What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten? Bigwater and Ramsey talk about different routines, recent discoveries and newly developed habits since the world stopped spinning as usual. Then end up sinking their teeth into food – at home and abroad. And then there’s the case of mistaken identity.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host, Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Ramsey Russell, Get Ducks, live on the phone with BigWater. How are you doing, Mark?
Mark: Ramsey, it’s a beautiful evening out. Perfect temperature. Just awesome outside. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: I’m doing good. Look, let’s get this out of the way. Since our last podcast a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been asked several times on social media, and text messaged and everything else— Does BigWater got the cooties? Do you got COVID-19?
Mark: I’ve got a lot of things, but I don’t have COVID-19, Ramsey. Not yet, anyway.
Ramsey Russell: Now, I’ve known you a long time, Mark, so don’t be offended by this, but this ain’t like some episode out of The Walking Dead, you ain’t just trying to trick me into coming over to your house, are you? You ain’t some apocalyptic zombie just telling me you ain’t got it so that I come over there and get eaten or something, huh?
Mark: No, I’m good. I’m 23 days out of work, now.
Ramsey Russell: Ain’t we all.
Mark: I’ve lost about 12 pounds over the 23 days.
Ramsey Russell: Golly.
Mark: Yeah. Maybe this COVID-19 might be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Eating, Walking, Cleaning…Anything to Stay Busy: Adjusting to the Covid-19 World
“You’ve got to find that silver lining, right?”
Ramsey Russell: Here’s what I still have to remind myself of. I was talking to some guys in Australia the other night. As we were waiting on the meeting time—and I was getting texts from them and whatnot, setting up—I just had in my mind that here I was at home, but they were like at the office talking and getting ready for this meeting. It’s taken me a while to really remind myself and get my mind wrapped around that every human in the world that I know, for the last twenty-something days, has been sheltered in place. There’s a stick in the spoke. The world ain’t spinning. There’s a lot of stuff people aren’t doing that they would be doing, like work. And there’s a lot of stuff that people are doing, or have done, that they wouldn’t be doing if they were just working all the time. You’ve got to find that silver lining, right?
Mark: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
Ramsey Russell: Have you taken up any good or bad habits?
Mark: Well, right now, it consists of this morning walk. I’m drinking a lot more coffee than normal. I don’t know what the side effects of that are. We’ll have to ask a doctor about that. Sucking down some coffee in the morning times. But I get out and get me in about a three mile walk in the morning and a three mile walk in the afternoon. That’s kind of what my focus is on each day besides the regular things that you’re doing: having to prepare what you’re going to cook at night and what we’re going to do, what needs to be done around the house today, in the yard, and all that jazz. But, mainly, the two things that I’m going to make sure that get done are that morning walk and that evening walk. I’d like to run, but I haven’t got that far yet.
Ramsey Russell: I got about a thirty year old mountain bike.
Mark: Yeah, you’re a cyclist, that’s right.
Ramsey Russell: Well, Lance Armstrong is a cyclist. I just get out and put on my headphones and putter around through the hills and break a sweat. But, man, I like it because it’s kind of like being a kid. I get off in my head. I listen to a podcast, or I start thinking, and I’m peddling. I’m going through the motions. I like it. It’s good to be outside after being cooped up in here. I do that not just during this, but now it’s like real important. Two things. I do that, and I don’t have to watch TV all day long, but, Lord help me, I want to see the White House briefing. I’m hooked on it. I go see what they’re talking about. Really—I’m not going to lie to you, man, we all know what’s what, now—I want to see Trump deal with those reporters. Who in their right mind—? You somehow make the cut, you get a seat in the White House briefing room, the president of the United States gives a delivery— What fool is going to raise their hand and ask him about pardoning Tiger King?
Mark: Yeah. It’s probably going to come from the Democratic side of things.
Ramsey Russell: Some side of things.
Mark: Yeah. The Left side. Besides, they ain’t going to be listening to this podcast, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Probably not. Okay. Here’s a question. I’ve got a question for you. This is a fun icebreaker. In addition to riding my bike and watching White House, of course, we’re working. We’re doing this, we’re doing that. I’ve also taken the time— Because, initially, it was a little unsettling that the world stopped spinning. What do you do? Well, you aren’t running all over the world. You aren’t doing a lot of stuff we normally do. So you go walking, you go biking, you cook dinner, and you do stuff. I’ve been rummaging through the boneyard, man. I’ve been calling folks. I’ll be sitting around thinking, “Man, I haven’t talked to old so-and-so in five years.” And I’ve been getting text messages. I got a text message from a fellow MS ducker last night. We figured out that it was 2007 when we last saw each other, and we went to a John Prine concert. Out of the blue—because John Prine passed—he sent me a text. We sat there and chatted for a while. It was great to catch up.
Mark: Who was it?
Ramsey Russell: Greg Jericho.
Mark: Oh, wow. I thought about that dude a month ago and wondered where he was. He’s still around, right?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Yeah, he’s still around.
