I love to cook. My first interest in cooking came from watching my mother cook our family meals. She is still (at 89 years old) one of the best cooks I’ve ever known. The ability to whip up a delicious meal quickly and efficiently, often without a written recipe, was fascinating to a young preteen who loved to devour the results. Growing up on a family farm where we grew or raised or hunted for our own food meant we were very close to our food sources. I learned very early how to process meat from chickens, ducks, and geese for either freezing or to bring fresh to the kitchen.
One of those rare times when both parents had gone to town and left me and my two younger brothers at home alone, I decided to try my hand at cooking for the first time. It was a very calm, cold midwinter day, unusual in western Oklahoma. Any native resident will swear the wind blows hard from one direction or the other, all but a few days per year. I fetched my father’s .22 rifle from the closet and snuck out the back door as I heard crows calling in the front yard. As I carefully rounded the corner of the house, I spotted a crow about 50 feet away and shot it before it saw the gun and could escape. Anyone who grows up in the country where I did know two things. You can’t sneak up on crows, and they can spot a rifle a mile away, so easily avoid being shot. This crow could only have been one that was old and past its prime.
After dashing out and gathering my kill, I proceeded to clean it. Instead of scalding the bird to release the feathers, I plucked it dry. I brought it into the kitchen, where I put it in a pot, filled it 3/4 full of water, and placed it on top of our Warm Morning stove to cook slowly.
The Warm Morning brand was a poor farmer’s version of central home heating, a tall, brick-lined wood stove that would hold several fat logs twelve inches long. It was our only source of home heat in the winter, used to warm bath water, and could provide a long, slow cooking method when needed.
Any tough cut of meat requires a slow method, so I reasoned that this might be wise in the case of the crow. Unfortunately, I neglected to put any salt or other seasonings in the pot. My biggest mistake was trying to cook a crow in the first place. Well, the inevitable happened. My parents arrived home. My mother, after her initial shock, told me to “Get that nasty thing out of the house!”. I was a stubborn child and insisted I was going to eat my crow. She finally relented, and I took my first bite. It was beyond awful. I took bread, sandwich spread, and whatever veggies I could find to the table and made a sandwich. Bite after bite, I struggled through, trying to chew that stringy old bird until I had eaten the whole thing. As horrible as it was, it only made me more determined to be a good cook. To this day, I have never prepared any meal worse than that. I have to say that I have eaten crow figuratively a few times in life, but I am the only person I know that has literally eaten a real crow!