INK IN THE BLOOD
Most folks can make a pretty big deal out of “dining on quail.” Those who’d term it “dining” on quail might not like the Monk Edwards Home on the Range Recipe but as Monk would’ve said: “They ain’t got no culture.”
I’ve eaten Monk’s quail. He’s right.
First of all, let me tell you that Monk did not fry the quail. He and Dad killed almost all of ‘em, certainly cleaned and dressed all.
Mom cooked the quail. Monk did have a secret ingredient or two to boost Mom’s culinary expertise which, as you might expect, is second to none. Monk’s cooking capability was mere subsistence.
Now, you begin to understand and appreciate the great delineation of quality in this entire process.
Another factor you need to consider quickly in beginning to better discern all facets of this “tale” is that Monk was a bachelor, a carpenter-handyman, who lived alone most of his life.
His abode was a ramshackle house that Monk probably cleaned once or twice a year, for appearances, mind you. Not that it needed it or anything so likely. So, per Mother’s requirement, the quail cooking took place at our home and, I do believe, Monk took a bath in honor of the occasion.
His table manners ref lected both his great desire for such a delicacy, cooked so well, and for his best awareness in whose home, Miss Ruth’s (My Mom’s), he was eating.
I think he only burped twice (“Not bad manners, just good food!”).
The dining table was a sumptuous layout that would dramatically tempt the least ravenous of appetites.
Monk was our only guest and he joined, Dad, Mom, and Sons #1, #2 and #3. I’m #1, the eldest of what finally became a quartet of boys.
He was overwhelmed to be in a home, whose patriarch and matriarch he held in high regard. Of course, the three sons loved such a gathering, which incorporated both manhood and Mom’s great cooking so strongly in one event.
Most diners would expect a menu that would, of course, stress the “featured dish,” as Mom had with the quail.
But, as usual, there was a second meat offered. I don’t remember the “sides” for sure, but I know there were at least four, plus a couple of breads and two desserts.
It’s likely the desserts were chocolate cake and coconut pie. In a country home, the breads were almost certainly homemade yeast rolls and cornbread.
And, for pure cityslickers there was a stash of “light bread” in the pantry.
Peas—black-eyed, crowder or field—were a menu standard, as likely were turnip greens.
Often there was a corn dish: on the cob, or cut from it and bearing a sweeter flavor.
Sometimes, the peas were unshelled and Mom’s recipe contained something that brought a “to-die-for” flavor. Texas farm women of the Depression Era were pressed into cooking ingenuity with both the economic and supply limitations that period forced on them.
When “company” (guests) came to your home for a meal, we knew to expect the best our garden, fields and livestock could provide. Of course, it took a while for a family to build a “stock” of quail if you didn’t get it wholesale.
Most likely, a couple of hunters/ families pooled their resources and had one giant cook-off. It was a stroke of luck for Monk to be friends with someone like my family.
While he might provide a larger share of quail and of labor in preparation, Monk benefitted by Mother’s cooking capabilities and by our provision of other meal elements, not to mention facilities.
Such a spread was a huge treat for someone like Monk and, while he remained on his top behavior and maintained his manners, he obviously felt as all us country boys were wont to say—“like he’d died and gone to heaven.”