Sunday, February 1, 2009

Birthday Feast

Well I can unequivocally say that I don't like eating crocodile. Been there, done that. I only tasted a little, so I don't qualify for the t-shirt. But let's just say that if I see croc on the menu when I'm anything short of starving, I'll pass.

Alex turned fifteen last Monday. He didn't want a party, but hankered for 'something special' so when I mentioned that I had seen exotic meats – including crocodile tail – on the board at Butcher Boy, his eyes lit up. “We could invite Papoose and YiaYia (Grandpa and Grandma) and not tell them what we're eating...”

In the end we decided on a menu of crocodile tail, kangaroo fillet, and wild boar, and I settled down in front of the computer to decide how to cook them. “Roast the hell out of it,” suggested the man at Butcher Boy. “A crocodile tail does a lot of lashing about, so it's going to be stringy and will need a lot of cooking.” But everything on the internet contradicted him, with many a caution 'not to overcook'. The kangaroo was easy: “Treat it like steak....” (“On the barbecue!” said Best Beloved. “With the wild boar.”) At the last moment the lovely Romanian woman in the frozen shop gave me two wood pigeons “For your son's birthday present!” and the instructions of how to cook them: “Cut them in half, fry them, add maybe a cup of stock and a splash or two of white wine, then cover and simmer until they're soft. When they're ready and the liquid is all reduced, add a dash of Worcester Sauce.”

The Grand Folks (informed as to the menu) were invited for seven last night. Alex decided on pan fried crocodile tail with spicy dark sauce and lime risotto. Best Beloved fired up the barbecue, and I started on the salad. Then came a phone call from Sophia who had been spending the afternoon with friends in town: “The bus just drove right past me...” I handed the knife to Best Beloved and ran for the car. Forty minutes later I returned in time to start the risotto and pigeons, to find the table set, the kitchen and sitting room tidy, and Skippy about to go on the grill.

I made the sauce. I braised the pigeons. I stirred the risotto. I put butter in the pan for the croc, let it foam, and added the round, whitish steaks. They looked all right. They smelled a little strange. I cooked them like I would a tuna steak, and everyone gathered around sniffing with strange expressions. “Yucks!” said Zenon. But he says that to everything.

We served it as a starter with a spoonful of risotto and a dribble of dark spicy sauce per plate. “Let Alex try it first!” said Best Beloved. And Alex took a bite. “Not bad,” he said, taking another. Everyone except Zenon tucked in – and all, except me, had the grace to finish.

It tasted like fishy chicken. Or chicken-y fish. No, not my style at all. Even though I liked the sauce – rum, garlic, ginger, chilli, and sugar. And the risotto was wonderful.

My dislike for the croc wasn't based on squeamishness. I would eat snake if it were offered, and guinea pig – though I think I would draw the line at insects. I've eaten frogs and snails, hearts, tripe, haggis, and tongue. I don't like liver, kidney, and brains (my mother forced them on me when I was little, but I hated the taste as a child and still do.) Croc tail just didn't taste nice – and I have the feeling that I wouldn't like it barbecued, stewed, broiled, or any other way.

Then Best Beloved brought out the 'roo and the wild boar. They disappeared in a flash along with the pigeons which (everyone coo-ed)were delicious. But I didn't care for Skippy or Wilbur. Too gamy. And I've never liked pigeon. So I ate a lot of risotto and a fair bit of salad – and of course demolished my share of the cake.

In the morning I put the last piece of fried croc into Stumpy's bowl. He sniffed it. Looked at me. Sniffed it again. Then twitching his tail, he hobbled off. I guess he doesn't get a t-shirt, either.

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