Food & Drink Watergate Salad & fried rattlesnake

Las Cocinitas de Fiesta is a veritable cornucopia of classic recipes and local flavor

When Las Cocinitas de Fiesta cookbook arrived at our offices, I was reminded of my Midwestern grandmothers' 1950s Ladies Literary Club Cookbook, which, though politely bound in gray cloth, was filled with drunken rum balls and mayonnaise-laden pies, equals parts cheeky and innovative. Las Cocinitas, authored by friends and board members of the Fiesta Commission, is more colorfully bound, but falls into that the same genre: Deceptively simple, its recipes can be prepared with economy and convenience but still render a tasty meal. There are a few recipes, however, so rough and tumble Texas they would make my granny's rum balls roll.

First the classics, which, true to the format, contain ingredients not found in nature, or at least not mated. Consider the Watergate Salad, which combines pistachio pudding with Cool Whip, pineapple, and miniature marshmallows, and the Broccoli and Grape Salad, a mix of raisins, grapes, broccoli, and bacon in mayonnaise dressing.

Las Cocinitas de Fiesta
Fiesta San Antonio
$18 168 pages
Although fascinated by the Watergate Salad, we felt truly called to the Giant Ginger Cookies, which featured a heaping half-cup of molasses and four teaspoons of ginger. They were easy to prepare and baked up into soft, delicious cookies. We liked them best fresh out of the oven but, once cooled, we found they weren't half bad served two at a time with a wedge of vanilla ice cream in-between. The ginger chewiness of the cookie combined with the smooth cream is just a little bit of all right.

But our favorite was one we didn't prepare, taken from the Tex-Mex section of Las Cocinitas, and reprinted here for your pleasure and edification.

Fried Rattlesnake

3 eggs
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Go outside and find a big rattlesnake. Kill the snake. Nail the snake's head to a tree. Cut the snake down the middle, being careful not to ruin the rattles. Cut the skin away from the head. Pull down hard and steady. Lay the skin in the sun to dry. Instruct the dog to leave the snakeskin alone. Cut the body away from the head. Disengage the guts. Wash whatever you are left holding. Slice the meat into half-inch thick patties. Pour a lot of flour onto two plates, and scramble three eggs in a bowl. Put black pepper ... and some cayenne pepper and some salt in the mound`s` of flour ... Put in more pepper - you're about to eat rattlesnake. Check the grease. It should be hot enough that a lady's spit jumps back out of the skillet. (Lady spit is small, projectile spittle shot off the front of the tongue as though your were trying to get rid of a piece of lint or a hair.) Dip the meat in the first mound, then in the egg, then in the second mound. Do not drop, but gently lay the battered meat into the hot grease. If done correctly, you'll not get burned. If done wrong, you'll learn. Leave the meat in the grease until it's brown on the bottom, then turn it over ... When the meat is brown on the other side, lay it on the paper towels ... Repeat the above snake cooking steps until all the snake is cooked. DELICIOUS! •

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