Recognize any of them fellas in the picture? Probably not. Take a gander at them two on the left side standing. Ran into them boys a couple years ago up in the mountains of Arkansas learning from an old mountain man how to make moonshine. Taught me about surviving in the wilderness and cooking over open fires with just a kettle and a spoon. They fixed up a belly busting stew with taters, and carrots, and onions and Granny’s secret ingredient. Them boys was just as down home, salt of the earth, straight shooting fellas as any I’ve ever met. And wouldn’t tell a lie. NosirreeBob tweren’t nothing high falooting about them boys, each of ’em was a man’s man, straight as an arrow, John Wayne swaggering, corn likker swigging, woman pleasing, piece of mountaineer manhood.
Well, now for the rest of the story. You can see from the photograph that they’s a little bit rough-looking, kinda beat-up. They was just coming back from bear hunting higher up in the hills when a big ole bear jumped ’em. Now this bear tweren’t no ordinary animal. Truthfully, he tweren’t animal atall. NosirreeBob. That bear was the legendary ‘gay bear’. Folks named him Big Ben. Yup, that’s right. Folks in the foothills of the Ozarks knew all about him but didn’t like to admit that anything in the state of Arkansas is gay. So it was kinda hush-hush if ya know what I mean. Anyway, after that ole bear got done with Bubba and Frick they just ain’t the same anymore. Bubba has taken up flower arranging and Frick is going to design school down in Lil Rock. Mountain rumor has it that Big Ben came down off the mountain after his winter hibernation, sniffed the air near where he cavorted with the boys, wiped a tear off his eye and went back into hibernation. Course y’all know how them mountain folk fancy making a mole hill into a song and a tragedy:
“Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With a friend to call my own I’ll never be alone
And you my friend will see you’ve got a friend in me”
Stay with me here, there’s more. Well, seems that Bubba’s become a big ole pussy cat with girly ways, some folks say he dresses in fish-net stockings and heels Friday nights when he goes down to the big city. We know fer fact that he posted on FB and Twitter for information about the mountain bear called Ben. Within days he’s had over a hunnert replies. Cop bears, army bears, daddy bears, cubby bears, twinkle bears and one old-fart prevert who e-mailed a picture of hisself naked as a jay bird holding a teddy bear over his privates. NosirreeBob, ain’t lying about this.
But, I digress. Before I left Bubba, Frick and my mountain family to come home to Florida, Granny was kindly enough to share her secret recipe with me. Trust me. When you eat this stew fresh from the ole iron kettle, you’ll think y’all died and went to heaven.
Start with 1 large onion chopped, 2 carrots chopped, 4 taters cut in cubes, 1 cup fresh peas, 2 tbsp. wild garlic chopped, 4 quarts fresh spring water, 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped, 2 large ham hocks, salt and pepper
Just throw everything in your kettle and bring to a boil. Cut the heat back to a simmer and cover the pot, let it simmer all them flavors together for ’bout 45 minutes. Now, here’s Granny’s secret ingredient. The night before y’all are fixin’ the stew drive around the back roads and find the freshest roadkill you come across. Don’t matter what it is, can be possum, aermadilla, coon, even cat if you get lucky. Bring it home, clean it up and chop into bite-size pieces. Throw it in with the kettle with your other ingredients and simmer another 45 minutes. Never, ever, overcook it. Serve with good ole biscuits and sweet tea. There y’all have it. Granny’s Secret Stew.
Well, that’s enough trashing around fer today. Stop by and visit. Got a pot of fresh stew on the stove. Got lucky last night. Just need to throw in some oregano. Mmmm-mmmmm good.