A tradition like no other. Every year I like to dive into the full NCAA field and decide which team mascot I’d most like to eat. This seems like a fairly easy task at first glance, but it’s a culinary minefield.
Every step of the way you need to make moral decisions about how far you’re willing to go. Each stage in the bracket is a new way to confront your own culinary biases. If you thought trying to decide which team will cut down the nets is tough, wait until you try to work out who you’ll be cutting up on your plate. Let’s put the flowery language aside and dive into my eating bracket.
First off, I’d like to establish that there’s a hierarchy I have when it comes to making the tough decisions, and it falls into a really simple flowchart:
Human > Endangered Species > Dog > Cat
In every in single instance I’m following this. Unless absolutely forced, I will not eat a human. It’s where I draw the line. From there, I will avoid eating an animal that is already threatened by environmental or human impact. Dogs are a no go too, unless I’m pressed.
In the past I’ve discussed how I unwittingly ate cat, and it was surprisingly delicious, but tastes change as you age. I cannot, in good conscious, remember the sweet, pork-like meat of a cat in making this decision. It has now been added to the “taboo meats” section, and avoided when possible.
The “Texas Conundrum”
Every year this comes up and I need to think about Texas’ role in all this. The issue is that picking the Longhorns is chalk. It’s the obvious choice, the lazy selection. In a normal world then yes, eating beef is a clear choice when looking at what you’d like to eat from the field.
It’s also really, really boring. Beef is amazing, but it doesn’t tantalize my tastebuds or dance on my tongue ... and March is all about dancing. It’s my time of the year to branch out into something a little more unique, and being beef will only carry you so far.
Discussing the tough decisions
I hate what the East did to me in the first round. I will never forgive the East. Yes, I had to eat a human. The First Four game between St. Mary’s and Wyoming/Indiana forced me to really contemplate what I’m looking to eat in a person, if forced.
Wyoming is a cowboy. Tough, like shoe leather. Not interested.
We know Iberico pork is specially fed acorns to improve flavor. Grass fed beef is best. By this notion, a Hoosier is flavored by Indiana. These are not culinary delights I’m down with. It’s a shitty turducken. I’m out.
Finally, when it comes to these mascots, St. Mary’s is a snack.
We also had a cat vs. cat throwdown with Davidson and Montana State. This is a wildcat vs. a bobcat, which are identical animals for all intents and purposes. In the end I went Montana. Free range, relaxed range cat >>>> dirty NC mountain cat.
The preparations of the Final Four
This year offered a really great mix of culinary delights. I don’t just think about these meats in isolation, but how I would prepare them at home.
Arkansas = Smoked, whole hog BBQ
Akron = Rabbit confit
Delaware = Roast chicken
Jacksonville State = Gamecoq au vin
Four really delicious meals I would be happy with any time. The issue I had with both Akron and Jacksonville State is the amount of preparation. Coq au vin is some WORK, and I only ever order confit at restaurants, because using that much oil in a residential setting feels like a waste.
That leaves us with Arkansas and Delaware.
I roast chickens semi-regularly. I’m of the firm opinion that if a majority of Americans learned how to properly roast a chicken it would not only transform how families eat, because whole chickens are a cheap source of protein, but make Thanksgiving so much better when individuals learn how to make a bird well.
The, there’s pulled pork BBQ. It’s food perfection. Get one wild hog and you can feed over 100 people, and wild hog is a delicious game meat that I’d put up there with venison among the best. Top that off with a good, spicy Eastern NC vinegar-based sauce and you have a special, transcendent meal.