Many years ago when I was growing up in Michigan, old fishermen used to say that the only way to cook a carp was to plank it. A typical recipe, as told to a very attentive but naive youngster, went something like this:
"Clean the carp; scale it and gut it. Then get a clean white pine board and scald the board. Cut the fish down the backbone and nail each half to the board. Spice the fish well; put a lot of butter on it; and bake it for one hour at 350 degrees. Then smoke the planked carp at a low temperature in a moderate amount of smoke from smoldering pine stumps. Finally, remove the carp from the board; throw the fish away; and eat the plank." There were variations on this recipe that concluded, "Boil the board to make soup out of it."These ridiculous recipe stories are by no means confined to fish. I once heard a duck hunter say that the best way to cook a coot was to boil it in a pot along with a brick.
"Why a brick?" I asked.
"Then," the hunter explained, "you can throw away the coot and eat the brick."
From a New Jersey man I collected a similar recipe for how to properly cook a swamp rabbit. This hunter said, "You know, swamp rabbits are mighty tough critters, but here's a recipe that will turn one into a tasty dish."
He went on to tell me about stretching the cleaned rabbit on a board, seasoning it well, stuffing it with hickory nuts and wild cranberries, wrapping the planked rabbit with damp cherry and sassafrass leaves, and finally broiling it near an open fire.
The predictable conclusion to his recipe was "Throw away the leaves and the swamp rabbit, and bite into that tender, delicious, golden-brown pine board!"
The only other throw-it-away recipe for wild game that I've come across is a Texas version for cooking armadillo tacked to a shingle, but I imagine there are variations told in other regions about different critters.
A variation on this same theme is a recipe for making a perfect mint julep. I have a 1942 clipping from the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal that tells this one, including instructions about plucking the mint gently "just as the dew of evening is about to form upon it," and the like.
The punch line, of course, is "Drink whiskey and throw away other ingredients."
I was reminded of these jokes recently when someone gave me a photocopy of a typed sheet that purports to be the recipe for "Thomas Jefferson's Best Ever Rum Cake." The list of ingredients includes "one or two quarts rum," and the directions mention that the cook should sample the drink liberally while mixing the other ingredients.
The wording of the rum cake recipe becomes more and more garbled, presumably as the cook continues to imbibe. This results in lines like, "If druit gets stuck in beaters, pry loose with drewscriber" and, "Fold in chopped butter and strained nuts."
The recipe concludes, "Pour mess into boven and ake. Check rum again and bo to ged."
Even closer to the "planked game" recipes is the "Bachelor's Delight Breakfast," which is the very last recipe in the official Domino's Pizza Co. 25th Anniversary Cookbook published in 1986.
This recipe, contributed by a Domino's employee in Georgia, contains some typical omelet ingredients along with some odd ones like a "handful of peanuts, pinch of brown sugar and leftover Domino's Pizza."
You've probably guessed that the final direction is "Throw mixture away. Microwave Domino's Pizza at high for 30 seconds. Devour."
The implication from all of my sources so far is that this type of cooking humor exists only among men: Note the mentions of fishermen, hunters, Thomas Jefferson and bachelors above. I wonder if women share this tradition, or if they perhaps have some jokes of their own about how to cook some kind of presumably inedible food.- "Curses! Broiled Again," Jan Harold Brunvand's fourth collection of urban legends, is now available in paperback from Norton. Send your questions and urban legends to him in care of the Deseret News.