Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inside Looking In - The Glorious Bounty of the Swamp

I interrupt your regularly scheduled food blog to bring you this special guest announcement:
Good food comes from many places. Swamps are most definitely one of them.

I'm Jeremy; Katie asked me to weigh in on here. Offer an outsider's perspective, so to speak. I was born in Oregon, but raised in northern California - not any part you've heard of, I'm sure. My whole life, until a few years ago, was lived in an area that ought to be Jefferson State. It's a great place with a culinary history of its own (so to speak), but the call of the South reached me even there.

Long, romantic story short, here I am, and I couldn't be happier. Southern food suits my stomach nicely. There are 700 ways to cook a pig, and I haven't had one I didn't like. But that's a topic for another day - really, the pig is a topic for either a doctoral thesis or a religious cult, more than there's time for now.

No, today I want to talk about all the good things that come a dirty place. Swamp food.

Eat me, will you? We'll see who has the last laugh.

Catfish. crawfish, alligator, frogs - and all kinds of waterfowl. The swamp is a culinary wonderland. Not only is it an area rich in life and diversity, it's the only place you can reliably find some of the tastiest and most iconic meats in the South. Ask anyone who's never had food from a swamp and they'll probably scoff at the idea - "How gross!" or something of that nature. Frogs have some hoity-toity French people supporting them, but not alligators; they're lizards, and that idea turns a lot of people off. They're used to beef, pork, chicken, and sometimes fish. Mutton is considered adventurous to many people. "Lizard" is not usually a category listed on your average menu.

But really, it's a wonderful thing. I'd never imagined being able to eat alligator before I moved here. Then one day, I had a whole platter simply filled with deep-fried alligator tail and crawfish. It was an eye-opening experience. My life has never been the same. I ended up marrying the girl that introduced me to these foods. It was that good.

Is it the idea of eating something that would gladly have eaten you? Perhaps, but I don't know of many people eating mountain lions, and they're a large predator too. I suppose people might eat bears, but it's nothing at all like the way people eat alligator. It's still kind of a specialty meat, something uncommon but anything but strange. That's just my opinion, mind you, your own mileage will vary.

I'll grant, most alligator is farm-raised, and I'm sure most catfish and maybe crawfish are as well. They don't come directly from the swamp, but they're still a swamp animal - just like a duck is still a duck if it's a farm-raised duck. It doesn't diminish the unique wonder that belongs to the great Southern swamps. If not for the existence of this unique geographic cornucopia, no one would have known just how delicious an alligator's tail might taste, or where to find that delicious-but-ugly fish with the whiskers. If not for those early explorer-chefs, whole categories of food might have been left unknown.

Thank your ancestors, Southern people. If they were here, thank them for being adventurous with their mouth, even if it was out of necessity. If they moved here, thank them for making such a good decision. The swamp seems dense, hostile, and probably a little smelly, but to the right person, cooked the right way, any of the hundreds of creatures that live there are really good eats.


  1. Glad to know you married me for the food. The perfect foundation for a good marriage. :)Thanks for contributing! Can't wait to read future posts...especially that 700 ways to cook a pig one.

  2. Liking your site! It's always nice to know what to do when you come across swamp food!! I'll be following you.

  3. Thanks so much, Ross! I'm so glad you stopped by and plan on returning. I'll tell my husband that his post earned me a new follower; he'll be impossible to live with now :)

  4. mmmmm...mmmmm..'gator meat!

    My father lives in south Florida, land of the 'gator. I'm willing to try anything once and once, I tried alligator. I must admit, I was skeptical about noshing on a reptile, but it sure was tasty! I'd also like to give the alligator a shout out for providing me with a stylish belt and some fine shoes.

    Be thankful that you found a person willing to taste the fine cuisine of the south! Shared food love = forever love.


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