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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.


May 18, 2015

One of the greatest surprises of my adult life is that quicksand hasn’t played a larger role.


As a kid I was a fan of Tarzan. What’s not to like? He lived in a really cool tree house, had a chimpanzee as a pet, and a smoking hot British girlfriend who swung from vines in a loincloth bikini. The only drag about being Lord of the Jungle seemed to be wrestling lions and alligators and, of course, battling quicksand.


Tarzan seemed to handle alligator and lion wrestling with ease. Though it seems that almost anyone who came across Tarzan on a daily basis was going to end up in a batch of quicksand before the hour was over.


This, I told myself at eight-years old, was going to be an inevitable problem one day and I would have to prepare for multiple encounters with quicksand later in life.


My youth was spent outdoors. I basically lived outside from sunrise to dusk. If I wasn’t in school or asleep I was playing outside, rain or shine. My friends and I played football, explored in the woods, built tree houses and were always on the lookout for two things: snakes and quicksand— the terrors of the South Mississippi pine jungle. We saw our fair share of snakes but never— not once— did we come across a patch of quicksand.


I am 53-years old and have travelled to dozens of countries on a few continents and I have still not encountered quicksand. It’s a little disappointing because I feel like I’m prepared. I watched dozens of Tarzan movies and television shows and have virtually graduated from Quicksand 101. I feel like I would know what to do when faced with the dreadful fate of slowly sinking in a gurgling, gooey patch of quicksand.


I know that the worst thing to do is struggle. Remain calm look for a long, rope-like root to pull oneself out of the muck. If there isn’t a long root available, call out for your faithful chimpanzee sidekick to bring a rope. Problem solved.


As a kid growing up playing in the woods of South Mississippi, my friends and I never walked up on a patch of dry sand on the ground, much less a patch of wet, slushy, sure-to-die-a-slow-death quicksand. There was a lot of pine straw on the ground, some dirt, and after a rain a little mud. But South Mississippi mud is a poor substitute for quicksand. The worst thing that could happen in a patch of mud is that someone might lose a sneaker.


Almost as baffling as the world’s lack of quicksand is the absence of flying cars in the 21st Century. By the year 2000 we were all supposed to be riding around in flying cars. In 1969 in Mrs. Smith’s 4th grade class I would have bet a year’s worth of lunch money that we’d be riding in flying cars by now. Instead we’re walking around with telephones that aren’t plugged in to anything. Whereas that is a very cool invention, in 1969, had you given me the choice between having an untethered telephone that can hold thousands of songs or a flying car, I would have chosen a flying car. I would make the same choice today.


In 1969, the “future” also included pills and tablets as substitutes for full meals. Thankfully that never happened, though we did get Tang. Just in case you haven’t heard, Tang sucks.


I have never wrestled an alligator, either. Though I have served alligator. I am not a fan. I believe alligator is like chitterlings— people like talking about eating alligator/chitterlings more than they like eating it/them. Alligator is tough. It has to be severely pounded to reach some sibilance of tenderness. Then it has to be fried. Afterwards, people will say, “It tastes just like chicken.” I say just fry up some chicken and save the alligators so Tarzan will have something to wrestle.


In the meantime, if you ever run across a patch of quicksand, give me a call. I need to test my skills. Anyone have a chimpanzee I can borrow?


Rosemary Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken, about 4-5 pounds

1 TL Bacon Fat

1 TBL Unsalted Butter, softened

2 tsp Kosher Salt

2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into eight

1 small ripe orange, cut into eight wedges

1/4 cup celery, small dice

2 TBL brown sugar

8 fresh rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Rinse and dry the chicken.

Combine the bacon fat and butter and rub this mixture over the entire chicken.

Sprinkle the entire chicken with the salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, including the inside cavity of the chicken.

Mix together the onion, orange, celery and brown sugar. Remove the leaves from two stems of the rosemary and combine it with the onion mixture. Stuff this mixture into the cavity of the chicken.

Use a small paring knife and cut 1 slit at both ends of each breast, and one slit in the leg and thigh section of the chicken. Gently insert the remaining rosemary springs into the chicken.

Truss the chicken and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Place in the center of the oven. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes-1 hour, the juices will run clear when the chicken is done. About 15-20 minutes into the roasting of the chicken, baste the skin with the pan drippings.

Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Gently remove the inserted rosemary sprigs before carving and serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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