Mark: It’s been about five years since I’ve seen the doctor.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. It’s just dadgum, man. I’m trying to find those silver linings.
Mark: He’s a Get Ducks alumni as well, correct? He’s been on a Get Ducks hunt somewhere.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, he has. He and I and Chan and several others went down to Uruguay. That was 2007. I think we quit doing Uruguay duck hunts— Well, we pilled around with it as long as ‘10 or ‘11, but it ain’t Argentina. Save your money and go to Argentina. Well, duck hunting is actually illegal in Uruguay now. They’ve closed it down. Not for any biological reason, just because they got a bunch of money, got rich, and got idealistic and decided they didn’t want duck hunting anymore. That’s my take on it. But, anyway, the hunting wasn’t ever what Argentina can be, anyway.
Mark: There were some good pictures y’all posted, though.
Ramsey Russell: Yep. Hey, tell me this. We’re, I don’t know, five hundred days in dog years into quarantine. If you and your wife could go eat dinner tomorrow night anywhere you wanted to, where would you go?
Mark: Tomorrow night, anywhere?
Ramsey Russell: Everything is open. Where would you go?
Mark: I’m not a very fancy guy. I’m a steak and potatoes type guy, so I’m going to jump on somewhere like Koestler Prime. Somewhere that’s got the best steak in town, whether it be Shapley’s— One of those two, for sure.
Ramsey Russell: A big steak.
Mark: Oh, yeah. That’s me. Everything else is secondary, right?
Ramsey Russell: We decided we would go somewhere like Sal and Mookie’s and get the biggest, thickest, meatiest, greasiest, cheesiest pizza they make. Just a big old pan. Yeah, they’ve got good pizza.
Mark: I’ll have to check that out. I’m a pizza guy, too.
Seeing the Silver Lining
“It just dawned on me that I was kind of getting burned out, and now I’m not.”
Ramsey Russell: Oh, if you’ve never been there, that’s good stuff. Otherwise, one of the silver linings with all that’s going on right now is time. Funny thing. Anita and I said, “What else are we going to do? We already cleaned out our closet, cleaned our guns, did this, did that.” My house is as clean as the hospital ward, right now. We started going through stuff. Because for the last ten years, she’s not only the brains of Get Ducks—the real important stuff, the smart stuff—she’s a mama. I’m always gone or doing this, doing that, building a web page or talking on the phone, whatever we do. We decided, “Let’s just start sorting through our tool sheds, so to speak. Get everything arranged, get everything clean.” It’s like if you’re out there gardening, man. You just come back in and throw all your tools and everything in the work shed. Let’s just get it straight and sorted and organized. It almost feels good. There’s stuff that I haven’t seen in ten years that we found. She picked up a stack of papers the other day. I don’t know where she found them. Somewhere in the office. She said, “Do you need any of this?” I started going through it, and there were four unopened band certificates from 2008.
Mark: Good gracious. What a find. You’re kidding me.
Ramsey Russell: She starts going through magazines. Now, I guess that was back in the day when I would actually ask for a band certificate. I don’t ask for band certificates anymore. Then she found them. It’s kind of cool going through history. Like American Pickers digging through a barn or something. She was going through these magazines, and she’d say, “Look through this one, look through this one,” or whatever. It was in 2008. It was the first print magazine ad we ever let. Completely homemade. Kind of put together. But, man, we were proud of it. I was proud to see it again. I hadn’t seen that thing in a long time.
Mark: What publication did you put it in?
Ramsey Russell: I believe it was Shooting Sportsman. A single ad in Shooting Sportsman. “Limitless,” that was the word. “Limitless.” That was our hook, “limitless,” meaning opportunities, but in the context of Argentina. That was it. Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, throughout the US. That was us back in 2008.
Mark: We’ve got a little richer portfolio, now.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve come a few places since then, but it’s just getting things sorted. Mark, I’ll tell you, one of the biggest realizations I had is: had the world not stopped spinning completely, I probably wouldn’t have quit moving long enough to— Let me put it to you this way. It just dawned on me that I was kind of getting burned out, and now I’m not. Now, I’m rested. Even if I want to go somewhere, I can’t. I’m kind of enjoying some things. I’m kind of enjoying this—hopefully, very momentary—down time to be productive, get my tool shed sorted, get some stuff cleaned up, get some stuff organized, get some stuff caught up, get ready for the next stretch, and get ready to floor it.
Mark: Ramsey, this week I’ve actually felt better about things. I’ve seen some positive things as far as some downward trends in the virus. Like in our home state here. I saw where we were. Based on projections, we are not going to get anywhere near, in Mississippi—supposedly, now, hopefully, this stays—the number of beds needed. I started reading some other stuff, some positive things going on. So my question—and I know some people listening to this podcast might want to know—is: is your crystal ball still too cloudy to see what’s going to be on, on the hunting side of things, six months from now? Where do you see us?
Hunters Around the World & the Pandemic
It’s just like, “Wow. This is so weird that the whole world is like this.”
