For whatever reason, I manage to find myself being taken on adventures on a semi-frequent basis, by people who love life, eat well, and want me around. I’m not going to start questioning it anytime soon. This most recent rendition included the Florida Everglades. The last time I was in Florida was when I was about 8, with my family. We went on a day trip to the Everglades and took one of those crazy airboat tours to see alligators, migratory birds, fig vines hugging huge oak trees, and mangrove trees with their fingerlike roots reaching into the still, green, brackish waters below. When I was little, we got to do all of that AND eat alligator fritters. I thought it was one of the most succulent creatures I had ever eaten. So, for the past 20-odd years, I have dreamed about one day eating alligator again.
Unfortunately I don’t frequent Southwest Florida, don’t have a snowbird grandparent to go visit, and generally try to avoid supporting the US economy. And then, I found myself positioned in the company of one very generous ladyfriend who needed a getaway, knew someone with a house to stay at down south, and whisked me away to the sunny Gulf Coast. She was dead set on paddling a canoe in the Everglades. Being pretty game myself, I agreed that it would be an excellent day trip. We managed to avoid being taken hostage on highway 41, rented a canoe, drew our paddles along the sleepy surface of Turner River, and paddled through the narrow and winding passage of the mangroves. We chilled out in the canoe mere feet away from many alligators. We saw a mommy alligator with two of her babies, we even got so close that I tapped one with my paddle, unknowingly. Alligators are very good at camouflaging themselves in the swamp. We were followed back up the river by a red-shouldered hawk, examined a colourfully painted turtle sunning itself on a log, and collected snail shells floating on the surface. After our foray into the wilds of the mangrove in a tippy canoe, nose-to-nose with sea monsters, we decided it was time to go in search for any alligator delicacy we could sink our teeth into. We arrived in Everglades City. It was a depressed little town, the main attraction being airboat touring companies along the water, but we managed to find a cafe with a table on the porch outside, and cold beer. A leathery and ancient old lady with very few teeth came to our table to take our order, I asked for the alligator fritters as advertised on the menu. “No alligator here.” “Oh, really? I had my heart set on it,” I said. “We ain’t got any cause they can’t sell the leather. You know it’s illegal to make anything with the hides, so nobody has any meat. I ain’t lying to ya’ honey, you can try the other places, they won’t have any either.” Disappointment set it. And so it went, because alligator hunters can’t do anything with the hides, they don’t bother hunting them. No fritters for us. Once again food politics trumps lunchtime satisfaction. I guess I can understand why. I’ll just have to go hunt me an alligator all by myself. You might expect a photo of a nice new leather purse in the next post… Just kidding.