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KIRKWOOD, Mo. (CAP) - Thirty years is a long time to wait between appetizer and entrée. Just ask Larry Elliot. In the early 1960's, Elliot was an out-of-work hand model, forced to return to his native Missouri and an uncertain future.
"I used to do wart commercials and manly soap spots in Hollywood, but towards the end I was only getting stunt-hand jobs in second-rate porno projects," Elliot said from his modest Missouri homeless shelter cubicle. "I thought, home has got to be better than this, but it weren't."
Homeless and hungry, Elliot turned to scavenging for his meals, subsisting on dumpster dives and road-kill ratatouille for sustenance. It was a bleak culinary existence, a dining depression that kept hitting low after low. Then one, day, all that changed.
"I was walking down the road, and all of a sudden it was like a pillow exploded. Feathers everywhere," Elliot recalled. "I found the carcass in the ditch nearby, took it home and cooked it up. Damn if it wasn't the finest thing I ever tasted."
Thus began Elliot's savory fascination with America's bird, the bald eagle. He ate it boiled for breakfast, baked for lunch, braised with dandelion greens on the side for dinner. Armed with a sterno can, a rusty fork and a steady supply of eagle meat, Elliot's friends were some of the best-fed hobos in the country. As his culinary skills grew, so did his reputation, and soon major New York publishers were competing to offer him a lucrative cookbook deal. Elliot's ship was about to come in.
"I literally had the advance check in my hand and was in the bank cashing it, not knowing that hours before the bald eagle had become a protected species. The publisher stopped payment," Elliot said, the emotion of that moment still smarting three decades later. "I sat there in that bank and watched them tear my future in two. I remember thinking, well, Tastes Like Bald Chicken is dead."
With his primary ingredient protected by federal law, Elliot tried his hand at chicken, goose, turkey, duck, pigeon - nothing enabled him to reach the magical masticulatory heights that eagle meat had. Soon he was just another hobo with a sterno stove and a flare for roasted rat. Occasionally the government would let him have a few eagle eggs, their useless shells thinned by DDT, but even that meager morsel dried up with the pesticide's banning in 1972.
Fast forward to 2007. With the American bald eagle now removed from the endangered species list, Larry Elliot is once again free to pursue his life's goal of an eagle-centered cookbook. Regnery Publishing has Tastes Like Bald Chicken nearly ready to ship out to stores and is already pulling together an extensive book signing tour complete with former Attorney General John Ashcroft onboard to serenade book buyers. Elliot is realizing not just one, but two dreams with the coming release of his book. Regnery is also working up an advertising campaign that will prominently feature Larry Elliot's signature hands in both its print and radio ads.
"I couldn't be happier," Elliot said, wiping away a tear with one well-manicured finger. "I'd just like to thank and bless President Bush for putting bald eagle back on the menu."
The following recipe is from Tastes Like Bald Chicken, © Larry Elliot 2007, published by Regnery Publishing.
Badly Bruised Eagle and Apple Stew
1 eagle, plucked, with tire tracks or buckshot removed
2 carrots, peeled
2 potatoes, peeled
2 apples, cored and peeled
1 teaspoon thyme
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
Pound eagle liberally with a rock, stick or hammer until the meat takes on an extraordinary rendition look. Chop the vegetables and apples into chunks, then combine all in a pot and cover with water. Cook on medium-low, covered, for 2-3 hours, or until eagle meat can be easily pulled from the bones. Serve with day-old bread.
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