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I think it’s a little cloudy. I think we’ll know what’s what in July. I’m prepared. We’re prepared. We’ve made our contingency plans to defer all of our hunts—May, June, July, August—to next year. Two or three interesting observations in my world. I’m just talking about my world. It’s too soon for me to know 100%. I know this: I know a lot of people want to go. That, to me, is very encouraging. Right before we got on the phone, I was on the phone with a guy talking about king eider hunts. This morning, answering emails about king eider hunt. Now, it’s April. It’s a real kind of slow month for us, but it really hasn’t been abnormally slow. The month of April has not been abnormal. It’s been a pretty normal April for us. A lot of my clients that are scheduled to go, say, mid-June through August— As far as I can tell, they’re planning on going. They want to go. And some of the guys going in May that probably aren’t going to go? They want to go later this summer if it’s opened up. They’re dying to go. What did I hear the other day? One of the states, maybe Nebraska, is watching closely. Depending on what the status of this pandemic is on July 1st, they’ll decide what they’re going to do with the fall seasons. From what I’m seeing, trying to read between the lines, somewhere between these exacerbated numbers that the media is talking about and the Trump administration’s wanting to get folks back to work— Trump wants to see businesses do business, and I do too. Don’t we all? I don’t see it. Two weeks ago, I didn’t know. But, now, I don’t see it. How quick is it going to be before other countries open their borders? How long is it going to take for airlines to ramp back up? I don’t know. But I know this: I have bought my ticket to go to Argentina. If they open up—whatever, late June, July—I’m going, and tickets are half-price right now, son. You can’t buy one now, but, right now, they’re cheap.
Mark: I heard the podcast you did with Glenn in Australia. Tip of the hat to them. It sounds like—keep those fingers crossed—that they’ve done a pretty good job corralling that thing down there. They haven’t had just a massive outbreak. Is that correct?
Ramsey Russell: No, they haven’t had the outbreak. I don’t know if they’ve done the test that we’ve done. I don’t know, but they don’t seem to have been as affected as we are.
Mark: What about our friends in Argentina? What’s the latest with them?
Ramsey Russell: They’ve got 350 deaths, maybe more. 500 reported country-wide. It’s low.
Mark: Yeah. It’s low. Mexico is amazingly low as well, correct?
Ramsey Russell: Mexico is pretty darn low, too. I don’t know. Now, still, it’s just like two or three nights ago. I got a WhatsApp from one of the resorts, from one of the ladies we work with in Mazatlán. Again, if it was just me and you sitting here talking last week or week before last, it’s just kind of in my mind— Mazatlán is as lively as a mariachi band all the time. Man, it’s as quiet as it ever gets. It’s sheltered in place, man. You’re talking a multi-billion dollar tourist industry. Disney had commissioned thirty-something new cruise ship stops in Mazatlán, and it is flat. She sent me a picture of one of the hotels we stay in, one of the resorts, and they just kind of got the lights. You know how in downtown Jackson, around Christmas, one of those buildings will make a cross? Well, they’ve got a heart. I don’t know. It’s just like, “Wow. This is so weird that the whole world is like this.” I’m optimistic, man. I think we’re going to come out of it. I don’t know what it means, but it just strikes me as pretty goddang interesting that the stock market is way higher, right now, today, than at any time during the former administrations that didn’t deal with none of this stuff. That tells me that smart folks—financial markets, whatever—are optimistic that this thing is going to clear out, that the world’s going to get back, and that growth is going to continue. That’s the version I want to tell myself. I can tell you this. Now, let’s get back to the basics. I’m not running to the grocery store—to Target and Starbucks and McDonald’s, or whatever else—I’m not doing that. If my wife can’t get curbside grocery scheduled, she won’t go. Then, I’m not going in the grocery store. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going through a drive-through.
Mark: I hadn’t either. Saturday will be one month since I’ve eaten anything besides something from my house.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what everybody’s saying.
Meals at Home & Supply Shortages
“We’ve been cooking or improvising.”
Mark: I used to go a month without eating in my house, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Heck, yeah. Anita and I have been so busy that it’s like, several nights a week, we’ll go out to eat something simple. We’ll go over here and get a sandwich or go over there and get something. Something quick. It’s easier. We’re just so busy when we’re home. Now, we’re good. I have cooked more in the last two weeks— Gumbo, deer, crab, duck, red beans and rice. When I cook a gumbo—I love gumbo, and everybody’s is different—I don’t like pre-made roux. I don’t like dumping roux out of a jar. I want to make it from scratch. I want to sit there and chop my veggies. I don’t care how long it takes. I want to chop my veggies. I want to make my roux. I want to add everything together. I just want to do it from scratch. That’s just how I like to make it. Anita said something the other day. I was standing at the stove all day, getting gumbo going, and she goes, “When’s the last time you made gumbo?” I go, “I don’t know. Years ago. Usually I’ll make a big pot once or twice there at camp, but I didn’t go to camp a lot this year, so it’s been two years.” I’ll tell you what, I’m enjoying it. Man, I found things in my freezer I didn’t know existed. I ate some venison backstrap the other night I found. I don’t know where that deer came from, but it was good. It was really good.
