News and Views on Meat

A friend recently gave us some antelope tenderloin, shot with a bow in Wyoming last fall. I grilled it last night, along with some venison sausage that my wife added to her catch-all pasta and feta dish. A Meat-lovers Tuesday.

Having never grilled this particular critter, I kept it simple: cut to small steaks, let sit overnight in olive oil, pinch salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes. I grilled on low for about 20 minutes, turning every 5 and basting frequently with clarified butter and a little Mr. Stubbs. Result? Tender enough to eat with a fork (although we ate most of it with our hands) and delicious. Now I know why they have to run so fast.

This morning our reader Arthur Wilderson forwarded two links of interest, here and here. The first begins a discussion of “meatless meat,” the Soylent Green concoction some posit as a substitute for animal protein. Evidently PETA is offering $1 million to the first mad scientist who invents the stuff.

The second is a discussion thread from a hunters’ group who wonder if there’s anything they wouldn’t kill? Shades of our question about eating dogs, below. However, read a few comments–some are quite unusual. Hard to imagine what sort of hunters’ group this might be?

Samples:

“Some animals I would kill in a pinch for food, but there are a few different species that I simply will not kill at all. Primarily, rabbits, chipmunks and skunks. For one, I am not fond of eating scavengers, none of them taste good IMO and I really have a soft spot for all 3…”

Rabbits? My daughters share your soft spot for them, but both agree with me they’re delish!

And these folks (some of them “senior members” of the hunting group) seem somewhat conflicted.

“Me being quite squeamish when dealing with the blood and guts part of hunting, I stick to varmints….”

“I don’t like the taste of any game save it be fish. Yes, I know that someone has a recipe that would make me change my mind but I’ve tried most of them and just don’t like it. I used to hunt, elk, deer, pheasant, duck, dove and most any game that Utah has to offer. I found that I usually had to find someone to give my kill to as I didn’t want to eat it. This typically wasn’t a problem there is usually someone you are hunting with that will take the game. I guess for lack of a better description I had a streak of morality hit me…”

“I’m not really a fan of hunting ducks because they mate for life. Just seems weird. Not against other people doing it by any means, just not my thing. Don’t really like bird hunting at all, come to think about it…”

Huh! Sounds like there might be a larger market for meatless meat than I thought!

Forthcoming..

Many readers seem to have responded to my Amazon Wish List, but only a couple- Lauren’s Colin Simms and Mike’s Joe Brown– have come in yet. Books by mail are notoriously slow, but I shall personally thank each donor as they come in, and review every one.

I also have some non- gift reviews coming up– for instance, Ray Troll and Kirk Johnson’s wonderful Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway, which I found via Brian Switek at Laelaps. (Troll is an old acquaintance from Bozeman days, when he worked the book and museum circuit there.)

Finally, with a little luck, some gun, falcon, and writing blogging- all yet in flux….

Hare Hawking

Tom McIntyre (his most recent book is here) sent this You Tube of a Saker falcon attempting to catch a hare in Arabia. It is much like we do, except that WE still use salukis to help (ok, Asian tazis) and we don’t chase the hare with the truck!

The hare still gets away though– which also happens with us more often than not.

Sunday Links

Busy busy busy which is good, but lots of stuff out there as well…

The BBC discovers that places with guns are more peaceful and safe than London, though they can’t quite believe it. HT Reid.

Relatedly, the Atomic Neds have a pleasant encounter in Los Alamos. I agree- if you have pistols at all you MUST have a 1911.

Alphecca links to a great quote, from Canada no less: “Gun control is the only kind of policy that we have where the proponents of it will point to its utter failure as evidence that we need even more of it.”

Paleontology: any of us who follow dinosaurs or have an elementary knowledge of cladistics know that T- Rex and birds are more closely related to one another than either is to lizards or snakes, but public opinion is beginning to catch up, albeit with cutesy headlines. Brian at Laelaps provides some only slightly exasperated clarifications.

Humans nearly became extinct 70,000 years ago— they definitely achieved endangered species status, at least. They also nearly split into two species. Some classical speciation and origins stuff going on here. (HT David Zincavage for the second.)

Archaeology: Peculiar & Mrs. visit a spooky Gallinas culture ruin. These stones would tell strange tales, I suspect, and mysteries still abound. Their neighbors didn’t like them, all trails turned away, and virtually every one found was murdered. A bit about them in this good book.

“Do as I say…”? From an essay in the Boston Globe(!): “This year [RFK Jr. is] pushing wind farms, as far as the eye can see. You mean he no longer opposes the Cape Wind project off Uncle Teddy’s mansion on Cape Cod? Not a chance! Kennedy wants to plant wind farms all across states like North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas. No Beautiful People live there.”

HT Annie Hocker– RTWT. Though I must add that I see fur as pretty green…

AR, Nanny state and other offenses: Mike Spies sends the good news that dog owners in LA are fighting back. According to the American Sporting Dog Alliance (anyone have a link to the actual story?):

“…Concerned Dog Owners of California filed a lawsuit this week against the City of Los Angeles, seeking to overturn a new ordinance mandating the spaying and neutering of all dogs.

“The lawsuit is primarily based on constitutional grounds, and alleges that the ordinance violates the civil rights of dog owners in several ways.

