Ken Vickrey grew up hunting and fishing, then eating whatever he caught.
So, I guess it’s no surprise Vickrey, who hails from the small town of Houstonia in Pettis County, will be hosting a dinner featuring many of the items he learned to love as a kid.
There’s one big difference, though. As a child, Vickrey might have gone out rabbit hunting with his grandfather, shot some rabbits, then fried ‘em up for the family.
This Saturday, at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Vickrey and others will cook up more than a thousand pounds of food and serve more than 600 people.
It’s the 10th annual Wild Game and Exotic Food Supper, a benefit for the Eldorado United Methodist Church of Green Ridge, Mo. — a dinner that’s gotten so popular, they had to move it from the church to the fairgrounds.
“I started this 10 years ago to do something different for my church to try raise money,” Vickrey said. “This goes all the way back to my grandparents who used to cook this kind of stuff all the time. I was raised on squirrel, rabbit, coon, fish and other things we caught or shot. I was taught that if you shoot it or catch it, you better be able to cook it.”
So, what can you expect to find at Saturday’s fete? Well, a partial item list includes the following: Rocky Mountain oysters, pheasant, rabbit, frog legs, barbecue coon and possibly even rattlesnakes, though Vickrey isn’t optimistic about the rattlers as the cold weather has pushed back the rattlesnake season in Texas. Which begs the question, “There’s a rattlesnake season in Texas?”
Vickrey said there will be chicken for the faint of heart and plenty of “normal” foods from fried green tomatoes and baked beans to coleslaw and all sorts of homemade pies.
But, who cares about that? I wanted to know about the exotic stuff like Rocky Mountain oysters, which I’ve heard about, but don’t think I’ve ever tried. I feel sure I would remember if I had. They’re deep-fried testicles. I knew that. But from what, or should I say, which, animal?
“Some people like ‘em from hogs, but most of the time they come from bull calves,” Vickrey said. His knowledge and passion for the subject matter was obvious. There’s even Rocky Mountain oyster humor.
“Some folks like venison oysters. They’re really cheap ’cause they’re under a buck,” Vickrey said before pausing then laughing wildly. It took a while for this city boy to get the joke, but then it came clear — the venison Rocky Mountain oysters are under a buck. Oh, I get it now.
I asked Vickrey if there were any secrets to cooking rabbit, frog legs, barbecue raccoon .
“The only secret to preparing food like this comes from experience,” Vickrey said. “All the guys that help cook this are just like me. Maybe a little bit, or a lot, redneck, and not scared to try anything. We eat what we cook, so no nobody else should be scared to try it.”
As for the most exotic thing he personally has ingested, Vickrey says it’s probably rattlesnake. Heck I can beat that. I had bull’s penis ceviche in a market in Guadalajara, Mexico, at least rocky Mountain oysters are breaded and fried. This bull’s penis was raw. I think that should earn me a free admission in Saturday’s dinner, but then, there is no admission. The dinner’s free. Vickrey and the other organizers are counting on good faith donations.
After taking a leap of faith to eat some of the offerings, that shouldn’t be an issue.
“I’d like to make as much money for our small country church as possible. But, first, we want to do our thing as Christians and serve the people,” Vickrey staid. “That’s why we are asking for a free will donation.”
While in south Texas a couple weeks ago, he saw a wild game dinner benefit that was charging $100 per person.
“We’re having a bigger menu than they were having,” Vickrey said.
But, maybe not those Texas rattlesnakes. Maybe next year.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.