Mark: I tried to explain to my wife that the best-by date is just a suggestion. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad. She tends to look at that best-by and go, “Oh, it’s not any good anymore.” I say, “No, no, no, it’s still good.”
Ramsey Russell: I’ve got a two step process in the refrigerator. Take milk, for example. I’ve got a two step process. Smell it. If it doesn’t smell perfect, shake it up and smell it again. If it still doesn’t smell good; okay, it may be expired. Time to get rid of it. But there’s no danger. I think those dates are just for making housewives buy more groceries. How could something go bad in the freaking freezer?
Mark: Yeah, no kidding.
Ramsey Russell: What are y’all mostly cooking, or eating, at home now? Do you find yourself eating something different?
Mark: Yeah. There’s this whole deal. I have eaten more soup in the last three weeks than I have in thirty years. Chicken noodle, potato and bacon bits types, just that chunky stuff that you get over here at the store that you can just put in the microwave for a couple minutes. Yeah. Soup and more soup. That’s probably why I’ve lost some weight.
Ramsey Russell: My wife’s a soup eater. How much weight have you lost?
Mark: I think about a dozen pounds.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, boy.
Mark: Yeah, because I’ve cut out breakfast, and then I just do the soup for lunch. Then I eat a meal at night, I finally eat something at night. Tonight was one of my favorite traditions, a Wilson sho’ nuff hoedown. I like cooking breakfast for supper, and I don’t like holding back. I like biscuits, I like gravy, I like some eggs. Some thick cut bacon with black pepper on it. Another secret ingredient I can’t tell anybody. Anyway, it was breakfast for supper tonight. That’s a once-a-week thing I do here, lately.
Ramsey Russell: Here’s something. I like to cook, and I’m a very basic, simple cook. Soul food. I don’t cook. I know guys that cook, I mean really cook; chef type stuff. I don’t cook that kind of stuff. I cook very basic staples, and it’s all soul food. Collard greens, turnip greens, red beans and rice, gumbo, steak, backstrap. But I’ll tell you this: whether it’s beans or greens, I’ve got a rule of thumb. This is just a small, little inconvenience, kind of coping with the side story of the COVID thing. I’ve got a rule: collard greens. If I’m going to cook collard greens: equal parts greens, equal parts smoked pork product. Smoked ham hock, tasso, whatever. Three pounds of collard, three pounds of smoked ham hock. You go to any grocery store in Mississippi that I have ever walked into, go to any of them, and, once you find wherever they put the smoked ham hock type stuff, there’s lots of it. Man, we’re on week two or three, and we can’t find a smoked ham hock anywhere she’s been getting groceries. We can’t find smoked ham hock, smoked pork tails. I think, one time, I did find some smoked pork neck, and that works pretty damn good. So that’s been kind of a little bit of a challenge. We’ve been cooking or improvising.
Mark: Ramsey, I’m having a flashback right now. Let me tell you what I was flashing back to. I just had a major flashback. It was one of those nights when we had the old MS Ducks get-togethers over at Willow Break. I’ll tell you what it was exactly. We’ll be able to figure it out real quick, because it relates to what’s going on right now. I’ll tell you what it was. There was some talk about the pig flu that was going around. We weren’t panicking like we are now, but there was some talk about pig flu. I think I was out there standing around and drinking beer with everybody, and somebody said, “Well, I hear there’s going to be a bacon shortage.” I’d like to fell the hell out when I heard that. I said, “What?” They said, “Yeah, man. Bacon’s going to go through the roof. There’s going to be a bacon shortage.” I said, “There better not be no effity effing bacon shortage, or somebody’s going to get an ass whooping.” The ham hock shortage you’re talking about now is a direct result of COVID-19, and I was worried about the bacon shortage back then. It turned out to be bullshit. I knew it. I said, “There ain’t going to be no damn bacon shortage.”
Ramsey Russell: I’ll tell you what, I’d have to ask my wife. “Do we got any bacon?” I’ll tell you this, I made an emergency run to camp last week. Didn’t have anything else to do, so I’m going to take a drive. I go over to Willow Break and bring an ice chest. I keep provisions, and I was shocked to learn that I didn’t have any freaking ham hocks over there either. Usually, when I stock up the freezer at camp, I take more than enough ham hocks. I show up and go, “Well, I must have used them.” But I did have some tasso; I did have some andouille; I found two pounds of bacon in the freezer. I wonder if smoked ham hocks are a Southern thing? I don’t know.
Mark: Southern as a stick of firewood.
Ramsey Russell: I reckon. So now we’re having to improvise. We did find a chunk of Christmas ham we had frozen. “Okay, well, that will work.” Chop it up, put it in the greens, or put it in red beans. Improvise, man, because vegetables without pork just ain’t proper. It just ain’t. I’m sorry. It just ain’t proper. It’s against my upbringing.
