Magical Vittles - GA

by William Hedgepeth

georgia_capitol_building.jpg The revolutionary notion first took shape at – and as a result of – the Wild Hog Supper, an annual tradition held each January at the cavernous Georgia Freight Depot, virtually in the shadow of the Gold Dome of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, to celebrate the onset of the first session of the Georgia General Assembly, otherwise jokingly referred to as our Legislature.

The solons who convened here in this lively atmosphere – immediately prior to Super Tuesday – were uniformly filled with the full flush of convivial spirits: feed-and-seed dealers, clientless rural lawyers, insurance salesmen, chiropractors, "consultants," auto mechanics and lay preachers. And then, of course, there is the governor, Sonny Perdue, a veterinarian.

A development of recent years has seen not only the election of the state's first Republican governor since the late 19th Century but the drift of Georgia government in general from Democratic to Republican to even more Republican to reactionary and finally now to positively aboriginal. And along with this has come the adoption of cultural beliefs that, while perhaps a bit primitive, are nevertheless compelling.

"We eat the wild, or feral, hog on this occasion, "says House Speaker Glen Richardson (R-Hiram), "because we believe it imbues us with the finer qualities of the hog, such as ferocity, wiliness, bravery and conservative cunning."

"How about intelligence?" asked a reporter. "Hogs are said to be quite intelligent."

"Well, that's not what's important here," the Speaker shrugged."

The belief that one can take on the attributes of an animal by eating it has always lurked beneath the surface of the Southern consciousness. As the old saying goes, "You are what you eat." Or, as those of the cannibal persuasion put it, "We eat what we are."

A lobbyist here at the Wild Hog Supper recalled Rep. Seth Swint (R-Athens) who, on a dare, ate an elegantly prepared dish of Kangaroo liver and thereafter habitually went around putting valuable items into his pouch, until he was eventually arrested. Then, too, there was the brief fad of consuming powdered Rhino Horn, which turned out to be totally ineffective as an aphrodisiac but simply induced its users to charge Land Rovers.

As the evening wore on, amid all the usual hobnobbing, backslapping and palm-greasing, the legislators, lobbyists and assorted state government functionaries did indeed, with each fresh plate of pork, appear to grunt, jostle and snort with increasing frequency. And naturally their minds turned to those upcoming items of good governance that ranked highest on their priority list.

georgia-for-life-logo.jpg Chief among these – and indeed the first bill to be proposed in the House – was a measure to outlaw safe abortions. This measure, House Resolution 536, would impact all hormonal methods of birth control, including pills, the patch, the Nuva-Ring, injections like Depo-Provera and all currently available IUDs. It aspires to prevent the use of most forms of assisted reproductive technologies and casts a shadow on the reporting of miscarriages.

Most significantly, HR 536 defines "personhood" in the state of Georgia as starting at the instant of fertilization and continuing to natural death.

Everyone was quite enthused over the prospects for this measure, and, in fact, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee would be coming to Georgia the week before Super Tuesday to offer his evangelical imprimatur by holding a rally on the steps of the State Capitol in support of this legislation that could prevent public health facilities in Georgia from providing the contraceptives that 95 percent of women use at some point in their lives.

As Sen. Gnorville Gall (R-Bombsaway) exulted over his pork plate, "There are eight states with higher teen birth rates and seven states with higher infant mortality rates than Georgia. I don't see why we can't be Number One!"

Elsewhere in this large facility could be found kiosks and side rooms offering other delightful Southern comestibles for those with either rarefied or very rural tastes: your Possum Au Jou, your Raccoons Rockefeller avec Collards, and many of the usual squirrel dishes.

crittercuisine.jpg Most prominently, though, was a festive multi-table setting featuring some of the offerings from the classic Southern culinary book, Critter Cuisine by Al and Mary Ann Clayton. And it was here that some of the most ardent legislators arrayed themselves around, and eagerly gorged upon, the Armadillo selections. And this is where the problems began.

One does not normally look hungrily upon the common Armadillo, and yet, prepared as they were here, the heavily armored creatures are hard to resist. All the more so since the mind-expanding, some might say hallucinatory or psychedelic quality of the meat provides its own momentum.

Take for instance the Armadillo Asado Ahumar. As described in the book: "The armadillo roast is first parboiled, then stuffed with refried beans, jalapeno peppers and papaya. Finally, it is smoked over mesquite coals. Just before it is done, add the cactus leaves to the cooker. Serve on a festive platter with strawberries and fresh-cut papayas and chayotes. These give a clear, crisp, slightly sweet taste that contrasts with the heavy smoky flavor of the meat and cacti."

Next to this we find the dish advertised as Dilly Dip: several armadillos, lying face up on platters ringed with colorful fruits and abundant tortilla chips. According to the directions, "With a melon baller or a grapefruit spoon, scoop out the interior of a small- to medium-sized armadillo. Make your favorite cactus dip, being sure to use as many jalapenos as you dare. Mound this mixture into the prepared armadillo. The meat can be reserved for the Dilly Quesadillas."

armadillo-01.jpg Well, with these and other armadillo delicacies in abundance, the legislators just literally went crazy. And no wonder. The armadillo him (or her) self is almost as crazy as a creature can be. Everyone knows this. I remember as a child riding down a highway with my father who declared, with great solemnity, as we passed several squashed armadillos in the middle of the road, "Shun the armadillo, my son, for that way lies madness."

And no less an authority than Abraham Lincoln – or perhaps it was Mohandas Gandhi – said: "He who eats the armadillo takes a fool into his mouth."

Before long, these armadillo-eating lawgivers, their eyeballs spinning like pinwheels, began discussing HR 536, but with a brilliant new idea for an amendment. The Fetus Franchise Bill, they would call it.

Under this amendment, every embryo, fetus or otherwise unborn child would be granted not merely "personhood" but the full right of every citizen to vote and petition for grievances. Who could possibly object to this?

The basic notion is that any woman appearing at a polling place would be obliged to declare, on pain of prosecution, if she was, or could possibly be, pregnant. Thus, she would be casting not only her own vote but also that of her potential offspring. And since said offspring would naturally have a vested interest in its own life, and since the only "pro-life" party is the Republicans, each unborn child's vote would be counted in the Republican tally.

Well, word of this Fetus Franchise Amendment quickly swept over the entire Wild Hog Supper assemblage with the force of a tsunami, and is currently predicted to be a sure-fire item on top of the pile of similarly brilliant laws on Gov. Sonny's desk.

On top of this, Gov. Mike Huckabee has since reported receiving and enjoying a box of tasty Armadillo-and-Chocolate Chip cookies and is quietly passing word among his evangelical followers in Georgia that a vote for him on Super Tuesday may eventually give the Fetus Franchise Amendment the force of national law.

As Rep. Cletus Rodgers, an elderly black Democratic legislator from Atlanta reportedly sighed, while shaking his head, "Them armadillos will do it to you every time!"


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