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.

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