Mark: Yeah. You’ve eaten some unusual stuff in your time, I know that.
Ramsey Russell: Boy, I’ll tell you what.
Tales of the Best & Worst Meals Ever
“With God as my holy witness, if the world knew that armadillos were as good as the ones I’ve eaten in South America, they would be extinct.”
Mark: What’s the one thing, out of all your world travels, that stands out in your mind as the one thing that makes you go like, “Man, what in the hell was that?” Whether it caught you off guard because it was so good or whether it was like the grossest shit you’d ever put in your mouth. Is there one dish? Is there one item?
Ramsey Russell: We can cover all those topics. I’m an adventurous eater. That’s part of it. I am going to try everything. Let me precede this. The late Mike Morgan was right there with me, buddy. When we traveled Mojo, when I was with him? Man, I knew I could count on Mike to try anything I’d try. We were down in Peru, one time, out on the coast hunting.
Mark: Getting those big cinnamons.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. We had some fish head soup. It was like tilapia, because it looked like a bluegill, but it was tilapia, and it was the heads. It was a fishy broth with a little lemon and salt. It was very, very good. A lot of folks will tell you that some of the best meat on the fish is the cheeks.
Mark: Cheeks? I’ve heard that.
Ramsey Russell: Now, some of the folks in camp weren’t about to try it. Mike and I ate it, and ate theirs, too. Mike told me this one time, and I never forgot it. I go my Mike, “You’re like me. You’ll eat anything, won’t you?” He goes, “I don’t eat nothing blue.” I said, “You mean like blueberries?” He goes, “No, no, I eat blueberries.” I go, “You mean blue cheese?” He goes, “No, no, I eat blue cheese.” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” He said, “I don’t eat nothing blue.” I’ll tell you, I’ve been all over the world, and, apparently, I’ll eat anything it isn’t blue, either, because I haven’t run across anything—that isn’t blue cheese, isn’t blueberries or something like that—that’s blue. So I guess me and him hit it off that way. I’ll tell you something that will shock you. With God as my holy witness, if the world knew that armadillos were as good as the ones I’ve eaten in South America, they would be extinct.
Mark: Tastes like chicken?
Ramsey Russell: No, it’s like one of the most marbled little morsels of meat you’ve ever had. Like wagyu beef. Doesn’t taste like wagyu beef, but it’s very, very high fat, marbled, and good. First time I ate it was in Uruguay, and I’ve eaten it several times down in Argentina. Heck, they’re protected in Argentina.
Mark: The same one we’ve got crawling around here in North America?
Ramsey Russell: Well, they’ve got three of them. They’ve got a little one, about the size we’ve got here. They’ve got another one that’s a little bit bigger. They’ve got another one that’s thought to be extinct. We got to talk about this in northern Argentina, the year before last. I was visiting some folks up in Salta, and they said, “Wait right here. I want to show you something. You’re going to love this.” They went and got their daddy’s taxidermied— It wasn’t like a full body. It was like a skin, and it was kind of hulled out like a turtle shell with the claws and the head, and it was mounted on a piece of lumber. That armadillo was as long as I am tall. Its paws were as big as a catcher’s mitt. They said that, back in the days, when they would find those armadillos, that they could dig so quick and so fast that one person couldn’t rope it. Usually, two guys would have to rope it, and the horses back off, just to hold him in place so they could get down and kill him before he buried himself. That’s how big and powerful. They think it’s extinct because people freaking ate them. I was in Uruguay. I swear Sam Pearce was in the truck with me. If not him, his brother. We’d had a great afternoon duck hunt, and we’re easing down this little levee. Just kind of putting along because of all the ant mounds and holes and stuff in the levee. Just easing along. You could get out and walk as fast as we were driving. About that time, the driver—Ramiro, I think his name was—put the son of a gun in neutral and just barrel-rolled out the side of the truck like Steve McQueen. Just disappeared. I thought the truck was fixing to blow up or something, so I jumped out, walked around, and turned on my flashlight. I started walking out in the pasture until I saw him. He was laying down on the ground grunting, and he had his arm up in this hole. He was pulling and pulling and pulling. About that time, he yanked out an armadillo about the size of our armadillo. Had it with one hand, grabbed the tail with the other hand, and, bam, hit him on an ant mound. Killed him, and took him home and cooked him. It’s very simple to make. They cook very simply down there. They skin them out, cord them up, salt and pepper them, and put them on the grill. It was unbelievable.
Mark: That was the first armadillo you had?
Ramsey Russell: The first armadillo I ever had. It was shockingly good. I could not believe how good. I’m telling y’all. Maybe they carry leprosy, I don’t know; I ain’t got it. I’m just saying: if the world was aware how good an armadillo was, they would be extinct. There’s no doubt. It’s unbelievable how good that was.
Mark: Are you sure you weren’t just hungry as hell and hadn’t eaten all day?
