Mutton Has Always Been an Owensboro Specialty, But Why?
I want to pause now and send out a salute to my old friend, Trace Kirkwood. And here's why.
Trace is originally from Miami but grew up in Louisville and now lives with his wife, Dana, in Shelbyville.
Many, many years ago, Pam Tillis came to Owensboro to perform at the Executive Inn Rivermont Showroom Lounge (and, yes, I will ALWAYS miss it). It was a Saturday night show, but she and her crew got to town early in the day and she and her road manager came by the radio station for an interview, which was extremely cool.
While Pam was here she mentioned that she and her entourage were going to have dinner at Moonlite before the show. She's always heard about it and wanted to eat there. AND she asked me to join them.
Well, Trace was coming in for a visit that evening and I told her I'd have to beg off, except that she said to bring him along. And so I did. (He still has the autographed menu hanging somewhere in their home.)
At Moonlite, she and her band and roadies did NOT eat any mutton, but Trace did, and loved it and still does.
So I tip my hat to my old friend, the rare out-of-towner who LOVES mutton. Most don't, Pam Tillis and company included.
It is THE Owensboro specialty, in my opinion, but do you know why?
Obviously, based on the reactions of so many who won't touch the stuff, it's highly unusual, outside of western Kentucky, to eat sheep.
Well, it all started in the 1830s with Dutch settlers who arrived in these parts and began raising sheep. When the sheep got old, their flesh became very tough, but it was discovered that long-smoking it would tenderize it enough for consumption, and the next thing you know, folks around here began devouring mutton. And, no, I cannot believe I learned this from The Village Voice, of all sources, but I did. And I also find it interesting that the author focused mainly on George's BBQ, which is no longer even here. (The piece was written in 2004.)
So there it is. Once the wool came off, they had to figure out what to do with all these naked sheep.
And thanks to some smart settlers who knew their way around whatever passed for a 19th-century smoker, we have the amazing delicacy known as mutton.
Who knew it was a "Dutch treat?"