Monday, January 24, 2011

What's Cooking Mama?

A few months ago we went to the Science Museum of Minnesota and had our first interaction with "The Collector's Corner".  For those of you who have never heard of this, it is an area of the museum where they will issue your children points for bringing in various interesting nature specimens.  With these points they can buy other nature items like shells, crystals, dried bat wings, and all kinds of other stuff that children treasure.  The rules are, you can't bring in anything stinky, sticky, or from a bird (too many protected species).  I knew this because I had spotted it on other trips to the SMM, but this was the first time we brought anything in.

The kids brought in some pieces of a wasp's nest that the kids found when our fix-it guy pulled down the ceiling of the porch.  In exchange, Violet got to bring home a geode, Henry got a large bumblebee pinned to a piece of styrofoam, and Mitchell decided to save his points for something bigger and better next time.

Points are awarded based on a couple of factors.  First, you get more points for items that are rarer.  So milkweed pods would warrant more points than acorns.  Next, you get more points if it is in better condition or is a full specimen.  A perfectly preserved luna moth would fetch a higher price than a June bug wing.  And finally, the part that I, as a parent, like best; the more you know about the item, the more points you get.  So if you do research about your item and can tell the museum staff alot about it, you get mega points.  If you don't know anything about it, that's fine too, then they'll tell you about it and it's a learning experience, but for the big points, you have to do your own footwork and reading.  And the way to earn the big kahuna of points?  Write a report about your item.  The better the report, the more points you get.

So naturally, after leaving the museum with their new treasures, the kids were pretty jazzed up to find more stuff to trade.  Right away they trapped a dying mystery bug on our livingroom floor and saved him up to trade.  No interest in writing a report though (darn!).  After that they kind of forgot about it until one day Mitch looked out the window and said, "Hey mom, I think Annie's eating a dead baby rabbit, you want me to go check it out?"

I called the dog in and sent him out to inspect the remains.  He and Henry were overjoyed to discover that it was not a baby rabbit, but was actually some kind of large leg.  With fur.  Ewww.  Where the rest of the animal was I didn't know, I just hoped it wasn't in the yard.  They brought it in and said, "Can we keep it?"

"Can we keep it?!?!" I replied, "Ick!"

"To trade at the Science Museum!", they pleaded.

I sighed, of course I couldn't say no in the face of SCIENCE!  So I bagged the thing, brought it inside so a dog or other critter wouldn't run off with it, and then promptly forgot about the frozen limb.

Until today.

Yesterday and today my mom kept asking me about a smell in the mudroom.  First I thought it was the bin of cloth diapers.  Or the pee sheets in the hamper.  Or the disposable diapers in the garbage.  All of which we took care of, but the aroma lingered.

I was looking for a screwdriver today when I spied the garbage bag on the shelf and the lightbulb went on - ding!  That was our smell.  The big old dead leg.

I knew what had to be done.  This wasn't my first foray into bone preservation.  For Henry's fourth birthday he wanted a dinosaur party.  For those of you who have never attended one of my parties, I am a pretty big party buff.  No Chuck E. Cheese birthdays for us!  Half of the fun for me is planning and executing elaborate themed parties, and trying to find unique activities for the kids to do.  Anyways, dinosaur party.  So one of the activities for Henry's dinosaur party was making imprint fossils and we had various shapes for them to press into their fossil clay, including bones.  Some fried chicken from the grocery store was called into service after dinner one day to be boiled and bleached for the purpose.

Later that summer we found a deer jaw just lying around in the trail at Grandma Beccie's cabin.  We brought that home too and gave it the boil and bleach treatment.  It now graces our mantle amongst other, less morbid items.

But back to the story at hand.  This big old leg, which appeared to be a deer leg (judging by the size and the bit o' fur that was stuck to it, though I am by no means a forensic zoologist), needed to be dealt with.  So I secured Ivy in her high chair with some bananas rolled in oatmeal powder (to make the slimy suckers easier to pick up)...

...donned my rubber gloves...

...and tried to ignore the stink.  Next I busted open the bag in the sink to see what exactly we were dealing with.  I knew what it looked like a couple days ago when it was frozen solid, but I wasn't sure what i'd find today.  Luckily it looked fine.  Like a dead leg.  Not too gross, just a bit smelly.

I started water boiling in my biggest pots...

...and then chopped the deer leg into two pieces.  I have two pots boiling going there because our stove kind of sucks so I wasn't sure if it could actually get the large pot up to boiling and keep it there.  So I got the smaller one going as back-up, and chopped the leg in half hoping it would fit in the pot.  It didn't...

...but at least the big pot did get boiling, so I used 'em both.  Perfect timing because at this point Ivy finished her bananas and wanted to be picked up.

Once I had wiped up her banana-y face and cleaned up my mess, the scent of dead leg was giving way to the only slightly less odorous eau de cooked leg.  And I heard the pitter patter of little feet.  I looked up to see two bright faces staring at me and Mitch asked, "Whatcha cooking?  I'm hungry, it smells great!".


Do you think it reflects poorly on my cooking that the smell of long dead wildlife boiling on the stove brings my children running, expecting to be fed?

Mitchell said he was SURE he'd eaten something that smelled like this before.  I said I was SURE I had never served stinky old boiled leg before.

After much stinking and scrubbing and boiling and soaking we got three pretty cool pieces of bone out of the deal.  Science Museum, here we come!

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