“The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they are fed.” – Jean Brillat-Savarin
2020 is a year which showed us a few unhappy truths. The feared privations scratched the surface and exposed the nasty underside of the American (if not Global) food supply chain. The reliance on foreign imports and ownership of the nation’s meat processing tightened its grip on what Americans could put on the table. Food insecurity has skyrocketed across every section of the country, while food pantries with empty shelves ponder how to fill bellies. Smithfield Foods shut down many of their meat processing facilities, as grocery stores across all Fifty States out limitations on how many proteins one person could buy. With only four companies controlling 80 percent of beef processing plants, prices rose in accordance with the country’s anxiety. The toilet paper thing was funny, the risk of starvation isn’t.
The taste of fear is real, but there is an antidote. Hunting. There is a prevalent stereotype about hunters in our mainstream culture. The Hunter is seen as an illiterate, disheveled crank often with questionable access to dental care emerging from a wood cabin with a beer can in one hand and an uninformed rendering of a shotgun in the other. Fortunately for us, the image for hunting is (or has already) changing. Social Media is awash with a new vanguard of people from every corner of society and divergent cultures involved in dispelling the demonization of game meat. I remember a campaign launched in 2008 or 2009 by the French government to get a younger generation into farming. One of the messages loosely translated as “Farming is punk rock”. I still giggle thinking about it. The underlying message though is unmistakable: the angst of economic inequality and a more contemporary breed must take up the reigns. Leave it to the French, eh? This current return to the impetus of farming and hunting has made us examine the jaundiced message of food morality.
You may be wondering at this point where I’m going with all this. Pretty political stuff, but food is possibly one of the most political subjects ever. Remember “Let them eat cake”? Again, the French! My preface to reviewing two excellent new cookbooks. Yep, I brought out the soap box for Two cookbooks by two different women in two different countries displaying the beauty and versatility of wild game. Fair warning to the uninitiated: Once you have sampled the luxuriant offerings from the outdoors, a visit to the meat section at a grocery store may require heroic fortitude. If we eat with our eyes first, the industrially raised inventory in the cold case may leave you in a state of habitual starvation.
Game & Gathering by Rachel Carrie was first published in the
United Kingdom in November of 2019. It’s a gorgeous tome with a stiff spine, and luxuriously thick pages. Ninety-nine percent of the recipes are accompanied by stunning and sublime photographs of either the finished dish or the raw ingredients. Game & Gathering is organized into Six sections: Larder, Elevenses, Lunch, Dinner, Supper, and Show-Off. The index in the back is worth a look as are the smaller sections of additional resources and a shopping guide. These two sections are particular to Great Britain but are still very enlightening. Carrie pens a simple Introduction defining her ethos and outlining proper game preparation. The Larder section, she lists several basic recipes and techniques for your wild game accompaniments, including using leftover rendered fats for making bird feeders. Elevenses is a terrific chapter which gives ways to incorporate wild game into snacks. I’m not going to list every single recipe! You will have to but the book for that. What I will say (puts Chef hat on) is the recipes are trustworthy. There’s nothing worse than spending good money on a cookbook, and the damn recipes don’t square. Game & Gathering’s recipes from beginning to end are explained clearly and the measurements work. Carrie pulls in a variety of simple and easy to source ingredients. Some of the recipes are more traditional British culinary traditions but there are nods to Asian influences throughout. For those of us who respect and revere hunting and cooking with wild game, this cookbook is the showstopper. If you are new to the hunting scene or are merely curious, Carrie’s book is an exquisite primer to indulge your curiosity. Caveat: the recipes are scaled to metric, which really is no big deal. Anyone who survived the late ‘90’s club scene on either side of the Atlantic can work it out. Look here for ordering info: https://fieldsports-emporium.com/store/products,game-gatherings-the-cook-book_9.htm
The Complete Wild Game Cookbook by Bri Van Scotter is a compendium of all wild creatures, great and small, land, water, and air. This is a deceptively slim volume, brimming with solid knowledge. The First Chapter is devoted to defining the tools, basic techniques, and safe handling in your wild game kitchen. Food safety is something I cannot stress enough of! The following Six Chapters are divided up by species from Venison and Elk to Game Birds to Salt and Fresh Water Fish. The final chapter is a compilation of sauces, marinades, and brines. There’s also a handy dandy measurement conversion chart. I recommend copying it and posting it in your kitchen, for easy reference. The Complete Wild Game Cookbook is designed like a go-to reference. The techniques, hints, and calculations are arranged plainly and clearly. Each recipe also contains suggestions for using alternative types of game and cuts. No matter what your experience level is, the material is straight forward. Plus, there’s room on many of the pages for making your own notes (I highly encourage everyone to do this). Order yours here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1647397332/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
These two cookbooks share the same general subject on the proper handling and cooking of wild game. Both approach the subject from a place of reverence for the bounty the outdoors has to offer the home cook. Rachel Carrie demonstrates the majesty of game as your center of plate in a familiar domestic way. Bri Van Scotter establishes game as a versatile protein to fuel your family. This new breed of game cookbooks sheds a shimmering light on the myriad of rewards which hunting gives us. There is an intimidation factor which obscures these rewards for many folks out there. Hopefully these cookbooks, and others similar, will illuminate the path to food independence. For the more experienced huntress, the techniques and methods should expand your repertoire. These tomes aren’t your usual wrap it in bacon, throw it in the crockpot basics. Both cookbooks will encourage and motivate you to include more wild game in your life.
So, get reading, hunting, cooking…. And be awesome today!
*Editorial note: I purchased both of these cookbooks at my own expense*