Right after high school, my brother, and a friend went to our friend's mother's house up country to cut some trees. We were offered lunch and it was a fair exchange for helping. After all, that's what friends do for friends.
Most of the trees were sweet gums, that were making a mess of the yard. None were really big, so the work wasn't nearly as hard as I originally envisioned. We had the trees cut and the rest stacked for burning before lunch.
Our friend's mother called for us to come eat. The aroma from the kitchen was intoxicating. She'd made a squirrel gumbo and we were hungry.
We lined up at the stove, placed some rice in our bowls and scooped our gumbo from the big pot sitting on the burner. Judging by the color, it was near perfect. I was hungry and anticipated a good feed.
The gumbo was excellent. The squirrel was cooked fork tender, so it was easily removed from the bones. The side dish of potato salad only embellished an already fine lunch.
As I ate, I worked my way around a piece of meat I didn't recognize. I usually don't place anything in my bowl that doesn't look familiar, but avoided the practice when I filled my bowl. The cook was watching and I didn't want to break some unspoken rule.
Eventually, there was nothing left in my bowl, except the unknown piece. Glancing at my friend's mother, I realized she was watching closely. She must have known I was confused and spoke: "It's the head."
I just stared.
"Here", she said, handing me a nutcracker, "You crack it open and eat the brains."
My mind was racing. I've never eaten any type of brains; had no desire to eat any type of brains - much less a squirrel's - and there was no honorable escape.
"Okay" was all I could say, as I reached for nut cracker, opened the head and scooped out the brains. They tasted like liver, which I don't like.
"The jowl meat is good, too."
It helped remove the taste of the brains.
"The tongue is good."
I quickly spoke, which was probably impolite, but a line had been crossed.
"That's where I draw the line."
She laughed. Everybody laughed. I looked around sheepishly and realized I'd been played.
She explained how her mother wouldn't cut up the squirrel the way she did, and I would have known immediately what I'd placed in my bowl.
We finished, helped clean the kitchen, drank a few beers and eventually headed home. All, in all, it was a good day and we had some firewood for my dad's fireplace.
I haven't had squirrel gumbo since that day. Next time I do, I'm going to look more closely.
In Case You've Wondered
My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.
If you're here for the stories, I started another blog: scratchingforchange.blogspot.com
One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.
I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.