I had the good fortune of exchanging ideas with an old friend from Okeechobee today. I had sent him an article about the Indian snake charmers brought to Florida to hunt pythons. This, of course, led to a python discussion. I found out that he skinned the 17+ foot legendary snake killed at a local veterinarian’s office years back. He told me the skin was preserved to grace the wall of the new veterinary office. He also vividly recalled the snake’s girth. It was 27 inches. I wore size 26 Levi’s my senior year in high school. I had to fight back the thought of pythons wearing Levi’s or worse yet, crawling out of a pair as I reached for them.
Most good conversations with good friends turn into the equivalent of an Aristotelian tug of war after the first premise is offered up. This is what keeps conversations going for hours, days, or even lifetimes. I tried to guess the number of boots, wallets, hat bands, and belts that could have been made from a 17 ½ foot python. He didn’t venture a guess but did raise another important talking point that trumped everything else.
“I tried to save some of the meat. It looked good, pure white, like a nice fish fillet. I didn’t though because a lot of sand got on it.”
I know, and I know that he knows sand on a piece of wild game should be the least of a chef’s worries. There are much more disagreeable contaminants that don’t wash off and will absolutely ruin meat. I don’t think he could stomach the idea of eating a snake, especially one big enough to dine on humans, which of course leads to one more premise. If you eat a snake that eats people, does that make you a cannibal by proxy? He could have said that the gall bladder was nicked and bile got all over the meat. That would instantly end any possibility of dining on fillet of python. It would have ended the conversation at that point. Snake bile sounds disgusting to me but in some Asian cuisines it is considered a delicacy. Yep, a fresh cobra killed at table side, a shot glass full of yummy cobra blood with fresh cobra bile topped off with the still beating heart. Cobra juice happy hour. The idea is that it naturally restores some aspects of maleness. Even seeing this event at the table next to me would remove any thoughts of romance from my mind for days to come. It sounds more to me like a great new male contraceptive.
In a beautiful expression of irony in its purest form, the meat from the 17 ½ foot python went to feed Florida Panthers housed in an animal rehab.
My friend is an excellent chef and after I thought about it I trusted his take on the snake meat. He is a meticulous chef known all over south central Florida as well as up and down the beach from Sebastian to Stuart for preparing excellent meals for a lot of people. Enough said, he wouldn’t cook anything for anybody if the raw ingredient had sand on it. It does make you think though, which is exactly what I did.
Imagine someone that considers most things a prey item (me) that likes to cook and try new things. Suppose I could garner a chunk of fresh python meat without undue risk to life or limb. Suppose that it is a beautiful chunk of pristine meat indistinguishable from a red snapper fillet. What then? Write a fictional whodunit about a renegade chef serving guests at an expensive Miami Beach restaurant exorbitantly priced slabs of garlic and butter infused pan seared python that is called something else?
“Oui madam, the chef’s signature dish tonight is sans épaules harvested in a sustainable manner just west of here in our own Everglades.” Sold.
I had the python conversation stuck in my head. I came home and pondered the idea of eating snakes. I was stuck by the notion of the human consumption of another invasive species. Lionfish…there is an all-out war going on between sportsmen and lionfish. Communities, marinas, captains, chefs and sports men and women have all formed a united front to kill and eat as many of these predators as possible. Maybe it’s time to put the python on the menu, next to the lion fish. Admittedly, python ceviche doesn’t sound as palatable as a ceviche made of fish but when considered in the greater context of palatable high quality protein it may just work. Pythons, the lion fish of the Everglades. Turn air-boaters, hunters, fishermen, guides, half trackers on to the idea of eating pythons and the crisis would be over in a week. Create a market for the product and it’s a marriage made in heaven.
Looking forward I did an internet search for python recipes. I didn’t think I was the first person to do this but I certainly didn’t expect the 5 million Google hits that were returned. I will try python someday provided I can secure a hunk of it without risking my life. I abandoned the eat or be eaten credo years ago, I’ll leave that that to the youthful exuberance of the hunters and chefs that are more handsome and dashing. I will entertain any offers of someone that wants to get rid of a python steak. Eat or be eaten. It remains a good credo in the kitchen as well as in life.
Here are a couple of links to some of the more entertaining recipes I found,