“Ditch Chicken”

I preface this fine recipe with a few words to my vegetarian friends: Shame on you! Vegetables are far too easy prey to be considered fair game.  A tomato, a squash or a turnip has no hope of a chance in the hunt–no advantage at all.  They cannot hide; run, jump or fly away.

As far as we can tell, they cannot see or hear you coming, and other than zucchini and cucumbers, most of them have no effective camouflage to speak of.  Blackberries will put up a fight, but peaches and pears wimp out unless their pet bees and yellow jackets are on duty.  I’ve wrestled a few watermelons in my time, but that is no comparison with wrestling alligators.

But defenseless fruits and veggies are harvested daily by the tons and without any proper ceremony such as dawgs howlin’ and good ol’ boys yellin’ “YEE HAH!”.  Nope, just somebody listening to the radio while driving a tractor down on a field of helpless beans.   It’s disrespectful.  It is insensitive, cruel, and unsportsmanlike to hunt them like that.  Why, it’s no better than hunting with just a driver’s license!

It is also snobbish and biggoted: just because cabbage doesn’t have a face or wag its tail, it is assumed it has no soul!  How self-centerd and uncivilized we have become!  Once these poor vegetables are brutalized in such fashion of the harvest, they are eventually degraded further by being placed right smack dab in reach of people and other hungry animals who…eat them!

The very minute you bite into them, the doom of their progeny is sealed.  Think of the millions of banana seeds that never survive being subjected to digestive systems!  Pulling a carrot out of the ground will kill it.  I watched a man do that very thing, then he took a bite of the carrot without so much as an apology.  What is this world coming to?

But let’s get serious for a moment.  In all fairness, there are some arguments (albeit not always plausible ones) against eating anything that isn’t mineral or vegetable.  Yet at the same time, many confirmed carnivores are overly critical of vegetarians, too.  Some take a rather “Holier than thou” attitude all the while packing their colons with grease and carcinogens.  It is amazing what humans could know about nutrition, but choose not to.

But whichever camp you are in (I confess to being an omnivore), we must all agree that being killed (whether anybody or anything intends to eat you or not) or having your state of being permanently altered, is disruptive to whatever process you may have been previously locked into.

But hear this: those who intend to be around awhile are going to need to eat sump’m.  Matter-o-fact, I’m munchin’ on a sammich right now (forgimme, ummm!  I know I ain’t s’posed to talk wif my mouf full).  Those of you that are wondering if this recipe is healthy should consider what it’s going to do to the alligator.

Well, I reckon if you’re hungry enough, just about anything tastes good especially if it is disguised to resemble a flavor of sump’m you like.  Sometimes when you’re not so hungry, the hankering to try a new dish might have more to do with how you came by it than what it consists of.

For example, pre-fabricated chicken nuggets might appeal to some folks ’cause it doesn’t look like animal (and it barely is).  If you intend to keep eating that stuff, don’t ever go to a plant that processes it: if it weren’t for the smells, you’d think they were making bubble gum.

Folks that prefer that sort of thing might turn up their noses if they saw you kill the chicken and butcher it before dinner.  Yet the cuisine would be far superior to “chicken fingers”, which of course itself is just an expression.  Literal chicken fingers are in reality as rare as buffalo wings. Now, I mean no offense to the good folks in Buffalo, NY: I know the recipe is named after them, but there are a lot of boneheads down here in Georgia that don’t know that!

Some folks get finicky if dinner is made up of critters shot with upland game field loads, and roadkill is often criticized no matter how fresh it is!  They somehow seem to have arrived at a moral sense of what is proper and improper about who and what gets killed.

Further, they will examine how the killing happened as to whether it was somehow an “acceptable” method, or not.  “Self defense” is seldom given as a reason to hang a side of beef or to shuck an ear of corn.  Self preservation (ours; not the steer’s or corn’s), on the other hand, is.

Most folks these days buy their meat at stores, though I’m sure some steal it.  Either way, it is often skinless and boneless and cut up into geometric patterns that doesn’t look like animal at all.  Saw some pork chops that looked like bars of soap, but I’d bet they don’t lather up as well.

Yep, stuff from the meat department now comes wrapped in plastic and has universal bar codes on the packages to be scanned at the checkout (I started to say “cash register” but young readers might not know what I’m talking about).  Fish don’t have heads and fins; ham doesn’t resemble a pig’s butt, steak ain’t go no feathers anymore, so nobody had to kill anything, did they?  Are you kidding me?  No wonder there is confusion and denial when the closest thing to looking like animal is a head of lettuce.

