I'm surprised he never saw it in the pantry, the nearly foot-long brown baton with
an open-mouthed alligator on the lemongrass-colored label. When I
don't ask me where I was when I purchased this treasure. Somewhere in
goodness-knows-where Florida -- that's near whatever gas station my
best friend and I stumbled into between Orlando and New Smyrna Beach
when she ran out of gas on the way to Epcot--there's some convenience
store that sells this type of stuff. According to Garry Zick, the owner
and founder of Zick's Specialty Meats
in Michigan, the company that makes the sticks, they can only be found
in specialty and convenience stores, and the occasional "tourism
places." (Since he sells only to distributors, he couldn't think of any
place in South Florida that sold the stuff, but mentioned they can be
found in some gator venue near Everglades City.)
But enough about the history. Let's get to the eatin'.
I cut open the bottom and took a whiff. It smelled sweet, yet smoky. No surprise there. Thankfully, it also barely left an oily residue on the wrapper, so I had no fear that it would perhaps clog my arteries. And don't ask me why, but I guess for the sake of research I gave a little lick on the outside of the stick. It reminded me of a salty balloon... not that I often lick salty balloons, or anything.
The ingredient composition was simple enough, too: alligator, beef, salt, the ever-ubiquitous "flavorings," citric acid, dextrose, brown sugar, sodium erthyorbate, and sodium nitrite. And I was pleased to see Buffalo Bob (a.k.a. Garry Zick, I presume) didn't falsely advertise, since the label clearly states "ALLIGATOR WITH BEEF" at the top.
Before digging in, I asked Zick what he thought the mild stick tasted like. "I definitely know it's not chicken," he replied, then added after contemplating, "Turtle meat."
Not too much enlightenment there.
As I expected, it was pretty soft, the soft, taut skin only providing a little snap when I cut it with my incisors. It was just a little salty on the tongue, and definitely had a drier consistency than a Slim Jim and a much gamier, slightly sour flavor. Within seconds, I devoured the whole thing. Happy to report there was virtually no aftertaste.
Zick told me his company uses the leg meat because the better stuff -- loins and tails and such -- go to restaurants. "Can't do much with it but grinding," he explained. And he says he buys all his gator meat strictly from Florida. Dare I hope it mostly comes from Gainesville?
Zick's also sells products made with elk, kangaroo, pheasant, wild boar, and even antelope, and he said consumers can also find a exotic game snack stick combo on some Cabela's website
, if they feel like comparing. Would I eat another alligator stick again? Definitely. And I can't wait to send boxes of the stuff to all my Gator friends for Christmas.