The City Slicker's Guide to Redneck New England
Patrick Porter has been a hunter for more than three decades. But don't call him a redneck.
I've been hunting pheasant since I was 12. Pheasant season is once a year, from mid-October through the end of November.
I like to pack the night before. “, “In Massachusetts
you're required to have a license and wear hunter orange—that's a
bright fluorescent orange—usually on a vest. And I'll check the weather
reports. Since fall here in New England is tricky, it could be cold or
it could be warm.
The second preparation is for my dog, Henry. He's an English setter,
and he's quite old. The night before, Henry gets a pasta meal for
energy the next day. But the Pavlovian response comes when he smells
the fresh WD-40 I use to grease my gun. One whiff and Henry knows he's
going hunting. Henry loves to hunt.
I wake up around 4 a.m; you're allowed to begin half an hour before
sunrise. I go to Bolton Flats, a public hunting area that spans Bolton,
Lancaster, and Harvard. First, Henry and I familiarize ourselves with
the terrain. Then I load my gun. Henry canvasses the area to pick up a
scent. When he has one, he points.
Once the bird is in the air, you have to take a shot pretty quickly.
If it's a good shot, typically the bird is dead. If not, it may be
partially alive when Henry retrieves it.
There's always a touch of regret after the kill. Always. You have
great respect for the species you're hunting. Hunters are like farmers,
attuned to the land and the animals. That's why I think “redneck” is
the wrong word. You don't want rednecks out there.
You want educated people. It's a spiritual experience. —As told to John Gonzalez
Don't hunt? Get your game at one of these local shops: Concord
Provisions, 73?75 Thoreau St., Concord, 978-369-5555; John Dewar &
Co., 753 Beacon St., Newton, 617-964-3577; Savenor's, 160 Charles St.,
Roast Pheasant with Autumn-Fruit Stuffing
serves two to four
medium onion, finely chopped
celery sticks, finely chopped
c. apple, peeled and chopped
tbsp. shallots, finely chopped
c. white wine
c. dried apricots, chopped
wild rice, cooked
c. parsley, chopped
tbsp. sage, chopped
tbsp. thyme, chopped
and pepper to taste
Killing your bird was only half the battle; now you have to prepare
it. After the pheasant is down, your first task is to pluck. If you're
an expert, this will take about a half-hour—a lot longer if it's your
first time. Next, lop off the head and legs. If you're not cooking the
bird immediately, ice down the body and the cavity until you're ready.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add onion,
celery, and apple. Cook 10 minutes, adding shallots for the final two
minutes, until ingredients are tender but not mushy. Add wine, scraping
up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, until most of the liquid
has evaporated. Remove from heat. Cool slightly, then mix with
apricots, rice, and herbs. Season to taste.
Wash and dry the bird, and season inside and out with salt and
pepper. Fill loosely with the stuffing. Roast at 400 degrees for 10
minutes; reduce to 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes per pound, or until
the juices in the thigh run clear when it's pierced. —Jane Black
An Ode to IHOP
Okay, so the International House of Pancakes isn't exactly redneck.
But when you're looking for good, dirty, not-even-close-to-healthy
southern cooking in the Northeast, there's still nowhere better. And
with 13 locations, our state has one of the highest densities of IHOPs
north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Sometimes you just get a hankerin' for stick-to-your-ribs food.
Sometimes you need a good chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes,
biscuits, and heavy country gravy. IHOP delivers the kind of rich,
gut-busting meal after which you're almost forced to take a nap. The
only thing that disappointed us was how clean and well groomed the
staff and location of our local IHOP were, in contrast to the greasiest
of southern joints. But sometimes you just have to make concessions.
1850 Soldiers Field Rd., Brighton, 617-787-0533; 105 Squire Rd.,
Revere, 781-289-6012; 115 Parkingway St., Quincy, 617-770-9414; other
Giant gourds and racing pigs. What's not to love?
Sure, bearded ladies and midget horses have their charms. But for an
awe-inspiring demonstration of nature's possibilities (and man's
deftness in exploiting them), nothing tops the giant pumpkins at the
Topsfield Fair. The big gourds are what set apart this annual
exposition—America's oldest, which celebrates its 181st birthday this
month—from New England's many other country carnivals. These pumpkins
are more than merely large. They are, as the kids say, ginormous, with candidates for the blue ribbon tipping the scales at north of 1,000 pounds.
