A few years ago our august State Legislature, with nothing better to do to earn their per diem, passed a law allowing their constituents to collect and eat road kill.
Maybe they did it as a parliamentary prank, or to win a bar bet.
At any rate it’s now the law of the land: the Road-Kill Law (TCA 70-4-115) permits us to chow down on flattened fauna.
Ah, democracy at work.
The late-night comics naturally had a field day, portraying us as hungry hillbillies who go grocery shopping with a shovel and a bucket.
Personally I don’t care what a bunch of snobby city-slicker comedians think; they probably wouldn’t even eat a perfectly good fresh possum, much less one that had been asphalt-aged.
Outdoor writer and humorist Buck Peterson agrees, which is why he wrote “Road-Kill Cookbook,” a gourmet guide to highway cuisine.
Some of Buck’s favorite entrees include Pavement Possum, Windshield Wabbit, Hushed Puppies, Asphalt Armadillo, Gravel Goose and Highway Hash.
His book is chock-full of helpful hints for the roadside shopper who wants to collect himself a Michelin meal.
Buck is not particularly picky about what he picks up, but admits he tends to grade his road kill the same way he “chooses his women, based on size and age.”
Sometimes he doesn’t wait for another motorist to the work for him but goes “shopping” on his own. He prefers “a sturdy made-in-America car, one of those road cruisers with real big chrome bumpers and with lots of trunk space. Pickups are OK, except that they often sit too high off the ground for small-game purchases.”
Tires with studs make excellent meat tenderizers.
Buck avoids light-weight subcompacts that aren’t designed for contact with heavier grocery items such as deer, elk, bear and moose. (In Tennessee a highway-harvested bear must be phoned into the local game warden; other species don’t have to go through the checkout line.)
While heavy-duty vehicles are recommended when shopping for Big Game, for the smaller stuff – frogs and field mice and so on – Buck prefers bicycles, tricycles, wheelchairs and skateboards. A toad-treat can add zest to any meal.
Good places go road-kill shopping include sharp curves near wildlife refuges and anywhere there are “Deer Crossing” signs.
Armadillos are increasingly common in the state and slow afoot, resulting in bountiful opportunities for what we Tennesseans call “possum on the half-shell.”
And speaking of possums, Buck says it’s not true that they were born dead on the highway.
Ardent conservationist that he is, Buck doesn’t like to see any portion of the road-kill go to waste. He offers tips on how to prepare a pelt for fashionable head-wear: “Tie the hide on your head and let it dry, pre-formed.”
Back to armadillos: their shell makes a snazzy bike helmet.
Buck’s not big on trophy hunting, but admits that a majestic set of antlers mounted on the wall above the bumper from the Buick that bagged the buck enhances any den.
Buck has one final bit of advice for road-kill gourmets when they serve crushed-critter cuisine: never tell your dinner guests what they’re eating until they’re done. You don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Larry Woody can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.