“Good God, will you just look at it...it's immense.” My brother Pat's mouth was as agape as my own as we marveled at its size. It had to be the largest manatee liver we had ever seen in one piece, let alone served in a restaurant. We were enjoying a quiet dinner together in the back room of Limpy's Place in midtown, and our entrees had just arrived.
“Wasn't there some sort of federal law passed about manatee livers some years ago, Pat?” I asked. I was sure that I read something to that effect in one of the many obscure trade journals that I find myself flipping through from day to day. One does not easily forget federal regulations regarding the internal organs of large aquatic creatures. “Didn't the FDA or someone get some sort of law passed?”
“It was the FAA, actually,” said Pat, nursing his scotch and contemplating the liver before him.
“The FAA?” I asked, incredulously.
“Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but I actually ran into this in a project I was doing down near the Everglades. One job was held up for several weeks while we ran through all these crazy federal bureaucratic channels. In the end it was the FAA that had jurisdiction over the harvesting, processing, and subsequent braising, sauteeing, poaching, baking, or frying of wild manatee liver.”
“You designed a manatee processing plant?”
“Heavens no...of course not,” he replied, “it was a casino that had its main restaurant built around a manatee buffet.”
“Oh. I see,” I said, swirling the spear of orange circus peanuts in my Beefeater martini, “I hear those sorts of things are huge down there.”
“Yeah,” he said, “the snowbirds go crazy for it.”
“But how on earth did the FAA get involved?”
“Well, Tom, it is a little known fact – largely lost on medical science – that manatee liver has a special quality. It has a trace chemical in it that, when combined with fried onions, imparts the ability to levitate. If a person eats enough of it, well...you probably get the picture. Think of what this could do to the airline industry.”
“My gosh,” I said, dumbfounded.
“Suffice to say that I never use my frequent flier miles on trips back from the job site in Florida.”
“Pat, that's amazing,” I said. “Why don't more people take advantage of this stuff?”
“It's the taste, Tom. Not much you can do about it. Manatee liver tastes almost identical to manatee excrement. Or so I'm told. I just know it's awful tasting. Hence the third scotch.”
“Aha. But you must not mind it too much – look at the size of this liver you ordered.”
“Well, Tom, I have to be in London tomorrow afternoon, and both JFK and Newark are closed for Kwanzaa preparations. I have little choice.”
“Well,” I said, lifting my glass, “bon appetit. And I'll make sure they bring you a doggy bag – you can enjoy the leftovers on the flight. Happy holidays, Pat.”
“Happy holidays, Tom. God bless us, every one!”