The elephantine King Soopers that recently opened in our town is gargantuan, to be sure, but it doesn’t stock Wooly Mammoth meat. I know, because a friend looked.
I was certain she would be able to find it. After all, the new store, with a breadth of an astonishing 123,000 square feet, is 24,000 square feet larger than any other King’s in the state of Colorado, and supplies everything from porch furniture to pincushions. The meat department had beef, lamb, pork, veal, and poultry of various shapes and species, but no mammoth. I can’t figure out why not.
You may think that eating wooly mammoth is a delicacy experienced awhile back in human history, so long ago that roasting implements (roasters, oven mitts, temperature gauges) were a bit less refined than what we home cooks rely upon today. I know I’d be lost without my Super-Fast Thermapen temp probe. Back then, roasting a hunk of wooly (a term of endearment, guaranteed to get the gastric juices flowing) simply required a well-tended fire pit, and most likely a spit of some sort to hold up the beast. A spear would work well.
However, I grew up on the tales told by my father, who assured me that he had sampled Mammoth meat which had been served to commemorate a very special occasion at the American Museum of Natural History. I can’t recall what that occasion may have been; suffice to say that wooly had been the pièce de résistance at the dinner. Actually, I think the meal coincided with a rare find of a Mastodon so well-preserved in ice that they were able to sample the meat. At least, that’s what my father told me.
So, when I recently read that a baby mammoth was found last year in Siberia and was preserved by Chicago’s Field Museum, my first thought, naturally was, “Hey! I wonder if they’ll serve a small part of it for special museum patrons?” My attempts to contact the museum on this subject fell flat, until a work associate, knowing of my quest, shed some light on the Siberian find.
Evidently, there is a collaborative effort between Japanese, Russian and United States scientists to clone a wooly mammoth baby, by extracting DNA from the frozen meat and injecting those cells into an African elephant egg. I think they may have come up with the idea from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg. I hoped that I might be able to locate this protein variety at the massive King Soopers.
I enlisted my friend Joan to check it out. You see, the sheer size of the store gives me the willies; I haven’t summoned up enough guts to do it yet. She too, was concerned about venturing forth on such an expedition with untold consequences, but being a good friend, stepped up to the task. We decided a certain amount of planning was necessary, including equipment outfitting. First off, she stated she would take her GPS. I recommended snow shoes, trekking poles and an avalanche beacon, just in case. Joan thought this was a wise idea, until she began worrying about cell phone coverage. We agreed that it would be spotty, similar to being on trek in Nepal, or Antarctica. She nodded sagely at this; her husband recently returned from an 8-week voyage on a Russian icebreaker in Antarctica, and is well-informed about such things.
Around this time, general panic set in: she couldn’t locate the snow shoes, and discovered that the walkie talkie batteries were dead (aren’t they always?) I eased her mind, promising that if I didn’t hear from her within the hour, I would call 911 and have them send in the St Bernard rescue team. Her husband (who had decided to accompany her to ward off polar bears) really liked that idea, and asked me to make sure that they send the ones with the little barrel of liquor around their necks.
Off Joan and Phil went, with me anxiously waiting by the phone for a red alert. Or silence. In my worry, I noodled over the idea of what wooly mammoth would taste like. Being ever-connected to a computer, I Googled it, with little luck. Since no one’s eaten fresh mammoth for eons, it’s an enigma. I was able to unearth suggested answers that it would most likely taste like elephant, moose or other types of game, but all were in agreement that it wouldn’t taste like chicken. Opinion ran heavily to elephant, but also pointed out that because eating elephant is illegal, how would you know for sure? The mammoth I had sent my friends out to hunt was cross-bred with an elephant, so this is a strong possibility.
Which made my worries escalate. Since elephants never forget, eating one (or a relative of one) could be fraught with danger. For example: by eating an elephant would you then absorb its memory capabilities? Would you develop a symbiotic memory relationship with the one you ate? Horror of horrors, would the rest of the herd remember that you ate one of their family and haunt your dreams in perpetuity? All of this took my mind off my friends for awhile, and I decided that what a mammoth tastes like is moot. You eat mammoth for the experience. Bottom line: marinate the heck out of it.
After an hour or more of anxious waiting, I called Joan. I was so relieved; her cell picked up after two rings.
“Should I send in the dogs?” I asked.
Were they lost? Stranded? Had she found the mammoth meat? I suggested that, given the sheer size of it, she may have to ask around for help. It may be that they kept it in a special place in cold storage.
Joan said she was fine, and told me to call off the dogs. She’d found the ice cream. It may be some time before we have the chance to have a wooly feast.
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