Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beers and Balls in Oklahoma's Little Italy

Back in March, my sister and I were driving down some desolate highway in Southeastern Oklahoma on the way to McAlester, when we discovered a new twilight zone called Krebs. It seems that this tiny little town, with only a few of its original buildings still standing, (most of these weather-beaten and sagging) is actually Oklahoma's own Little Italy. We couldn't help but find this fascinating. Even more exciting, there was a new-looking brewery calling our name.

Having spent most of two weeks in Talihina visiting our father, who lives at the Veteran's Center, we were becoming overwhelmed by the smallness and foreignness of our surroundings. We decided to head to the McAlester Wal-Mart over an hour's drive away to stock up on supplies and looked at this errand as a sudden great adventure. After driving past ranches, down mountain roads and through ghost towns with a few tiny populated areas in between, a sudden brewery sighting in what still seemed like the middle of nowhere both delighted and confused us. We were so game.

As an added bonus, we noticed that the Choc Brewery (short for Choctaw) was part of Pete's Place Italian restaurant, which  claimed to be one of the oldest Italian establishments in Oklahoma's Italian mecca. Upon entering, we explained to the hostess that we might like a light snack and to sample a few of their beers. At this point we were escorted to a room which was about 8' X 8' with a round table and 4 chairs. The room may have had a small picture or two of somebody's nonna stirring the pot, but was mostly without any remarkable character other than the nearly audible atmosphere of our confoundment as the hostess handed us menus and closed the door.

Fortunately, my phone was finally sensing a nearness to civilization again and I summoned Yelp to explain to us what the hell was going on. On top of confirming that yes, the setup was strange, we were informed that this place was quite famous for its lamb frites. In fact, a review exclaimed that all of Krebs was well-known for it FRIED SHEEP TESTICLES! Amazing. So, when the waitress opened the door to take our order, beer and balls it was. Hey, when in Oklahoma's Little Italy, right?

The beer was surprisingly delicious. I had the Belgian OPA and Sis had a winter porter. The balls came sliced thin, fried and served with lemon wedges. They were actually pretty tender and tasty considering their point of origin. 

It was only later, upon recounting this story to our kinfolk back in Arkansas, that we learned our family once had a tradition of eating testicles back in their best farming days. In fact, these tender treats were apparently a delicacy every year when the male calves were snipped; the size of the feast depended on the size of your young herd. Better known as Rocky Mountain oysters, my Granny would batter and fry them up just like everything else and apparently a good time was had by all. I have often wondered why my mother decided to raise us vegetarian after she married my father. 

We have obviously been missing out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wild Cows and World Domination

Excepting their wild ancestors like the yak and the buffalo, there are indeed WILD COWS. As I am referring to the previously domesticated variety, we must call them "feral" cows, which suits the easily amused sector of my brain just fine. It allows me to picture these large creatures skittish and lumbering, darting around the back of a city night club just as I am leaving, causing me to recalculate my adult beverage intake. Tiny mooing sounds issue from behind the dumpster as I step into the dark alley to investigate. As I round the corner, I discover a mama cow nursing her litter of little black and white cowlets, watching me wearily for any false move. I speak to her in a soothing tone, but all of a sudden two bulls run out of the shadows, nearly trampling me as they rumble past me and into the night. They will soon join the cats, possums and raccoons in their nightly urban raids, appearing suddenly in headlights everywhere and coming soon to a dumpster near you. Maybe I didn't need that last drink. 

In reality, these feral herds are known to wander the countryside, far away from the farms on which they were born, reproducing in the wild and becoming generationally removed from their conservative bovine roots. Apparently the feral cows in Hawaii, have also mastered the art of becoming invisible:

In my search for information, I also discovered this little gem about a feral child raised by cows in Russia who could apparently only communicate by mooing when she was discovered. Unfortunately this is a case of child neglect, and not some Jungle Book story which substitutes cows for wolves and jovial bears, but I can only wonder if this little girl might help us to one day explore the surprisingly deep ruminations of the bovine brain; maybe these dumb-looking slow-moving creatures are Zen masters one step shy of Nirvana. Or maybe they're just alien spies.

I haven't read this book, but maybe they're onto something here.

There is of course, one other option to consider when wondering exactly what these free-roaming, cud-chewing, farm-fleeing, feral-child-friendly rebel bovines are up to. They are plotting to take over the world, and here is the proof: over 1000 cattle appear to have gone feral in the Fukushima radiation zone. Having finally reached a land liberated of factory farms, they may be organizing ranks while growing fangs and extra horns, consolidating their nuclear stockpiles and masticating on our ultimate undoing. Perhaps one day they will find you, sitting at an outdoor cafe, enjoying your organic, hormone-free, local and "humane" burger, throw a lasso around your neck as you are trying to swallow that last delicious, meaty bite, and relegate you to a job mining their endless sod flats on a diet of genetically engineered feed corn. 

Just in case, we'd all better pray to Buddha that if cows are not the stupid, peaceful creatures we assume them to be, then in the case of attempted bovine world domination, the aliens take pity on our simple human souls and beam their spies back home. 

 (Alien Abduction Lamp by Lasse Klein)

If you prefer some less imaginative and more practical information on feral cows, check out these links:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Brain on Special

My hippie mom raised me to be an independent thinker who questions everything. Because of this, I do my best (and strangest) thinking beyond the box. My friends tell me I'm special. I tell them my brain is simply free range. 

I'm going to let it graze here for a while. 

While we're out to pasture, I'll give you a little hint about my first exciting installation: feral cows. Stay tuned!