don't think that alligator is on the menu in the Caribbean, maybe they ran out of the nasty things, I don't know. In Australia they have crocodiles but the people don't eat them; crocs eat the people, proving that crocodiles are smarter than alligators.

In the Buster Holmes cookbook from 1980, there is a recipe for alligator; however, there are also recipes for nutria, possum and raccoon. What does that tell you? Was alligator a poor man's food? Was Buster serving 'poor food' or ahead of his time? Will possum and coon be showing up on K-Paul's menu? Maybe. They've already tried to get us to swallow nutria (unsuccessfully). I think that eating alligator is just weird; I hear that they eat alligator regularly in Florida. I rest my case.

Not yet. Who was it that first ate alligator? Did some poor hungry country cracker happen to find one on the side of the road and think: "Well, didn't ketch me no fish today, mebbe this here gator'll feed my hongry young'ins?" And then after the apples of his eyes got through chewing six hundred times on a piece of tail they gave up and said "Daddy? That was dern good; kin we have us some ole tractor tire too?" Next thing you know, Daddy (who knows zip about kid sarcasm) is cruising the roads looking for some stray gators (or tractor tires) to run over. Either that or he's off huntin' them suckers and bragging to the boys down at the VFW about how his kids are eatin' good on gator "an it don't cost nuthin' neither!" It has to have its origins, foodwise, in the Ole Swamp Boys History Book: "Wonst upon a time, Ole Jed decided he wanted to wrassle him some dinner..."

Or maybe it is a poor Black thing--possibly from a time when they were..."servants." Ole Massa told them that if they wanted some protein not found in hog leavings they could just go catch gators. If so, I'm sure there were some casualties at the beginning. "See what happen to Jeremiah's arm, chirrin? Don' you go messin' in thet swamp!"

One way or the other (or both) it's got to be a poor thing. It can't be a sport; then they would have it in the Olympics. It can't be a pastime or Granny would be doing it. Nor an amusement, pursuit, activity, distraction or diversion. You won't see Brad and Angelina shopping for alligator to feed the kids. You won't see Tim Tebow bopping down to Cafe Maspero for an alligator po-boy. Nobody but poor people or tourists would ever eat an alligator; much less raise them on a farm.
How do you "farm raise" an alligator? Beats me. An alligator farm has got to be like a gated community, huh? Are they kept in pens, corrals, dormitories... condos? Alligator apartments? When are they "free range"? Who from the FDA gets to inspect them (I'm not applying for that job). What does the farmer feed them: Purina Gator Chow? This is another WTF subject, ain't it?

Does the female (cow) go into heat, stop by the beauty parlor, get dolled up and bellow to the male (bull) to come make some babies (hatchlings)? Does the group (congregation) keep the hatchlings together (pod) and do they have dances, sing-a-longs, play tag or bingo? Do the bulls sit on their porches smoking weed, drinking 40's and whistling at the passing cows? Or do bulls stake out claims and territories; possibly have harems? What constitutes an attractive alligator and is it true that you have to keep the adults away from the hatchlings because they'll eat them? I just don't know
I do know that to make alligator sausage palatable it's mixed with greasy dead pig meat and stuffed into porcine intestine before cooking. Nice thought, eh? I've heard of Gator Spring Rolls, Alligator Etouffee, Smothered (smothered?), Italian Fried and Gator Balls(?); but nothing beats a nice plate of Alligator Sauce Piquant. Of course, for my money, you could put sauce piquant on a tractor tire and I'd eat it.
Let's just put it this way; last week Girlfriend and I were out in City Park on one of the paddle boat things, you know where you go out, get dehydrated and sunstroke just for the hell of it? Well, we saw a couple of alligators in those waters. Did I see "dinner"? I did not. I saw "DANGER!" And I got the hell out of there! Homie don't mess with alligators in any form.

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