On Labor Day I spent some time with my friend Mike Pitzen and his family – Krista and Holt – here in Houston. We smoked some briskets and grilled some corn and a skirt steak I had marinated overnight. I made a Bloody Mary or two and we sat outside by the wood and charcoal and talked about food and cooking and family. I had seen a squirrel in the backyard, and suggested that we could use Holt’s toy bow and arrow to shoot it, after which we could grill it. (Holt is a 7-year-old vegetarian, having decided to pursue that route after viewing Charlotte’s Web.) The precocious young man promptly relieved me of the weapon and took it inside.
My plan, however, had aroused a memory from Mike’s culinary past, of a dish his mother cooked whenever a number of rabbits and squirrel had been shot at their Wisconsin home. Mike would skin and gut them, and his mother would portion the animals and brine them overnight in a solution of buttermilk and salt and pepper. The next day she’d cook them in oil or lard in one of her many cast-iron skillets (many of which Mike has today), adding yellow onion slices and apple pieces near the end of the process. A lid would then be placed on the skillet and the steam and heat would turn the meat and the fruit and vegetables into a savory dinner.
Holt had by then returned to our company, fresh from hiding his bow and arrow, so we finished our cooking recollection and turned to politics. That conversation was much less appetizing, and it nourished us not at all.