August 19, 2009

Vernon, Florida

I read the preprint of an article discussing the documentary Vernon, Florida. After reading that the town got the nickname "Nub City" because people in the town were lopping off their own limbs to collect insurance money, and that at one time more than fifty such cases were reported in a town of only 500 people, I knew the film would have some colorful characters.

So I invited Steve, my good docu-/mockumentary watching friend, over. And what menu goes with this film?, I asked myself. I could do turkey, because one of the main characters was a Zen Master of turkey hunting. Other possibilities? Ham perhaps? All my ideas seemed too conventional, and then it came to me.

Frog Legs

I had seen frog legs in the seafood case at the United Market Street stores. I had heard they tasted like chicken. If ever there was a perfect dish to accompany a film about "Nub City," surely frog legs was it. I went to Market Street on 98th & Quaker and searched without success for frog legs. I asked the girl behind the counter if they had any frog legs. With a half smirk, she said they were out, but I should try the other Market Street store, because "they sell weird stuff."

I went to the Market Street on 50th & Indiana and approached the seafood case. There were the frog legs at $5.99 a pound. I made eye contact with the woman behind the counter. "I would like one pound of frog legs, please." The face she made was classic. It was a perfect combination of surprise, horror, and disgust. "You don't get that request often?" I asked.

I bought my frog legs and went home. The meat was almost as inexpensive as chicken. I had a recipe ready, Sauteed Frog Legs with Tomato Garlic Butter. Unfortunately the recipe did not specify whether to sauté the meat bone-in or not, and since I had not cooked frog legs before, I wasn't sure what the norm was - if there is anything normal about eating frog legs.

Frog Legs

I set myself to the task of cutting the meat off the bones, and it took me awhile just to finish a pound of legs. It took me so long, in fact, that poor Steve had to go to work mashing potatoes. The meat cooked quickly. I added tomatoes, shallots, and substituted sherry for the white wine. I didn't measure it out, and I may have put too much in. Added a little chopped parsley and plated it up with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. I tried the first bite. The frog meat was a little rubbery, springy, you might say, if you're into bad jokes. It had a slightly fishy flavor as well.

Frog Legs

Suffices to say I wasn't the biggest fan of frog legs. What was even worse was that I tossed the bones and scraps of frog meat into the trash, but I didn't take out the trash for a couple of days. By that time, the stench was quite lethal. Scott said it could be used in chemical warfare.

For dessert, I made a Buttermilk Chess Pie, which sounded good and Southern to finish off the meal. I tried a recipe from the Good Book. I guess I undercooked the pie, but it was still especially awful. Perhaps it was bad kitchen karma on account of what I did to the frogs.

Buttermilk Chess Pie

As for the film, it was interesting, though not quite the freak show I hoped for. I had to turn on the captions to understand the speakers due to their thick accents. The panhandle of Florida is a lot like the Panhandle of Texas. I could envision any one of those characters sitting at the local Dairy Queen telling the same wild tales.


Steve said...

You make the meal sound like a disaster when it was actually quite the opposite.

Although, if you wanted to buy frog legs in Vernon, Florida, you would probably have to tell the person behind the counter that you want hopper legs.

Porter said...

This is a crime without comparison...

Auntie said...

Could've toad you not to bother with frog legs, but you took the leap.

Now you know why the Florida Panhandle earned the name "Redneck Riviera".