Ramsey Russell: No. He brought a small piece because all the guides and all were eating it out there. He brought a small piece inside because I told him I wanted to try it. That night, we were eating filet mignon. It was as tender—didn’t taste quite like beef—but it was good, because it had more fat. It was very, very good. That’s all I can say. That’s one of the craziest things. At that point—because that was a long time ago, that would have been 2005, ‘06, ‘07—I realized, “Maybe I need to expand my horizons and try more stuff when I’m in these countries.” I’ve since eaten armadillo down there. I’ve eaten guinea pigs. I’ve eaten something called a carpincho, which is like a chinchilla.
Mark: For those of us who don’t know, what is that?
Ramsey Russell: It’s an animal about the size of a big rabbit. It burrows down like a groundhog, but it’s fur is real, real soft like a pet rabbit. It’s got real coarse whiskers and sharp claws where it digs and makes these burrows. We’d go out at night and spotlight them and shoot them with little .17’s, way down south in Argentina. It’s called a viscacha. I don’t know what I called it the first time, but viscacha is what the name of that animal was. I could not believe it was as white as pork. It was leaner than pork, but it was very, very good. I’ve eaten emu. Guinea pigs were like eating squirrels. I’ve eaten some crazy stuff. That’s what’s jumping out at me, right now. I’ll try anything. Hey, you go to some countries, Mark— We think of steak cuts, hamburger meat. Man, in most parts of the world, they eat everything on the cow but the moo. When we’ve got clients in camp, it’s steaks. That’s it: steak. That’s what all the clients want, but it’s good. You can’t beat an Argentine steak. But if you hang around some of those lodges, like I do, in between clients, then you start eating what they eat. Last year, we were down there at a lodge for three weeks. One Saturday or Sunday—whatever day it was—in between the groups, it was the outfitter’s wife’s birthday. So they were going to have a big barbecue. A lot of folks came in, and they didn’t have steaks. They had ribs, which are big old beef ribs. Not very tender, but very, very tasty. Then they had kidneys, sweetbread, large intestines, and small intestines.
Mark: Yeah, man, they’re all lying there.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to tell you, I love sweetbread. I don’t know what part of the cow that is, but I love sweetbread.
Mark: What is sweetbread?
Ramsey Russell: It’s like a hypothalamus. They told me that there’s one that grows in its neck and one that grows somewhere else. It’s a gland. It’s like one of those things that, in a deer, you’d probably just throw out with the rest of the innards.
Mark: It might be blue.
Ramsey Russell: It isn’t blue. I wouldn’t eat it if it was blue. But you know what shocked me? All the years I’ve been going to Argentina, I had never eaten large intestines. For the record, I’ve tried chitlins. I’m not eating any freaking chitins. I’ve had them boiled, I’ve had them fried; I don’t care for them. So when they told me that’s what they were eating, I was like, “Nuh-uh, I don’t eat chitlins.” They go, “Sí, señor, no chitlins.” I go, “I’m not eating that freaking chitlin. Yeah, that’s a chitlin. If that’s a cow chitlin, I’m not eating it.” It was a big old chunk of big intestine, and they cooked it, just slowly cooked it over some charcoal with everything else. Then he said, “Well, this is the secret,” and then he split it and laid it flat like a big old sausage you cut in half and lay flat to butterfly it. Mark, I ain’t going to lie to you. It’s pure fat. I loved it. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it.
Mark: I couldn’t believe it either.
Ramsey Russell: You like Chinese food?
Mark: I do, yeah. I like Chinese food. The crab wonton is a favorite of mine.
Culinary Adventures Around the Globe
“These places that you go, and the table fare that you eat. You’ve got to have an adventurous side, for sure.”
Ramsey Russell: I made up my mind, just because I can. I’ve eaten enough. I’ve sworn it off. I ain’t so much as getting wonton soup carryout. I’m just going to boycott after all this flu stuff, after this freaking pandemic. I’m just going to leave China alone. Now, let me say this. I would have told you, several years ago, that I love Chinese food. Spring rolls and egg foo young and all that good stuff. I love it. A couple of us had this bright idea that we were going to Mongolia to hunt. When you go through China, you can get a 72 hour visa without having to go through all the embassies and all that kind of stuff. It’s just a little bit of paperwork. It turned out to be a long line. But, okay, so you’re in the country for 72 hours with a passport stamp. I said, “Hey, let’s go see the Wall of China. Let’s go see China.” It’s really pretty goddang impressive, I ain’t going to lie to you, to see some of those castles and Tiananmen Square. It looks big on TV. It would take a Marine sniper to kill a deer on the other side of that thing. It’s massive how big those places are, the scale of China. Because they’ve got billions and billions of people. This is the truth. Three days in China. I was kind of excited, man. I’m an adventure eater. I’m going to get some real Chinese food. See, I like Mexican food, but I don’t like Mexican food in Mississippi. I like Mexican food down on the border and in Mexico. I like the real deal. So I’m going to China, and I’m going to get the real deal. Let me just say for the record, matter of fact, that I do not like Chinese food. First restaurant we went into— Mary Wang was her name; she says, “Oh, you’ve got to try this, blah blah blah.” We all ordered. I take a bite, and I say, “Oh, that hit me wrong.” So I took a swig of Coke and tried it again. Mark, it tasted like that old brown stink bait smells. About the second or third must-try menu item in a day and a half that tasted off like that, I decided that I didn’t like Chinese food. About two blocks from our hotel, we found a restaurant that serves Peking duck. I’m going to tell you right now, I like Peking duck.
