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If it tastes like chicken, then it must be rattlesnake
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Sue Inglish has no problem eating wild game for supper, whether it is served indoors or outdoors.

She has practically tasted them all - bear, deer, wild pig, elk, squirrel, wild pheasant - and liked them all. Rattlesnake, too.

Yes, rattlesnake, said the very ladylike Inglish with a demure Mona Lisa smile that makes you wonder, “she’s not really into hunting, is she?” Or, “is she just pulling my leg?”

And how does rattlesnake taste like?

“Tastes like chicken. It’s white meat. And it’s tender, maybe mushier (than chicken). I only had it a couple of times,” said Inglish who often goes hunting and fishing with her husband.

There was no rattlesnake dish for Inglish to sample at the annual Costa’s Wild Game Feed and Benefit Party Friday at Manteca Trailer & Motor Home on East Yosemite Avenue in Manteca. She was just there doing her annual stint as a volunteer food server.

But there was no shortage of guests who were more than willing to share their personal opinions on the exotic dishes that, for many, keep them coming back for more every year. Among them were John and Nancy Kellogh of Manteca who came along with son John Jr., his wife Deysi, and their son John III. They were among the first to arrive at the benefit party. The long line was still snaking its way to the front door, with more people arriving when they got done eating.

Nancy said she has tasted the elk, venison and wild pig dishes.

“I like it; it was fine,” she said of the wild pig.

And the bear? She has helped herself to some of that, too. Her verdict? “It didn’t taste too gamey. It was good. It got a little bit of flavor.”

It was her husband who encouraged her to sample the bear dish.

“That’s all I heard him talk about, so I got the bear,” Nancy Kellogh said with a laugh.

Daughter-in-law Deysi who was a first-time guest at the wild-game feed, filled her plate with a sample of practically every wild dish served.

“I got everything,” she said, but had a hard time telling which was which once everything was piled up in her paper plate.

But she was pretty familiar with one. “That’s good,” she said, pointing to the venison sample.

One of the brave souls who helped themselves to the scrumptious-looking meatballs with red sauce called “porcupine trailer scat” (I think the dish name was made in jest although brothers Jim and Jesse Costa and their hunter friends kept a pretty serious and straight face when asked about the veracity of the dish’s identity) was John III. “I got the porcupine; that’s good!” he said with a big smile.

As for the bear casserole dish prepared by the Costas’ sister Janice Anderson who is also an avid hunter, Nancy Kellogh concluded: “Its texture was kind of like a hamburger; only, it tastes different. But it had a nice sauce in it!”

Another visitor who had a soft spot in her taste buds for the bear casserole was Sherri Laird of Escalon.

“It was very good,” said Laird who was joined at the table by her husband Mike who is a deputy sheriff with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department but is currently assigned at the county superior court in Manteca.

The meat used in the bear dish this year was contributed by the Costas’ friend and avid hunter, Lewis Thompson of Manteca.

John Kellogh Sr. has been a perennial visitor at the wild-game feed for the last decade and said he particularly liked the way last year’s bear dish was prepared.

“It was juicy; it had some sauce and you could break the meat with your fork. This year, it’s cooked different. It’s a little drier,” he said.

The bear dish, along with the abalone, also happen to be the favorites of Mary, Jesse Costa’s wife.

As for Linda, Jim’s wife, the calamari is the best.

“That’s my favorite,” said Linda who goes abalone diving with her husband at Dillon Beach and other places for this event.

She likes all the wild-game dishes served, she added.

“We pretty well live on it,” said the avid hunter and angler matter-of-factly.

As for the bear dish, “Bear really is good because it’s an excellent recipe,” she concluded.