Some folks who eat meat regularly seem to be offended by, and are opposed to hunting.  The difference is simple: some take a direct and honest approach to killing; others hire paid assassins to kill and butcher the meat for them–the moral results are the same.

Please don’t think I’m jumping to conclusions: I’ve run several of these key points by experts including the chaplain of a wild and notorious motorcycle gang, a garage door technician, three busboys, a bagger at a nearby grocery store, a street corner evangelist, two emergency room patients, and one of the world’s top criminal profilers.  The consensus strongly favors validating my research, in case you’re still skeptical.

I know some folks who never eat red meat, and are self-righteous about it.  They eat chicken.  Since it is rude to eat a chicken without killing it first, there is no virtuous advantage to using a chicken over any other living thing.

Perhaps the only salvation in respect of the mindset that feels a closeness and spiritual kinship to the red muscled species is that chickens are stupid.  I’d say they are much more so than the sources of red meats, and barely smarter than most vegetables.

A chicken is a bird with nasty habits, and they are terrible housekeepers.  Other than turkeys (which may be the only domestic animal dumber than a turnip), chickens are among the least endowed in the domestic intelligence community.  I speak of the barnyard variety, and not the circus trained ones that play pianos for corn, nor the ones trained to beat you at tic-tac-toe at carnival side shows and fairs.  Most of those are beyond their tender years and would be barely fit for soup anyway.

To many folks who love chicken , it is the pinnacle of fine dining.  They praise it highly and recommend it to others.  Some of these folks develop an appreciation of a wider range of foods as long as they believe it tastes like chicken.  Even when the fare is of questionable origin, you can hear them say to the timid:

“C’mon!  Eat it!  It tastes like chicken!”

Tastes like chicken?  I’ll bet you’ve often heard that phrase in reference to squirrel, rabbit, various game birds, and now–gator tail. If you salt it, dip it in batter, and drop it in hot grease, it will taste like America’s favorite food–fried salted fat!

Well, “ditch chicken” don’t taste like chicken–it tastes like alligator, which it is. Fried squirrel tastes a bit more like fried rat than it does chicken. Fried rat might taste like chicken, I don’t know, but squirrel is delicious if you cook it right.  And with that, I might add that some folks confuse the flavors of the meat with the flavors associated with preparations, seasonings and the cooking processes.

In just about every town in the South, you’ll find a cafe, restaurant or diner that has “chicken fried steak” on the menu.  They fry it up exactly as they fry chicken.  They have pork chops cooked the same way.  The steak, the chop, and the chicken all taste like…yep, tastes like fried salted fat, but everybody says: “tastes just like chicken”.

If you cook enough chicken in the grease, pretty soon everything else you put in the fryer will taste a little bit like fried chicken.  Not just the pork chops, but the potatoes, the okra, the squash and even the fried green tomatos will give in to the peer pressure.  I’ve had entire meals where every platter on the table was slap full of fried, salted fat.  It is superdeligorgeous, but does it taste like chicken?  Maybe.

But if your deep fryer is used for a fish fry, anything following the catfish might taste a little like catfish.  You can probably get away with that if you’re fryin’ up some gator tail.

So for those of you still with me here, and intend to fix up some ditch chicken, please consider the following suggestions.  Some of the credit must go to the well-known traveler and veteran explorer named Mickey Foster (originally from Spartanburg like so many of our other national heroes, myself included).  He has a splendid reputation…well, he has a reputation for sure, but that includes chasing down and eating all kinds of things:

*Get yourself an alligator, and cut its tail off.  Better kill it first, or it’ll pitch a hissy fit.  Some people like their gator poached; others come by theirs legally.  But either way, farm-raised or wild, they don’t give up tail easily.

