Theoretical turkey alternative: rattlesnake steaks

Something I learned this Thanksgiving, and really should have known or at least researched beforehand: a 19-pound turkey for seven people is ridiculous, ridiculous overkill, especially when one of those people is a vegetarian. The past few days have been punctuated by ever-more-creative (and unappetizing) turkey concoctions, and endless naps.

Today, in search of a recipe to counteract the dismal sameness of the bird and its tryptophan hangovers, I pulled my old copy of The Great American Writers’ Cookbook down from the shelf, and flicked around until I stopped short at Harry Crews’ snake steak.

I doubt I could find the ingredients here in Brooklyn, and even down south, I thought initially, Crews must be pulling our legs about how easy it is — or was, in his youth — to drive out, bag, and gut a rattlesnake in Georgia. (All my time in Florida, even hiking out in the Everglades or on Paynes Prairie, or descending into the Devil’s Milhopper, I never saw a diamondback in the wild. Nor was I itching to.)

Maybe not, though. The Google reveals that, once upon a time, there was a Tampa-area town called Rattlesnake, where the creatures were so common, a cannery mass-produced the delicacy in “supreme sauce” to be shipped around the world.

Of course the place has been renamed, and rattlers are scarce now, but at the moment I’d happily agree to prepare and eat rattlesnake (caught and killed by someone else) rather than turkey next November. It’s in that spirit that I post Crews’ recipe here. Follow — or read — at your own risk

Snake Steak

Take one diamondback rattle snake.

(Fifteen feet of garden hose, a little gasoline in a capped jar, a croker sack, and a long stick will be all you’ll need to take the snake. On a cold day, 32 degrees or colder, find the hole of a gopher — the Southerner’s name for a land tortoise. Run the hose down the hole until it is all the way to the bottom. Pour a teaspoon of gasoline into the hose. Cover the end of the hose with your mouth and blow. Shortly, the rattlesnake will wander out of the hole. Put the stick in the middle of his body, pick him up, and drop him in the sack. On the way home, don’t sling the sack over your shoulder, and generally try not to get struck through the cloth.)

Gut and skin the snake. No particular skill is needed for either job. Cut off the head six inches behind the eyes. Cut off the tail 12 inches above the last rattle. Rip him open along the stomach and take out everything you see. Peel him like a banana using a pair of pliers as you would to skin a catfish. Cut the snake into one inch steaks. Soak in vinegar for ten minutes. Drain and dry. Sprinkle with hot sauce, any of the brands out of New Iberia. Roll in flour and deep fry, being careful not to overcook. Salt to taste and serve with whatever you ordinarily eat with light, delicate meat.

Figure one snake per guest. Always better to have too much than too little when you’re eating something good.

Amazon’s Search Inside feature doesn’t turn up Crews’ snake steak in the second edition of the book, The New Great American Writers Cookbook. But William Harrison does tell you how to cook a timber rattlesnake. Also, should you go rattlesnake hunting and catch one that bites itself rather than you, here’s a what to do.

Image of the Rattlesnake, FL, post office, taken from the St. Pete Times.

Iris Murdoch speaks, clutches forehead at YouTube

“Literature does many, many things, and philosophy does one thing.”

Jacket Copy’s Carolyn Kellogg has unearthed an assortment of videos featuring authors who are no longer with us, but “continue to exist, in shadowy form, on YouTube.”

Joy of joys, this interview with Iris Murdoch is among them. (Parts 2, 3, 4, & 5.)

It’s amazing to witness her almost physical struggle to communicate ideas as precisely but completely as possible.

The Smart Set: Lauren Cerand’s weekly events

The Smart Set is on holiday hiatus this week as I’m off to Scotland — anything that I should absolutely see, do, shop, drink or eat in Edinburgh? If so, let me know!

Ed note: In case anyone is still confused after all these years, The Smart Set is curated, written, and posted by Lauren Cerand. She, not I, will soon be off on this brilliant (said in a Scottish accent, with the “l” held for about seven beats) Thanksgiving-week adventure.

Laissez-faire market blues

The vitriol thumping through my fingertips into WordPress yesterday caused my browser to crash, sparing you from a long and intricate rant about the economy.

(Topics discussed: tax and fiscal policy; [expletives deleted] Henry Paulson; the [expletives deleted] Treasury Department and the [expletives deleted] illegal tax break secretly handed to banks while everyone was distracted by bailout negotiations; all the money that’s gone straight from the government’s coffers into bank executives’ pockets; what collateral the U.S. actually has to guarantee the money we keep borrowing from other countries; how many homeowners are expected to go into default in the next year; why the argument that liberals caused this catastrophe by mandating risky loans to low-income homeowners is horseshit; who allowed mortgage bond insurance policies to go unregulated merely because they are called something else; and whether unemployment will continue to skyrocket. Also, personal matters, such as job cuts in publishing, friends out of work, and all the health care professionals who are being laid off in Western Massachusetts just as my sister, who took out high-interest private loans — until this semester, when she’s had to work extra days in the emergency room because the banks stopped lending money to students — to finance her education in what was supposed to be one of the most secure fields, is getting ready to graduate with her nursing degree.)

Normally I don’t have trouble bifurcating my attention between my day job and the things I post about here, but I’m very worried. And since I write and read about fiscal matters all day, it’s hard to put them out of my mind. So much so that I’m actually starting to have nightmares about Henry Paulson, who yesterday with a straight face urged world leaders to “avoid over-regulation.”

What scares me most about this recession is that, despite my background, I have no idea how bad it will get or where it will end.

I think I need to step away from the computer for a little while. Have a good weekend.

Drawing of 1800s Wall Street from the corner of Broad found in the NYPL’s Digital Gallery.