“Reagan promised everyone a seven-course dinner. Ours turned out to be a possum and a six-pack.” -Jim Hightower
I am not sure about what got me thinking about possums. It could be the three flattened bodies I saw between the mile and a quarter drive from Highway 25 to my driveway. It seems like they commit mass suicide every so often. I thought of another quote, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done.” S. Truett Cathy said it, but I’m not sure the possums were paying attention.
I’ve had a love hate relationship with possums. I loved the little one on the side of my running path, its heart shaped head glowing in the reflection of my running lamp. I thought it was some unknown flower bloom until I saw its eyes blink. Little one must have fallen out of momma’s pouch. Never fear, momma was close by and when I returned the little joey was absent. Joey is what baby possums are called. Cute name but the adult versions are anything but cute. Only a face a Momma could love.
I remember another trying to escape my chain link fence with a corn cob in its mouth. He couldn’t quite figure out how to get the cob through the chain link. Eventually he turned toward me and grinned like a possum eating persimmons before scurrying over the fence. I tossed the cob after him. I hope he appreciated it.
Don’t get me wrong. Possums get a bad rap. Rarely do they get the rabies they are accused of carrying and they are quite beneficial, scavenging for rotting fruit and vegetables, eating ticks and other icky insects.
Despite their mouths full of misshapen teeth, they are very docile. They may show you their teeth and hiss, but it is a ruse. If threatened, they play dead…no, they really do. They don’t have a choice; it is an involuntary physiological response to danger. Think of it as a fainting spell due to seeing a mouse sort of reaction. That is where my hate relationship with possums comes in.
I have a couple of persimmon trees in my yard and possums love overripe persimmons. I also have Blue Heelers puppy dogs. Persimmons, possums, and puppy dogs are a bad mix. During persimmon season, when I let my pups out for their pre-dawn constitutional, many mornings they would intercept Mrs. Possum coming down from the persimmon tree, catching the marsupial on the ground.
Proud of themselves, Maddie or Tilly would bring their prize indoors and stand over the possum waiting for their “Good Dog” treat. Many mornings I came out of my bathroom to find a possum playing dead…and then suddenly it would resurrect, and I would find myself chasing a wild animal around the house trying to capture it in a pasteboard box before my puppies turned it into a bloody mess. The present two heelers, Quigley and Cora, have yet to discover possums…chipmunks are a different subject.
Note: I’m guessing that Maddie and Tilly caught the same possum several times.
I love them more than I hate them, but I don’t love them enough to want to eat them. Oh, the thought. While they have a rat like tail, they are not rodents, but I can’t get the vision of eating a rat out of my head. Squirrels you say. Well don’t that beat all. Squirrels are rodents. Might need to rethink those squirrel dumplins’.
My great grandfather ate possum. I know this because periodically my grandmother would capture one for him. He’d say, “Addie, I have a hankerin’ for some possum.” Being a dutiful daughter, she would set up a rabbit gum under the persimmon tree in her yard and check it every morning until she caught one. She might catch a rabbit or two before she caught the possum…or maybe a raccoon. She’d put the possum in a cage to fatten it on corn for a couple of weeks and then take it to her mother to turn into possum stew…which might have been eatable had you left out the possum.
I made the mistake of researching possum recipes. One I loved, one I hated…see, love hate relationship.
This one is from the 1941 New American Cookbook. Nothing says America like roast possum. Try not to gag.
Plunge a 2–3-pound possum into very hot but not boiling water for 2 minutes. Pull out or scrape off hair without damaging skin. Slit belly from throat to hind legs. Remove entrails, feet, eyes, and brains. Do not remove the head or tail. Wash thoroughly. If possible, freeze for 3 or 4 days. That would be a hard NO! Are we leaving the head on so that we know it isn’t a dog?
When ready to cook, wipe the possum with a cold, damp cloth. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in roasting pan. Add 1 cup water and juice of 1 lemon. Bake in hot oven (400°F) for 15 minutes, turning once. Cover. Reduce heat and bake in moderate oven (350°F) for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Enjoy.
The second recipe is much better.
Southern Possum Pie. Recipe from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/218440/southern-possum-pie/
2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
¼ cup chopped pecans
⅓ cup instant chocolate pudding mix
¼ cup instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups cold milk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream, whipped
30 pecan halves
Beat softened cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread mixture into the bottom of prepared graham cracker crust. Sprinkle chopped pecans over mixture.
Stir chocolate and vanilla pudding mixes together in a separate large bowl; pour in milk and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes, spoon into the pie pan.
Cover the pie and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Top with prepared whipped cream and pecan halves.
I do love any possum recipe that doesn’t include possum!
Don Miller writes in various genres. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true