People today would not believe the freedom I had as a kid growing up at Route 1 Box 592, Drew, Mississippi. At an early age my Dad bought me a Browning A-5 20 gauge shotgun and a 110 Honda three wheeler and turned me loose on the countryside. I would get home from school and spend whatever daylight was left roaming the turnroads and woods looking for a patch of grass that might hold a cottontail rabbit or a pocket of water teaming with Greenheads. I would be gone for hours at the time, alone, with no cell phone. All I would have was my trusty shotgun and my thoughts. As far as I know my parents didn’t worry about me or hover over what I was doing.
Probably my favorite target back in those days and even today was that Greenhead. I simply couldn’t resist the challenge of calling those birds into my spread of decoys. There is a majesty to what happens there that can’t be put on paper. A dozen Mallards cupped in front of a blind is a sight that will always get me going and I am not the only one.
My home town of Drew is now the waterfowl capital of Mississippi. People come from all over the world to hunt here and they pay their way, but as a 12 year old boy here I could get all of that for free. A lot has changed since then. It’s harder for a 12 year old kid to find a place to hunt. It’s a sad testament but at the same time good for our local economy. Hunting stores, restaurants, and other retail outlets have benefited from this new source of income. Farmers have also found a much needed addition to declining agriculture revenue.
I have given a lot of thought to the kind of adult I have become and the role that growing up in Drew played in that. I was a shy kid and being alone that much surely changed me but not in the ways you might think. I think I am much more independent and adventurous. I have never been scared to live life in all its glory. Growing up the way I did was a good thing and I have gotten an appreciation of nature and what this beautiful Delta has to offer. I’ve witnessed so many beautiful sunsets here that most people never even notice. I have seen the bounty that Mother Nature has to offer and the satisfaction of harvesting that in a way that brings you closer to nature.
I feel a little melancholy for today’s kids. Even the ones that grow up here may never look up from their smart phones to see those gorgeous sunsets. They will never know what it is like to be “unplugged” for hours at a time with just your own thoughts. They might never know the thrill of harvesting a banded duck. They may never connect with Mother Nature and all her beauty. More importantly they may never really understand where food comes from.
My Mom was not a chef for wild game I always brought home. True she could cook but duck, deer, rabbit and other game was not on her radar. Deer chili was the only wild game she cooked. I had to learn from trial and error and my go to was usually to fry. It’s one of those things you can’t mess up. Since those early days my cooking skills have gotten a little better and my tastes have changed. I have a large library of go to recipes for duck but my favorite is still the duck popper. At 1933 it is the most popular item on our menu. Here is the very simple recipe. The key is not to overcook.
6 oz duck breasts, wild or farm raised
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
3 slices of thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Pepper jelly for garnish
Cut the duck into three to four strips and pound until thin with a mallet. Mix Kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder together and lightly season one side of the duck. Reserve the remaining seasoning. Put one tablespoon of pepper jack cheese on the seasoned side of the duck and roll the duck up containing the cheese. Wrap the duck in bacon and secure with toothpicks. Season the duck poppers with the remaining seasoning. Grill the poppers until the cheese starts to come out. This should be about mid rare. Garnish with pepper jelly and serve.
Stafford Shurden is a lifelong resident of the Delta and owns 1933 Restaurant & Bar in Ruleville and Stafford’s Market and Deli in Drew. firstname.lastname@example.org