You’ve cooked and eaten some weird stuff on Dead Meat. Is it all good?
If you watch the show, you might notice that I don’t sit down and eat a heaping bowl of muskrat stew. Sometimes a bite or two is all I need to let the viewers know how it tastes, and it’s not all good. But food is subjective. One man’s hagfish is another man’s nutria.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten on the show?
Back to the hagfish. It’s a lamprey-like jawless, spineless fish that looks more like an eel than a fish and it puts out an ungodly amount of slime. Now, I know what you’re thinking…how much slime is an ungodly amount? I’m talking a bucket full. All it takes is a little agitation and they’ll immediately emit a load of this funky slime. When you get them onboard, they barf up a mess of slime, along with whatever bait, mostly fish guts, they’ve been feeding on. Can you believe they haven’t gotten popular in the U.S.? It’s a big deal in South Korea, where most of our hagfish is imported to. On the show, I try and get people who harvest whatever it is we’re chasing to do the cooking part. I asked a couple of Korean restaurants if they would show me how they prepare the hagfish. One place simply hung up on me, the other laughed…and then hung up. Whenever I can’t find a local to cook one of the odd creatures, I do the cooking. I turned the hagfish into something reminiscent of the unagi, or freshwater eel, you’d find in a sushi bar.
The latest season of Dead Meat took you to South America. Have you run out of critters in North America?
My friend, Kevin Phillips, whose family owns the Michael David Winery in Lodi, California has been to South America several times. Last year, he and his family lived most of the year in Uruguay. He mentioned that it might be a good fit for the Dead Meat show and, after figuring out whether it made sense budget-wise, I said, “Let’s go!.” Oh sure, it might have cost us a little more ( a lot more), but Kevin did all the logistics, which is normally my job, and he set up an incredible 32-day journey through Argentina and Uruguay.
Did you have a bucket list of targeted species or just wing it?
We did have specific species in mind and I think we got to all of them except two fish – surubi, which is a big catfish and wolffish, which can grow to 5 feet and are supposed to be fierce fighters.
Word on the street is that you hunted parakeets. Really?
Now I know I’m gonna get some grief for the parakeet hunts, but it was a blast. Part of the time we rode around in the back of a moving pickup and shot them as they flew over. I know what you’re thinking – is that legal? Not here, but it’s 100% OK in Uruguay. Parakeets are a huge problem. They are invasive, annoying and they have exploded in numbers, especially in areas with large eucalyptus forests. If you set a cleaned parakeet breast next to a dove breast, you can’t tell the difference and they taste like a dove, too. The other critter we hunted were vizcacha. They’re the largest member of the chinchilla family and they live in something that looks like a prairie dog town. It’s like South American Whack-A-Mole. You hunt them at night with spotlights. When they stick their heads out, you shoot them. If you don’t hit them in the head, they burrow back underground and get eaten by foxes and pumas. The biggest surprise is that they didn’t taste like other furry groundhog-looking animals. The meat was much lighter in color and flavor. More like rabbit. It was great!
Overall, how was the South American experience? Going back soon?
If we do something like that again, I’ll take more time. We weren’t in any place longer than a couple of days so there was a ton of ground travel with a boatload of gear. A few extra days of having the option to do nothing would have been nice. The people were great. Normally, the annoying people we meet on the road stand out more than the nice ones. I can’t think of anyone, other than a few Americans, who got on my nerves in Argentina or Uruguay. The economy in Argentina is bad. I mean, really bad and I would imagine that would have some effect on the people who live there. They seemed a little on-edge as compared to the people of Uruguay. Uruguay has about the same population as Wyoming. It’s farmland and a solid economy. The folks there seemed more at ease. Both countries off an incredible diversity of hunting and fishing opportunities. And the food and wine isn’t bad either.