*Make absolutely sure you’re at the tail end.  Even so, don’t even think of doing this to a full grown gator unless you are certain the euthanasia procedure is complete, and has been effective!  If you think it’s playing ‘possum on you, smack it upside the head a few times with…well, with a chicken or sump’m, but not with your hands or feet!  If you resort to that infraction of the safety procedure, you might find yourself at the bottom of a mud hole tucked neatly between a couple of sunken logs.  If you overlook this, the rest of the recipe won’t matter;

*Skin and debone the tail enough to remove the skin and bone-that should be sufficient.  Some of you will want to tan the skin to fashion a hat-band or sump’m and use the bones to make a nice necklace.  But put it aside right now, and wait ’til after supper;

*Trim away the fat. I’m talkin’ about the gator fat here; not suggesting an exercise regimen.  If you consider the diet and table manners of this varmit, you might not want to chow down on any of its fuel reserves: it’ll taste nasty, and could cause gastrointestinal experiences;

*Carve the meat into little bite-sized sections called “chunks”.  You can cut it into thinner pieces called “slivers” if you intend to sauté Franchaise, or Marsalla style.  “Tartare” is only for the brave, or the extremely hungry;

*Season to taste, if you have any.  From the looks of what some folks wear out in public these days, “taste” may have gone out of fashion.  With the exception of the conservatives, the rest of you should apply liberal amounts of salt and pepper;

*Dip the seasoned chunks in a batter, or just roll ’em in flour and/or even cornmeal depending on your personal preferences.  Those of you without any personal preferences should yield to the loud ones that do;

*When the grease is hot, dump these prepared chunks into the deep fat fryer.  Don’t splash!  Hot grease is a wonderful tool, but if managed improperly, it can do damage to other tools.  If you leave the little bite-sized chunks of meat in the grease too long they’ll chew like leather.  It is good exercise, but gets boring after a while.  If you take them out too soon, it won’t have the desired crispness, and it can take you up to a month to swallow.

*Serve it up as an appetizer or main course whenever you feel the chef and the dinner guests have been properly marinated.  If the marinate is of the right mix and the music is loud enough, you may find that the addition of food of any kind may be superfluous, but don’t take this to be a budgetary benefit: the marinate at those levels can cost a fortune.

5 responses to this post.

  1. You have me craving chicken fried steak now. It’s my bedtime though, so I guess I’ll just have to do without. Very amusing!


  2. Posted by Robin on March 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    We ate ditch chicken in Florida one year on vacation. It tasted exactly like chicken that had been fried in the same deep fat cooker just previously used for catfish. I liked it, but being southern-bred and raised, I do occasionally yearn for that salted, fried anything epicurean delight. Also “real” chocolate milk shakes. I enjoyed the post, but it did make me hungry. Dang, and no fried anything in sight!


  3. Posted by Marlene Humberd on June 9, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Van , Had ditch chicken years ago in FL.and liked it . When I get a cravin’ for fried food here , I go down to a local spot and order a deep – fried cheeseburger . OMG !! You’ll think you’ve died and gone to fried food heaven …also keeps the joints and cuticles lubed up for at least 6 months .p.s. Great chicken fried steak , too .” Yum , Yum , eat’um up !” ; )


  4. Posted by Nancy K Kemp on October 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I love deep fried gator tail… if it’s not overcooked. That will make it taste like chicken-flavored Nike Cross-trainer soles.


  5. Posted by Kay Hood on March 26, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Van, I have eaten ditch chicken..in Florida and once in a restaurant in the Napa Valley. I’m sure the one in Napa was shipped in frozen from Fla. or La., but it was reasonably pleasing to the palate despite it’s lack of freshness. I used to despise friends telling me, “Try it, Kay, it taste like chicken”, regarding frog legs, alligator, rabbit, squirrel and various other varmits. Because I had witnessed my granny catch and wring a chickens neck and drop it into a boiling cauldron of water at the tender age of 4, chicken was never one of my most favorite dining delicacies. The term my 4 children gave to Chicken tenders from Mackey D’s even @ their young years was, “Gross, mama these taste like chicken McGuts.” Hence, the Hood children despised Chicken McGuts from a tender young age. My distaste for chicken was further discouraged when i made a trip to my Aunt Bev’s home in Marshville,NC for the Deacon ordination of one of her sons and right outside the church was a chicken farm where they raised the potential Tyson chicken delicacies. The smell made me so sick I was confined to the car and never made it into the service. I am just now to a point in my life that i can stomach any dish that contains chicken. Beef is and always will be my preference and then good talipia, flounder, whitefish, Chilean sea bass, grouper, etc, shrimp, lobster and crab. I enjoyed the article in your journal and I am a woman who enjoys all vegetables, legumes,nuts, and fruits..Not much pasta, occasional baked potatoes,sweet potatoes,kale, collards,spinach, mustard greens, turnips and greens all salad greens, oh and of course a good pork tenderloin and BBQ ribs. All this to say ditch chicken will suffice in a rush, but I’d never order it again and Chicken Mcguts and other processed mish-mash meats are totally excluded. keep on writing!


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