Yet even after the judges weigh the Mini Cooper?sized orbs on
opening morning, another nine and a half days of wondrous down-home
diversions remain. Like pig races, for instance, in which baby porkers
zip (more or less) around a tiny track to claim the Oreo cookie set out
as a prize. And a woodcarving competition. And the Flying Wallendas.
Between exhibits, you can eat your weight in junk food, fried or
otherwise. Just know that should you opt for pumpkin pie for dessert,
your treat won't have come from one of the award-winning giants. —James
> 10/1?10/10, 10 a.m.?10 p.m, $10?$12. Rte. 1, Topsfield, 978-887-5000, topsfieldfair.org.
Chew on This
Spitting in the face of Politesse.
Chew makes you look tough. Or maybe it's just that tough people use
it—ranchers in western Mass., pit crews at NASCAR, truckers on I-93.
Wanting to toughen up, I moseyed down to my local Store 24 for some Red
Man. That was my first mistake. My second was deciding that I didn't
need a spittoon. (I spent time in Texas, and I never saw any
self-respecting Texan use one.) My third, and perhaps biggest, mistake
was putting too much tobacco (called a plug or a wad) into my mouth.
The end result: I got very dizzy and tobacco juice dribbled onto my
favorite pair of jeans. But seriously, is there anything tougher than
jeans with tobacco juice on them? The answer, despite what I'd like to
believe, is yes. —J.G.
A curious writer learns what drives NASCAR fans to the races.
Heading up I-93 toward the New Hampshire International Speedway in
Loudon, II am determined to understand why growing throngs of people
are obsessed with NASCAR. The notoriously southern sport of stock-car
racing has slowly gained a loyal Yankee following, which now fills this
100,000-seat speedway a few times a year. Sure, it's car racing. But
what's the big deal?
Along the road, fans hoof it into the stadium past men selling
T-shirts and Confederate flags from parked pickup trucks. Inside the
speedway village, which is packed with sausage stands and beer tents,
fans wear shirts touting their favorite drivers. I chat with a woman
from Concord, New Hampshire, who's sporting a homemade tube top
plastered with Jeff Gordon's number, 24. She tells me she's
mullet-spotting. I wonder how New Englanders rate for mullets. “So far
I'm impressed,” she says.
As a guest of Yellow Transportation's racing team, I'd scored
pit-row tickets. While fans in the stands tune their $100 scanners to
eavesdrop on fuzzy driver-crew radio chatter, I catch every word live.
The three-hour race is 200 laps of burning rubber, speed, noise, and
sweat. Tools clatter, tires are ripped from cars, and the pit crew runs
through about 200 cigarettes. I witness a four-car collision and an
engine fire. These machines whizzing by at up to 140 miles an hour are,
I have to admit, pretty hot. Like, sexy hot. But that could be the
By end of day, I'm half deaf and apparently high on those fumes, but
I've made a breakthrough. This is not a southern thing. These races are
all about the crashes—the more, the better. I gun it out of the parking
lot—into a long line of New England traffic. I almost stop for one of
those Confederate flags. Almost. —Erin Byers
camouflage (käm-e-fläj) n. A color scheme popular in haute couture.
“I wore my best camouflage pants to court, but the judge remained
Ice fishing (ís-fish-ing) n. A recreational attempt to catch
food/hypothermia. “Uncle Billy went ice fishing and lost three toes.”
trailer (trá¬er) n. An affordable alternative to a Back Bay condo.
“Betty Sue renovated her trailer by adding three lawn chairs and a
Styrofoam cooler, thereby doubling its resale value.”
Wal-Mart (wôl-märt) n. Employer. “I hope Wal-Mart will give me enough hours so that I can renovate my trailer.” —Andrew Rimas “, “
Chefs Andy Husbands and Ed Doyle smoke the competition at a New England barbecue championship.
For the fourth year in a row, our team, iQue, heads up to Windsor,
Vermont, with a carload of rib meat and spices, and an eye on the
prize. Our routine this time is no different—as soon as we arrive
Thursday evening, we unpack and begin our traditional half-hour
argument about how to set up—but our artillery has vastly improved. The
secret weapon? A new pig cooker, a steel box that can roast one whole.
Each year, Harpoon hosts about 30 competing teams, plus thousands of
barbecue-crazed attendees who float around from site to site, asking
questions, offering “advice,” bullshitting. There's the husband and
wife who retired and bought a motor home so they could travel to
barbecue contests across the United States There are lots of big
bellies, too. The first night, we make a huge batch of mojitos, which
are gone in about four hours. So, after a while, are we.
