Alvin Richardson, columnist
I’m pretty sure that many of you think most of the stories in this space are, for lack of a better phrase, plain old whoppers, but I swear to you that today’s saga is one that is completely, utterly, and mostly true.
I actually never knew writing could have so many rewards but we knocked them dead this past week. The loyal readers of this column went berserk over the possibility of getting a hold of Uncle Bennie’s famous Brunswick stew recipe resulting in a melee of epic proportions. If you missed last week’s column the upshot of it was simply that my brother and uncle had gone to South Georgia on a trip and found some Brunswick stew that was highly inedible. The story then went on to describe my Uncle Bennie’s delightful recipe for that same dish and that his recipe for said stew was a well-kept, closely-guarded secret. I then went on to post a fictitious and tongue-in-cheek phone number on how one could get in touch with Bennie to get the formula for making it.
Apparently I didn’t have my tongue in my cheek far enough.
A couple of days after the column was published I got a phone call from a nice lady in Minnesota and she rudely asked me (in that peculiar way that Northerners talk) what in the Sam Hill did I think I was doing putting their phone number in the paper as a purveyor of Brunswick stew. Dumbstruck, I didn’t put it all together at that red-hot moment and so she gave me some specifics concerning her complaint. “We’ve been getting a ton of calls from Georgia and they have been asking some weird questions. You see we are a national repair center and are not accustomed to calls that ask these types of things.” I asked her what kind of queries had they been receiving and she said that two major topics had arisen from the calls. “They keep asking us if Uncle Bennie is in and if we are authorized to give out his special recipe for Brunswick stew for one thing. The other major request is how to go about cleaning a snapping turtle for use in the stew.”
As you can imagine I got a pretty good charge out of that conversation as I envisioned the repair center operator answering the phone faced with one of those questions. “Is Uncle Bennie in – I’m trying to get his recipe for Brunswick stew?” (Stunned silence ensues). “Can you tell me how to clean a snapping turtle? (More silence as the operator reflects on how best to answer).
I’m fairly certain the callers didn’t get the information they requested so let me help out a little here. No you can’t get the recipe. I told you last week that it is locked away in a secret tomb. As for the turtle cleaning I can give some pointers there. There are a few specific requirements to cleaning a live loggerhead turtle. You will need an extremely sharp knife, the skill of a surgeon, the agility of a gymnast, and the guts of a burglar to accomplish it. Loggerheads are notoriously large, mean, tough, and have powerful jaws and teeth. They will bite your finger or any other close appendages completely off in one lightning quick snap if you lack any of the aforementioned tools. My advice is that unless you are prepared to put yourself in harm’s way I’d just try to make the stew minus turtle meat. If you are still set on trying to clean a snapping turtle we’ve put together a very helpful instructional video for viewing on You Tube. Be warned that some scenes of that video may not be suitable for the squeamish. Prior to this sequence of events I just didn’t realize how much folks were craving Brunswick stew and the lengths to which they would go to find the best stew in the land.
As for the company in Minnesota the calls just kept coming in and we ultimately had to unplug the hotline number so they could get back to their repairing business. In the aftermath of this onslaught Uncle Bennie has decided to open up a chain of restaurants the name of which will be Bennie’s Blissful Brunswick Stew House and Emporium. Security on the recipe has been doubled but pamphlets on how to clean loggerheads (complete with pictures) will be given out to the first one thousand customers who come through the door. As for the group in Minnesota I’ve inquired to find out if there was something I could do to compensate them for the trouble caused by the unauthorized release of their phone number to a bunch of crazed Georgia stew-eaters. Perhaps I could send them some stew samples. They declined and laughingly stated that in their part of the world Brunswick stew is primarily made up of herbs, spices, ice water and caribou meat. I can see now Uncle Bennie isn’t going to have much competition.