“Will you come tell our senior citizens group some stories?” It was our neighbor Polly calling. “We have fellowship every day at the Shingle Hollow clubhouse around 11 and we have lunch around noon. We’d love for you to come tell us some stories during the fellowship hour.
“Now the only thing is, Doug, we can’t invite you to lunch because it’s a government subsidized lunch for senior citizens and you have to be over 65 to qualify. I hate that, Doug, but we gotta follow the rules.”
I assured her that was fine with me and I’d be glad to come tell stories and not to worry at all about lunch. So, we arranged a date. I went, told stories and everyone seemed to enjoy it. After I was finished, they all lined up for lunch. Polly said, “Come on out to the truck. I have something for you.” She handed me an aluminum pie pan covered with foil.
“It’s coon,” she said, “We cooked it on the heater all last night and I fried it in batter this morning. It’s still a little bit warm.”
I thanked her profusely.
This was some years ago when there were a number of raccoon hunters in the area. Many coon hunters were in it for the adventure of roaming the woods at night listening to the baying of the hounds, but they didn’t really want the coon after they killed it. So, they’d bring the coon to Polly and her husband. They were very earthy country folks who wouldn’t want to see good meat wasted. They were always willing to take a fresh-killed raccoon.
Polly knew how to expertly prepare wild meat. To ensure tenderness she parboiled it, letting it simmer for hours, using spicebush twigs in the water to moderate any gameyness. Then she rolled each piece in a spicy batter and fried it. The final product was tender, succulent, rich-flavored meat that was coated with a golden-brown crispy crust. It was delicious!
In those days we didn’t have a lot of meat. We kept a few chickens and we occasionally made soup or stew from a rooster or an old hen who stopped laying. As good as they were in soups and stews, these birds were too tough to make fried chicken.
Well, Polly’s southern fried coon rocked our world! We had a little boy around the house at the time. Our son Todd was about 3 years old. He loved that southern fried coon. He would toddle over to the refrigerator–he could barely reach the door handle–and say, “Coon?”
We called Polly and told her how much we appreciated her gift. Over the next few years, every now and then, we’d get a phone call, “Doug, meet us up by your mailbox. We’re going to be driving by your place in a few minutes. We got a plate of coon for you.”
One time I remember, as she handed me a plate, she said, “Doug, this ain’t the whole coon. We ate some of it and Johnny Robinson wanted some of it, but there’s still a lot left for you. I realized right then that we had become part of a sacred circle honoring this noble wild creature who even after its death nourished and connected the community.
Fast forward a decade or so. We were at a community supper. Todd was a teenager. He filled his plate with a selection of home-cooked dishes. The first thing he tasted was a piece of fried chicken. He took one bite and said, “Yum, that tastes like coon!”