River Festival

Fried gator on a stick with fries

Fried gator on a stick with fries
Fried gator on a stick with fries The Wichita Eagle

Fried gator on a stick with fries, $12

Tad’s Cajun Chicken on a Stick, Century II Food Court

I lived in Arkansas for seven years and ate a fair amount of tough, chewy alligator. So I have always been looking to find the chef who might, one day, show me the tender side of the alligator, one less likely to thrash at my gut as nuzzle it with meaty reptilian affection.

I asked how long it would take to cook, assuming that perhaps the meat had to be beaten with a club in the back to tenderize it, after sawing off its scales.

“No time at all,” the guy said, pointing to six or seven kebobs sitting idly above a deep fat frier. “They are ready now.”

Perhaps alligator meat, when cooked properly, afterward needs to sit in the open air, to bathe in wild natural-air flavors, I thought.

He tonged out a handful of fries. The fries were dark and wrinkled. I tried to imagine the young beautiful potato from which these fries came but could not. Each bite tasted like death: the crusty flesh of a once spritely tuber crumbled into the flavors and textures of chimney soot.

No matter. Why would they spend their time distracting customers with flashy-fries, which would only distract from the scaly main attraction?

But alas, after my first bite, I thought they had made a mistake. They had accidentally given me chicken on a stick from two booths down. This couldn’t be the tough alligator I remembered. The meat pulled off the stick in light chunks, like chicken breast or even frog leg. Its chewy exterior was salty and delicious, perfectly textured.

It did not taste angry as I imagined.

I would surely pay $4 for that, though they might have to pay me $1 to eat those fries. And since it cost $12, this is clearly the definition of a one-out-of-four-star dish.