Some good eating from Harvest of Thorns - Boiled Crawdads and Lamprey Pie
One of the characters I think will stick with you from Harvest of Thorns is Professor Joshua Handy. The Louisiana-born, UCLA-educated scholar is the toughest of taskmasters at the Alabama State Agricultural College, Here's a selection from Chapter Twenty-One:
Students in his Introduction to Agriculture class, including Harvester, had been overwhelmed to the point of tears when he laid out his expectations. Hundreds of pages of reading prior to each class. Exams every other week. Papers. Oral reports. Half of the fourteen students in class threatened to drop, before being advised by President Drake that the class was required of every student pursuing a degree in agriculture.
Over time, Harvester comes to know Professor Handy quite well. In his role as the Professor's assistant, one of his most important duties is to make the daily trip to Gussie's Fish Shack to pick up a pound and a half of boiled crawdads. I'll let Harvester tell the story:
Harvester would report back to campus just before twelve, handing the bag to Professor Handy who would invariably open the sack, inhale deeply, and pour them onto the day old newspaper covering his desk. Then the show began. The Professor Handy that the other students didn’t know was a marvel, pinching heads, sucking meat, and drinking tea, all while smoking and carrying on a non-stop monologue that Harvester wouldn’t miss for the world. Fifteen minutes later, the slender, middle-aged academic would sweep the remains into the trash, gingerly wipe his face and hands, straighten his bow tie, and revert to the Professor Handy the students knew and loathed.
I don't know about you, but I've tried crawdads. It was a long time ago, in New Orleans. It involves sucking juices from the head and... I'll never try them again.
Later in the story, Professor Handy pays a visit to Harvester's family in Missouri. Harvester's mama, having heard about the his affinity for unique dishes, whips up one of her own:
Harvester’s mom beamed. “I knew that any man who eats crawdads four days a week would enjoy some lamprey pie.”
Lamprey Pie. Ever had it? Know what it is? It turns out, it's quite a delicacy. British Royalty used to pine for it. Today, it's available in a few very exclusive restaurants in Europe and Canada. Not so much in America, though it wasn't uncommon back in the early part of the 1900's, when Professor Handy was tormenting students in Alabama.
Which begs the question, what is a lamprey?
I'll let you look that up, but I must warn you! One look and you'll never touch lamprey pie!