My explorations into Namibian cuisine have taken another step. You may not want to hear about it, but hey, if you read my oryx brain story, this one should go down easy. Ready?
Jay and I ate deep-fried zebra snake.
It went like this:
Our chickens were in a major brooding mood. A few of them were just desperate to sit on some eggs, and we wanted more chickens, so we let them. The first hen hatched 13 eggs, and with that we doubled our chicken herd.
The second clutch was a bit of an accident. The hen hid her eggs in tall grass and before we knew it, she disappeared to sit on them. In time, we found her and her eggs, and with a bit more time, 10 chicks hatched.
Back in the coop, we could hardly keep the hens from sitting so we let one more have a chance. Eventually, 8 more chicks were born.
Doing the maths, we now had 31 baby chickens running around.
No matter where in the world they were, these helpless balls of meat would attract predators. I knew better than to expect them all to survive to adulthood, but nevertheless, when they began to disappear, it was depressing.
The original thirteen stayed strong. Either their mom was tough and kicked some ass whenever something tried to grab one, or they just got lucky. The second batch of ten, though, had a newbie, slightly air-headed, mom, and within a week, they were whittled down to five.
Then, the third batch began to dwindle – one or two at a time, every few days. We had a repeat offender on our hands; a nocturnal snake who knew he’d found the jackpot.
When a python took one of the thirteen, who were now pretty big, he was too fat to escape. So we hauled him out the next morning and transported him far from the house. But the chicks kept disappearing.
One morning, I found another of the thirteen unable to walk. His leg had a clear snake bite on it, and he died soon after. Now we knew we had a venomous snake – that ruled out another python. And mambas being day snakes left only one other suspect: the zebra snake.
Zebra snake. Photo courtesy projectnoah.org
We began fortifying our coops. Normally, we use just one, but with all these new animals, we were using two old, non-snake-proof ones. We fixed holes, cemented around the bases, put up extra mesh fencing, and rested better once they were done, thinking the chickens were safe.
Yet the next morning, two more of the oldest chicks were dead but not eaten, a third paralyzed, and one of the younger chicks gone and another half-eaten and then regurgitated. It was frustrating enough having my chickens become snake food, but to have them killed and not be anyone’s food was even worse.
I declared war.
My grand plan of attack, as told to Jay: hang bells around the coop wherever a snake might enter and then sleep outside. “Whenever a bell rings”, I told him, “I’m going out there, and I’m taking the shotgun.”
Jay assured me this wasn’t necessary (kindly brushing aside the fact that we own approximately two bells, one being strapped to a goat’s neck, and I have only a slim idea of how to work the shotgun which is a bit overkill, anyway). His much more realistic plan: attach a spotlight to a car battery and set it near the coop. We then set the alarm for 3 a.m. and go out there, well-lit, in search of a snake.
Right on schedule, the snake turned up the second night. And we didn’t even have to set the alarm, he was in the coop before we went to bed. Jay took the appropriate-sized rifle, I held the light, and a minute later we had a dead, meter-long zebra snake.
Doing my maths again, this one snake had killed 14 chicks. To ensure that they didn’t die in vain, in my mind, there was only one thing to do: we had to eat the snake.
Our farm staff was as clueless as we were about how to prepare a snake, not to mention completely revolted by the whole idea. So, we briefly consulted the internet, then grabbed a knife and chopped off its head.
The head contains the venom, so headless venomous snakes are safe to eat. The next task was to remove the skin. First, we cut the bits holding it to the muscle,
and after that, the skin peeled right off.
Then, out came the guts,
that contained the last of the last baby chicken,
and just like that we had innards to toss, meat to eat, and a skin to . . . do something with.
In the kitchen, the meat was chopped up,
and fried up.
Most people say that snake meat, ironically, tastes like chicken. Not being a big meat eater myself, that’s the best comparison I have for you. Jay constructively noted that it tasted like snake. In any case, there was about as much meat as there was bone, making for a tedious meal. I’m certainly interested in trying other, fatter species, though.
So, ye legless varmints beware, there be snake eaters on this here farm.