Friday, July 25, 2008

Frog Legs, Turtle Soup and Fried Eels, Not to Mention Mudwumps

Oh man! Terry Thornton mentioned preparing eels to eat on his blog, and that reminded me of a story my Dad used to tell about his childhood.

Dad was raised in New Orleans, on Thomas Street. He and his brothers loved life in that city back in the 20's and 30's when they were growing up. They loved fishing too, a love Dad carried with him throughout his life. One day Dad told us this story (and if any of my sisters or brothers are reading, please chime in if I'm remembering wrong):

One of the things they sometimes caught while they were fishing was electric eels. I remember my Dad keeping us enthralled as he told us about how dangerous it could be to catch one--I mean, you could get electrocuted! At least, according to Dad you could. We were fascinated by the idea.

Dad said his mother didn't like eels, but during the Depression times were hard and food was scarce, so one time they caught eels and brought them home and his mother decided to cook them. (Dad did talk about how his mother prepared the eels, but I can't remember that part.)

What I do remember is him saying, "She cut up those eels and put them in the pan and they started moving, moving all around the pan! She had to keep the lid on the pan or those eels would have come right out."

Now to my young brain those words painted a vivid picture. Did the eels crawl out of the pan? or hop out? I pictured my grandmother wearing an apron and a grim determined look on her German face, holding the lid tightly onto a cast iron skillet while the eels pushed so hard against the lid she had a hard time keeping it on. I could see the eels on the dinner plates, still moving. I looked up electric eels in the encyclopedia, and my sister Judy and I talked about what it would feel like to be shocked by an eel.

Kids are like that. Give them a few words well said, and a kid can make up stories for days, and pictures to go with the words. Even now as an adult I feel the same thrill I felt as a kid when I hear the words electric eel.

Terry Thornton, I think, is still a kid in that way too, but a learned kid. My question about whether the eels really do move in the pan when cooked got Terry digging into books and other sources, and he came up with a fascinating post all about eels. That led to another post about another rather unusual item for the table, frog legs, and then of course that led to turtle, and on to mudwumps and mugwumps. I never thought there was an actual thing called a mugwump--live and learn.

So if you're curious about some down-home fare and intriguing facts, you really need to check out Terry's blog. These posts are not for the faint-hearted, but his solid research is as astounding as his subject matter. And he does write about a lot of other interesting stuff too, not just country cookin'.

Dinner, anyone?


Terry Thornton said...

Thanks Granny Sue. Kids do have more fun, don't they? LOL! I appreciate the mention and the link and the very kind words. Two additional wildgame cooks sent word to me that they believe eels move while cooking in the pan --- but I'm gonna have to see it to believe it. But you opened up a whole can of worms (more critters) with your question about eels. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I always thought mugwump was a political term where ones mug was on one side of the issue while their wump was on the other.


Granny Sue said...

Oh, that's good, Aaron! That's very good.

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