Open Wide: ArrrrghOpinion
September is a busy month. You got football season starting up, the opening of dove season, the World Championship Barbecue Goat Cook Off in Brady, Texas, scouting and getting ready for deer season, and of course the World Championship Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas. The tagline for that August event is ‘Squirrel, it’s what’s for supper.’
Having been a judge at the goat cook off in Brady for several years, I can tell you the competition is intense. The folks who compete in the cook off take their goat seriously, and it shows. I’ve eaten lots of goat, and some of what I’ve had at the cook off is fantastic. Of course, some of it tasted like it had been basted with kerosene. But I don’t think that was the goat’s fault.
There are other big cooking contests, of course, such as the Terlingua International Championship Chili Cook Off, coming up in November. But people expect to eat goat and chili. Those are normal, accepted foods, unlike the Coon Barbecue held every year in Hallettsville, Texas. Although I’ve been told that barbecued raccoon is delicious and nutritious, I remain skeptical. I hope I’m never hungry enough to find out. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I’ll never be hungry enough to find out.
But while I had heard about a lot of cooking contests, I have to admit the squirrel thing sort of snuck up on me. Which is a little surprising, since my team placed second at the First Annual Squirrel Master Classic squirrel hunting competition in Montgomery, Alabama in 2014. In my defense, we didn’t cook the squirrels, we just shot them with Gamo pellet guns. But every one of those squirrels was eaten, I was assured. Because a squirrel is a terrible thing to waste.
That’s pretty much the attitude of the folks in Bentonville, I guess. According to the website for the event, people will make just about anything with squirrel meat, from the normal stuff like gumbo and chili and burgers and chicken fried squirrel, all the way up to your more exotic stuff, like squirrel pizza and squirrel lollipops and squirrel ice cream. ‘Friend, how long has it been since you had a big, thick, heaping bowl of squirrel ice cream? Well, that’s not surprising.’
Now, I’ve eaten squirrel a few times, and it’s not bad, but I have to admit it’s probably not at the top of most people’s list of fine cuisines. But even among people who eat squirrel on a regular basis, I imagine squirrel ice cream is a little ways past the edge. If someone were to offer me some squirrel ice cream, I would immediately add them to my list of people not to turn my back on.
The World Championship Squirrel Cook Off website offers some insight into the whole mindset, I think, with a declaration on the opening page that says “Why we do it?” That’s not a misprint or typo, by the way. The explanation of why they do it? is, “We hold the event to promote 100% organic, free range, natural Squirrel – as one of histories most important food sources. It is also away for the public to try first hand what the rest of us already know ‘SQUIRREL IS GOOD’.”
Now, if there’s a squirrel farm someplace, where they raise squirrels in pens and then sell them for hunting or consumption in restaurants, I’m not aware of it. As far as I know, all squirrel is 100% organic and free range and natural. And I’m wondering if there’s ‘away’ for squirrels to type, since the website seems to have been put together by the little rodents. I guess it will be one of ‘histories’ mysteries. But the point is that SQUIRREL IS GOOD. Even with the quotation mark inside the period.
To give the folks at Bentonville a chance to convince me I should be eating squirrel ice cream, I planned to attend the cook off on Sept. 10, but I was unavoidably prevented by an overwhelming desire to not eat squirrel ice cream. No doubt I missed out on a rare treat. Maybe next year.
But besides all this wonderful food, September is also home to one of my all time favorite holidays. International Talk Like A Pirate Day is Monday, Sept. 19, the one day a year I have an excuse to wear my eye patch and swash my buckles and shiver my timbers, whether they need swashing and shivering or not. I can hoist the Jolly Roger from the mizzen, ship the anchor of common civility, and set a course to irritate everyone who has matured past a sixth grade level.
ITLAPD is great for many reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t have to buy any gifts, go to any parties, or decorate anything. I don’t even have to remember it, which is a good thing, since I usually don’t until about a week after it’s over.
All I know for sure is that September is one of histories greatest months . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never eat ice cream made out of anything that once had fur. Write to him at [email protected].