DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Chris Melia admitted his tummy was “a little weak” as he held a cooked piece of moose tongue close to his lips Thursday during a Native American Feast put on for pupils at SeDoMoCha Middle School.
Popping the sliver of tongue into his mouth at the encouragement of others, the fifth-grader chewed and swallowed the wild game before declaring it was tasty.
“It was good!” Chris exclaimed before jumping from his seat to return to the serving table for another piece.
The feast came at the conclusion of a unit on American Indians and a few weeks before the annual Arthur L. Hitchcock Jr. wild game dinner sponsored for and by the Piscataquis Regional YMCA to help local youth.
Jim Ellis of Dover-Foxcroft, who cochairs the Nov. 16 wild game dinner with Rocco Palumbo of Wellington, prepared, cooked and served the pupils bear teriyaki; deer meat with soy sauce; moose shish kebab; beans, bear and bacon; moose beef jerky; and the moose tongue. Also on the menu was cornbread.
When Ellis announced the menu, a few pupils made faces and they muttered a few “yucks.”
For the past six years, Ellis and Palumbo, supporters of Hooked on Fishing and Hooked on Hunting, Not Drugs and Alcohol, have solicited fish and wild game meat from hunters and guides and meat confiscated by wardens from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the annual wild game meal.
With enough meat donated for the supper, Ellis and his wife, teacher Janice Ellis, decided last year it would be nice to offer an American Indian meal to fifth-grade pupils as part of their studies. The meal was such a success among the pupils that they held it again this year.
“Indians didn’t waste anything, and they knew how to cook it,” Jim Ellis told the pupils.
That didn’t convince Lacey Harding, who declined to eat the moose tongue. “It would gross me out, “ she said as she nibbled on cornbread, the only food on her plate.
Avery Carroll, on the other hand, enjoyed all of the meat offerings. The dark-haired, dark-eyed girl said she enjoyed the teriyaki the most.
“If they don’t try it, they don’t like it,” Ellis said. For those children who don’t have hunters in their families, Ellis hopes the taste of wild game will stay with them until they are older and might enjoy hunting.
The whole effort is to get children outside where they can enjoy and partake of nature’s provisions so they avoid drugs and alcohol, Ellis said.