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Some Days You Eat Bear

August 02, 2000|From Times Wire Services

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Everyone is welcome to join the World Bear Eaters Club. All you have to do is eat bear meat.

Each year, the Forks-of-Cheat Baptist Church outside Morgantown inducts new members into the club as part of its anniversary celebration. The club honors the black bear, West Virginia's official state animal, because the church's founders survived on the animal's meat and fur for five years in the 1770s.

Joseph Gluck, 85, the church's historian and the club's "Bear Master," said the bear meat is marinated, roasted, chopped into pieces and served to the inductees.

"It's quite tasty when it's really prepared," he said. "There is an erroneous belief among many people that bear meat is tough, stringy, with a wild flavor. That is not true."

At the induction ceremony, inductees who have eaten the meat kneel as Gluck taps each on the head three times with a bear tooth. Then he says the magic word ("abracadabra").

The tooth is then passed around among the inductees, who kiss it. They also receive a T-shirt and a certificate of membership in the club.

"It becomes a sort of fun thing that the church does every year on the anniversary," Gluck said.

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