As a society, we no longer need to take our existence from the wilds of the land. We live in a structured, modern society which conveniently provides our caloric needs neatly cleaned, processed and wrapped, available 24 hours a day at the local mega food mart. There is no need for a skinning knife when we hit the drive-thru and pick up a Big Mac.
To deny the tastes of the wild bounty of our land from our children and grandchildren is counter-productive to our desire to preserve our outdoor heritage, rituals and traditions. As a society, we once hunted, fished and gathered from the land in order to live. Therefore, we should provide coming generations the opportunity to experience, know and relish the taste of the wild.
My daughters were raised knowing and experiencing our connection to the land. They both have helped in the preparation of game by helping prepare rabbits and field dress squirrels for the table.
One weekend, I took the minnow seine and spent the day with my family wading and catching a 5-gallon bucket of crawdads from Big Flatrock River. Later, we set about the laborious task of cleaning them, and my daughters got their first taste of deep-fried crawdad tails. We aren’t Cajun by any means, but as a family, we do relish the flavor of deep fried crayfish.
That is how my children were raised. One of the family’s first real “outdoor meals” was a big mess of frog legs I brought home early on in our married life. With some reassurance the frog legs wouldn’t jump out of the skillet as my wife had been told, she fried up a beautiful meat platter full of golden-brown frog legs for our dining pleasure. Once my family tasted them, any plate fright was gone. All they wanted was more!
An introduction to pan fried bluegill brought a similar response. Most of the time, I almost missed my share as I worked feverishly picking out bones for our littlest one. My wife and our older daughter were quickly veteran hands at picking their own fish bones and munching bluegill. It seemed I could never catch enough.
Years later, I found with pride, both daughters found themselves in situations where fish were caught, but no one knew how to clean them. Both of my girls stepped forward and said, “Don’t waste the fish, I know how to clean them. My dad taught me.” Both of their future husbands found my daughters could not only catch and clean fish but cook them as well.
As we pass on our heritage of the outdoors, we also need to pass on the taste of its bounty. If you don’t know how to prepare wild foods, then resolve to learn. Once you learn how, take the time to teach your children.
Many conversations at our annual family get-togethers revolve around wild game meals of the past. “Do you remember the time Dad brought home our first wild turkey? What about the time we cooked up all of those crawdads? Heh, Dad, are there any bluegill fillets in the freezer?”
My reply to the last question is always, “Sorry, you’ll have to catch and clean your own.”