MADISON — A brilliant poet once said, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”
OK, it wasn’t a brilliant poet. It was a musician who called himself Meatloaf, which is humorous because this story is about meat.
But not the kind that comes in the form of a loaf. The meat in this story came in the form of a brat, and I found it at the Madison County Fair on Saturday.
So where does the “do anything for love” part come in? That would be a question for my husband, Dana, who set aside his intense social anxiety to help me in my quest to find a story from the fair for the Daily News.
“There’s a dog show on Saturday. I’m sure that would make a cute story,” I’d said, looking at the online fair schedule and appealing to his affinity for fuzzy, drooling slipper-munchers.
“That’ll work,” he said.
But when we got to the fair, we learned the schedule had changed, and we’d missed the dog show by a couple of days, which forced me to resort to Plan B in the story department — focus on the food.
My co-workers had mentioned a food vendor called Chuckwagon, which was selling brats that featured meats of a more exotic nature — rattlesnake, alligator and wild boar. You know, things that will kill you if you don’t kill them first.
Before we went to Madison, I’d discussed with Dana the possibility of doing a story on that, too, and asked if he’d be my test subject.
He responded with a quiet, “If I must.”
Thank goodness. Heaven knows, there was no way I was putting rattlesnake meat anywhere near lips.
The Chuckwagon food vendor wasn’t difficult to find. It sat on the edge of the midway, nestled in with the other fair food staples — Taylor Made from Pierce, Goody’s from Battle Creek, etc.
Chuckwagon owner George Regan of Rapid City, S.D., offered an exuberant greeting and told us about the types of brats that can be found at his vending trailer. Among them are German brats, spicy elk, rattlesnake, buffalo, wild boar and alligator.
Regan said the rattlesnake brats are hickory smoked and made with 70 percent diamondback rattlesnake meat and 30 percent pork.
The snake meat is a product of what is called “round-up season” in Texas and Oklahoma, he added.
“People like me will bid on the meat and then send it to the processing plant to make into a sausage or a brat,” he said. “The skins are used for boots, and the venom is for medicinal purposes, so nothing goes to waste.”
Chuckwagon — a family endeavor — has been vending for nine years, but this was its first time at the Madison County Fair. Regan said Chuckwagon also has jerky, as well as beef and buffalo burgers among its offerings, but the rattlesnake and spicy elk are the products that receive the most attention.
Regan said he often has to explain how the brats are made before customers are willing to try them.
“Once you taste it, you’ll love it,” he said.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm displayed earlier by my husband, he wasted no time dressing his rattlesnake — brat, that is — with ketchup and relish.
“It’s not bad,” he said with a mouthful. “Want a bite?”
I recoiled at the thought. We’ve been married 25 years. He knows my feelings about snakes. He knows about that traumatic incident from my childhood that involved a 60-foot-long garter snake — I’m not even exaggerating. (OK, maybe I am. A little.) Why would he think I’d want to put any part of a snake in my mouth?
You could say curiosity got the best of me. You could say it was peer pressure. You could say it was because I was hungry, and it smelled pretty good. You also could say it was the idea that he was willing to try something out of the ordinary so I could have a story, and the least I could do is show a willingness to share the experience.
So, I guess I did it for love. Ew.
As it turned out, Dana was right. The one and only bite I took tasted clean. It’s texture was not offensive, and it was unlike anything else I’d tasted. But I could only manage one bite.
“It was the thought that got you, wasn’t it?” Regan asked about my feelings on the rattlesnake brat after Dana and I also tested a more flavorful wild boar brat.
I nodded in response. I couldn’t get past the thought of eating something that gave me the heebie jeebies when it was alive.
But Dana — who loves spicy food — was much more vocal in his review: “It was good, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I think I would’ve liked it more if it had more of a bite to it.”
Oh my dear husband, I love you to the moon and back, but you might want to rethink wishing out loud that your rattlesnake had more bite.