Mark: That’s the white duck, right? It’s a big white barnyard duck.
Ramsey Russell: But look, when they pluck it— There, again, they eat everything but the quack. Man, they plucked the whole thing. When they cook it, he’s got his bill and he’s got his feet still on there. He’s all plucked, and they cook him and they cook him real slow. When they serve that thing, they come to the table and slice it real thin. You’re eating with chopsticks, and everything you dip it in with your chopsticks has sugar. You get that fat, and that’s how you start. You start with the good stuff. You start by dipping that fat in that sugar, and it’s like eating a doughnut. It’s unbelievable. So I ate Peking ducks for three days. That’s all I could eat in that country. Then we went to Mongolia, and I’d say it was better, but I wouldn’t say it was great.
Mark: Well, you could write a book about it, I know that.
Ramsey Russell: You like fried fish?
Mark: Yeah. I’m a fried fish guy. You can find me at the Cock of the Walk every other week.
Ramsey Russell: Russia’s hit or miss. Russia, some foods are fair to middling. Some of them ain’t no good. It depends on how much vodka they served with the meal, I found out.
Mark: I think that their food is bland. Is that correct? Is their food bland?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I’d say bland. It’s just winter vegetables and beets and cabbages. Matter of fact, last time we were there capercaillie hunting— When they brought it out, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m just going to bed.” It was like a big old bowl full of bait minnows that had been fried. Like when you go to the bait store and see the bait minnows. Man, it was unbelievable. We asked for it again. It was unbelievable. It was so good.
Mark: Really? I’m going to ask you this. How is the capercaillie as table fare? Tell me about that.
Ramsey Russell: Dark. It’s a dark grouse. The great thing about rough grouse is that they’re white like a quail. It’s like a big old quail. Big old wild quail. Capercaillie is dark. You know the big old hooked beak he’s got? That’s so he can eat. That’s so he can clip new shoots off of evergreens, and that just makes him dark like a spruce grouse. It ain’t bad. I’m not going to say it’s bad. I’ve had a lot of worse food than that. Chinese food, to start. It ain’t as good as a wild bobwhite quail.
Mark: Yeah. I’ve always wondered, when we see these places that you go, and the table fare that you eat. You’ve got to have an adventurous side, for sure. That’s something I’ve always wondered about some of these locations, and how you got along, but you get along quite well with your culinary taste.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’ll try anything once, but I don’t like Chinese food. I can’t eat any Chinese food.
Mark: Yeah. I can’t do the chitlins, Ramsey. I cannot. I can’t believe you liked that intestine.
Ramsey Russell: Beef intestine. I’ve never had chicken chitlins that I care for, but the beef intestines— I could not believe how good that was.
Mark: I tell you, Ramsey, about 25 years ago I had been hunting with my father-in-law, at the time, over on the Mississippi River. We went over to see some friends of his on one of those islands or points over there. Gunnison or somewhere like that, up north of Rosedale. I remember all the people in the camp down there were all so excited because Cousin—or Uncle Eddie or whatever his name was—was fixing to cook chitlins. Well, I got hungry, and I fell right in with them. Hell, at one point I was like, “Shit, when’s Cousin Eddie going to start cooking them damn chitlins? I’m hungry.” I didn’t care, dude. You know how hungry you get after a hunt, anyway. So we’re sitting around there drinking beer and playing cards. I didn’t know that Cousin Eddie had thrown the damn chitlins on there, but I remember commenting to the guy sitting by me, “Man, somebody done shit their britches around here.” They were like, “Oh, no, that’s Eddie done got those chitlins going.” I said, “Man, we’re going to eat that?” They were like, “Yeah, we’re going to eat that. His chitlins are the best.” I was like, “This smells like shit. This straight up smells like shit. It’s like a chicken house.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, itt kind of is, if you think about it.
Mark: Yeah. So I got over there, and they put that stuff off in front of me. I just said, “No. It’s going to have to get a lot worse than this. A zombie apocalypse is going to have us holed up a lot longer than this before I’m going to eat that right there.” I couldn’t do it. I still haven’t eaten a chitlin to this day.