At 4 a.m. Saturday, Andy gets up to fire the ribs. In addition to
the ones designated for competition, we're selling some, too, so people
are stopping by to eat our ribs all day long. The first deadline is
noon and there's another every half-hour after that: chicken, ribs,
pork, brisket. Our pit master, Chris Hart, is in charge of the grill
but it's really a team effort. Ed's there with the Styrofoam boxes that
hold our finished entries. The rest of us do prep work and man the pig
We get everything turned in and sit around pondering our fate. And .
. . we smoke 'em! We win first in the ribs category (and, okay, 11th in
pork). But we also take home the overall prize for the day!
At night we have a team dinner and Ed cooks up a striper. The next
day, we win all over again. The other teams are starting to hate us
city slickers, and we get booed. But when we're named team of the
year—which means we'll be heading to Tennessee for the Jack Daniel's
World Championship later this month—the crowd goes wild. They tell us
we've set the bar for everybody. And naturally, next year we'll be back
to defend our title. But first, iQue's got some Tennessee meat to
smoke. —as told to Erin Byers
An Ode to Worcester
All dirt roads lead to Worcester, our very own Gateway to the West .
. . of Massachusetts. Sure, the old mill town has prestigious colleges
and universities and some very tall buildings. But it's also home to
the DCU Center (née the Worcester Centrum), which makes it the best
place in the state to indulge your inner redneck. The age-old ritual
begins anew in January, when flannel-clad outdoorsmen from across
central and western Mass.—hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, rodeo
fanatics—fire up the old Hemis and journey to Worcester, the
westernmost outpost of urban Massachusetts, for a wicked-cool stretch
of events. In just the 10 weeks between January 6 and March 19,
DCU-goers will revel in the following: professional bull riding,
freestyle motocross, the Eastern Fishing & Outdoor Exposition, a
United States Hot Rod Association monster-truck competition, an RV and
camping expo, and a four-day boat show. Remember, boys: Shoes and
shirts are required. —John Wolfson
Redneck sports in your backyard.
Like all winter sports, ice fishing has evolved eons from those
podunk days of sitting in a beat-up lawn chair on a frozen-over pond,
dangling a line in the water, and trying to bend over to check on the
bait in spite of all the layers of plaid wool you've piled on. Nowadays
you can strip down to your long johns as you sit inside heated
shanties, some equipped with generators to watch the Patriots on TV,
says Bradley Carleton, owner of Champlain Valley Guide Service in
Vermont. These portable houses are most prevalent on large lakes, like
Champlain in Vermont. Expect to hook northern pike (often in the
10-pound range), lake trout, landlocked salmon, and the sought-after
tasty yellow perch.
If staring at a damp, dazed fish doesn't get you jazzed, hop aboard
a snowmobile. In Maine, the close to 13,000 miles of trail makes the
biggest problem deciding where to go. “There are the mountains around
Rangeley, the open fields of Aroostook County, and the woods of
Millinocket,” says Bob Meyers of the Maine Snowmobile Association, who
recommends that first-timers go with a guide outfit like Northern
Outdoors. Otherwise, they might end up headfirst in a frozen pond,
staring at a damp, dazed fish. —Steve Jermanok
> Champlain Valley Guide Service, $100 per day for an ice shanty rental (plus a perch-fry lunch), 802-363-4802, champlainvalleyguideservice.com;
Northern Outdoors, $220?$305 for a one-day guided tour, 800-765-7238,
northernoutdoors.com. For snow conditions and a list of snowmobile
guides in Maine, visit mesnow.com.
Line 'Em Up
Boots, belts, and toe taps on the north shore. The country
line-dancing scene has always been a little tenuous in these here
parts, but with the arrival of Tequila's in Danvers, fans finally have
a place to “yee-haw!” “It's not just a hobby. It's a community,” says
dance instructor Michelle Jackson, who guides step-ball-changers ages
15 to 75 through moves like the tush push and the boot-scootin' boogie.
Forget what you think you know about line dancing. A night at
Tequila's is a foot-stompin' good time. “At first I didn't like it,”
says Jason Silva, a 25-year-old who has competed nationally and has the
best moves on the floor. He also can drink a Bud while twirling a
toothpick in his mouth.
Everybody says the same thing: It's addictive. “I'm a junkie, and line dancing is my drug,” Jackson says. —Lena Watts
> Tequila's, 80 Newbury St., Danvers, 978-774-3300, tequilasbarandgrill.com.