But somewhere on the table there
will be something unusual that no family member has ever tried Like rattlesnake,
for instance. Or shark. Perhaps alligator, emu, buffalo, frog legs, cow's
tongue, or elk. One year, my father even managed to get us all to taste
mountain oysters before telling us what we were eating. We've never forgiven
him. And there, ironically, is where the tradition came from...
In 1939, my father was eight years
old, and it was near Thanksgiving. He'd come home from rabbit hunting
to find a large platter of fried meat on the table. He ate a piece or
two, and then sat down and devoured a plateful. Not understanding why
his uncles found this humorous, he laughed good-naturedly along with them.
Until one uncle asked the other, casually and with a twinkle in his eye,
if they'd gotten all the pigs cut that day. Freezing in mid-bite, my father
turned to his grandmother. "Is this what they cut out of the pigs?"
he asked in a choked whisper. She nodded. "Yes, you ate them, and
you liked them," she said kindly, as he began to cry, embarrassed
that his uncles were roaring with laughter at his red little face.
Every year since then, my father's
family has put an unusual or mysterious meat on the table. It has gotten
harder in recent years, because so many foods are readily available. But
then, I don't imagine kangaroo meat would have even been a possibility
in the 1940's in the Midwest. I imagine it was with a sense of poetic
justice that my father fixed that platter of mountain oysters, this time
of turkey origin, for the entire family. And yes, he roared with laughter
when, after the revelation, a ring of indignant and furious faces surrounded
him. Dad wasn't allowed to choose or prepare the strange meat for many
years thereafter...and now that he's muttering about worm paste and deep
fried grasshoppers, I imagine it will be a long, long while before he's
allowed to serve *anything* of mysterious origin!