Ramsey Russell: Let me say this. Not talking about chitlins anymore. Hamburgers. That’s got to be one of the most American meals in the world. Hamburgers. Some people collect postage stamps. I like to collect experiences. Specifically, given the opportunity, I’m going to collect a hamburger experience. That’s a fact. Anywhere they make hamburgers, I’m going to eat hamburgers. Number one, when I come home—I’ve been gone a week, or I’ve been gone a summer— We used to have a conversation. “What do you want to eat when you get home?” We don’t have that conversation anymore. I want a hamburger. I want a homemade hamburger. An American hamburger. I do all kinds of stuff. I don’t eat them the same way twice around here. You know how you get them round to start? I want mine about the size of a grapefruit. It’s a pound burger, and then I’m going to mash it on down and cook it. But, now, hamburgers are pretty interesting around the world. The Netherlands, for example. I think it’s clove or coriander. I haven’t quite made up my mind what the seasoning is that they put in their hamburger meat over there. We put salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and maybe some onions. No, it’s something that doesn’t belong in hamburgers. It just throws it off. I’ve eaten some sausage with that same seasoning, and that’s pretty dang good, but it just doesn’t belong in hamburgers. You can’t cover it up. You can’t change it. That flavor just doesn’t belong in a hamburger. Then, when you get down to New Zealand and Australia— I hope Glenn’s listening to this, because I love Australia. I love Australian people. I love Australian duck hunting. I love their species, their habitat. I like everything, but I just don’t like beetroot on my hamburger. That just doesn’t belong. You know what I’m talking about? Those big old sliced beets?
Mark: For a garnish, they use it?
Ramsey Russell: No, it’s sliced big like you might slice a big onion. They put beets. It just doesn’t belong. I’m not saying I won’t eat it, but, given a choice, I don’t want beetroot on my own hamburger. Look, I’ll put peanut butter on my hamburger. I love that, but I ain’t putting beetroot.
Mark: Yeah, I’ve had that. That’s not bad.
Ramsey Russell: Fried egg? Oh, heck yes. There’s a big old world out there. Mark, what else? What else have you got going on?
Mark: Let me tell you about my walk today, before I go. I’ve got you a funny little story. As I told you, I take my walk. I’m out getting my exercise. Some days my wife and kid go, some days they don’t. Well, today I went by myself, this morning. I’m making a big loop out here around the reservoir. I’m probably on the last ten minutes of the stretch, maybe twenty minutes or so. I’m coming in an easterly direction, heading back to my house. There’s a big walking trail there, a paved deal. I look up in the distance, a couple hundred yards ahead, and I see a woman and a kid that looked identical to my wife and child, walking my way. I said, “Oh, they decided that they’re going to go walking too, they’re just running behind me a little bit.” We keep getting closer and closer, and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s my wife and kid.” I get within 75 or 80 yards. In the walking trail, they have these little barricade deals that are just the right height for a kid to run up to it, put both hands down on the top of it, and then kind of hurdle themself over, right? So I see the kids do that. I’ve been on my son really hard about, “Hey, wash your hands, don’t touch anything that’s unnecessary.” When I see him touch that surface of that thing— As he comes down, I see him kind of run his hand over his face. I get to chewing this kid’s ass out. I’m like, “What in the hell are you doing? Don’t touch that shit up there. It’s got the virus on it!” And as I get within about forty yards of these people, I see that it ain’t my wife and it ain’t my kid. I scared them so bad that they turned on a side street. I mean, I chewed that poor kid out for about twenty steps. I was lit into his ass, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Oh my goodness. They’ll probably take a different path tomorrow.
Mark: Yeah, they probably will.
Ramsey Russell: I wouldn’t say anything. I would just act like you didn’t even recognize them. I’d act like they mistook me for somebody else. I wouldn’t say anything.
Mark: There aren’t too many 320 pound guys walking on the side of the road out here, so I’m sure I’ll stick out. Remember that old hat Gilligan wore? I wear a Gilligan hat with a Mississippi State logo on it. So they’ll know me. I scared the hell out of them.
Ramsey Russell: If you lost a dozen pounds, you’ve got to at least be down a shoe size.
Mark: Yeah. I’m working on it.
Ramsey Russell: Whew. Well, folks, I appreciate y’all listening. I appreciate y’all listening. I hope we get back to work soon. I hope life and the world start spinning again and business cranks back up and we’re all doing what we were doing. But you know what? Dig through your freezer, find something good. Take the time to do something productive. Mark, I’m just going to end it on that note because I’ve realized that there’s nothing I can do right now, nothing that I’m going to be able to do tomorrow, till this thing cranks back up. But I’m going to be productive.
Mark: Ramsey, I want to give a shoutout. I’ve got a couple stories coming up that I wanted to share with you. One of them is about a hunter that I think people will find interesting. It’s about a hunter that had a scary situation. There’s a lot we can learn from this. I want to share it with our next audience. There’s a lot of things hunting clubs can learn from this. Then I’ve got a cool story about Canada geese that I wanted to give to you also. We’ll keep those close to our chest and get those on one of these upcoming podcasts.
Ramsey Russell: Alright, we’ll talk about it next time. Hey, guys, thank y’all for listening. See you next time. Ramsey Russell, Get Ducks. It’s Duck Season Somewhere.