“The American Sporting Dog Alliance believes that the importance of this lawsuit extends far beyond the City of Los Angeles. It marks the first of several anticipated legal challenges to onerous laws and ordinances as dog owners turn to the courts to fight for their rights on constitutional grounds. This lawsuit is based on legal issues that exist in every state.”

Here is a link to a story that is pretty funny on some levels. But what the story AND MOST COMMENTERS seem to miss is: you need to present your papers if stopped in New York City??

“Pliss to present your papers, Kamerad..”

Molon labe.

And of course, Random Weirdness. From Doc H: Purple Hair and Bad SF covers; which leads directly to: Imaginary Romance Novel Covers— the funniest thing I have seen this month. This one’s for you, Rebecca.

Pollan Channels Berry

My cousin Marnie, recalling the chat about sustainability we enjoyed over pricey cappuccino at a seaside resort last summer, sent this recent piece by Michael Pollan.

Marnie writes: “Either Michael Pollan is channeling you or you are channeling him, and you’re both channeling Wendell Berry.”

Pollan’s piece quotes my hero WB in defense of virtue as a dissapearing commodity in American culture and specifically on the virtue of self-reliance that planting a garden embodies. Pollan, who writes often about his own gardening, sees that effort as a more substantive response to climate change concerns than say, changing a light bulb.

After seeing Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth,’ Pollan says the most frightening moment for him came after the closing credits, “when we are asked to . . . change our light bulbs. That’s when it got really depressing. The immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem Gore had described and the puniness of what he was asking us to do about it was enough to sink your heart.”

Pollan develops his theme in an effort to explain why, after we’ve given away so much personal responsibility to various specialists (“…our meals to agribusiness, health to the doctor, education to the teacher, entertainment to the media, care for the environment to the environmentalist, political action to the politician…”) we are left with such pitiful “solutions” as switching to other kinds of light bulb or auto fuel as the only actions we might successfully take on our own behalf.

“Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It’s hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it. ”

Wendell Berry’s writing and thinking, suggests Pollan, points to a better way:

“[Berry is] impatient with people who wrote checks to environmental organizations while thoughtlessly squandering fossil fuel in their everyday lives — the 1970s equivalent of people buying carbon offsets to atone for their Tahoes and Durangos. Nothing was likely to change until we healed the ‘split between what we think and what we do.’ For Berry, the ‘why bother’ question came down to a moral imperative: ‘Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.'”

Amen, Brother Wendell!

But what a shame that Mr. Berry needs a spokesman. I read the Pollan piece and wrote back to my cousin:

Berry is the prophet of our age. You’ll see him quoted more and more over the next decade, I’m sure. And after he is safely dead (also likely in same period), his lauding by pundits and politicians of every stripe will soar. Somewhere in the ground on a Kentucky hillside, Wendell will be spinning in his grave.

I think Pollan is an important figure and I enjoy reading him. He speaks for the urban/yuppie set for whom references to carbon footprints, hybrid SUVs and fair trade lattes have real-time relevance. That demographic (which is mine, to some extent) needs him. But Berry himself does not need translating. If you read his novels you’ll enjoy them and understand them perfectly. If you read his essays you’ll feel empowered and inspired and ashamed, all without needing anyone to parse out the reasons for it. I am getting into his poetry and theology now and know there’s yet another opportunity here for enjoyment and enlightenment.

We did get a garden in this year, but it’s small. We’ve got 7 tomato plants, 2 basil and 2 peppers. But these are the things we will actually eat, so we’ll get a good return on investment. I’d like to keep it going this year into the fall and winter with salad greens, just to experiment. As for “giving up the beef,” we’ve largely done that but still of course eat meat. We ate a lot of local game this year (including last night’s grilled deer sausage) and will be eating more I suspect as the economy tanks.

Hawk Poems

Steve’s post below with hawk-infused poetry brought another poem to mind. It’s by one of my favorites, Georgia native David Bottoms, and it appears in the most recent edition of LSU’s famed literary journal, The Southern Review. Enjoy!

Old Man and Neighborhood Hawk

Vague silhouette, like an idea
forming, then a shiver on the pine branch and the hawk takes shape.

It props against twilight to scrutinize the yard, the hedges
and flower beds smudged into gray pools.

My old man, elbow on his walker, stares from a kitchen chair.

The hawk rolls his head, probes hedge, patio, monkey grass,
rhododendrons heavy with black blossoms, trellis of roses.

The old man noses the window, his caught breath clouding the pane.

Something has grabbed an eye, some old impulse
trembling down the nerves. On the bar of the walker his hand trembles.

Then a dive from the branch, a bursting under brush,
and up the hawk rises on wing slashes, pine straw, flurry of leaves—

over lawn, fence, street, dragging through streetlight
something pale and squirming—

and my old man’s hand flapping toward the window
falls again to his knee.

Swan song, etc

Me, ever since I saw my grandpa chop a chicken’s head off (complete with the runnin’ ’round spectacle that followed) one day, and then the next day saw him chop of a rattlesnake’s head (with the follow-up warning that the head was still deadly, for a long time after life itself was gone), I’ve been what you might call suspicious about the whole denogginizing process. Word is, guillotined Frenchmen blinked a whole lot without the benefit of their bodies, in the name of science.

So imagine this:

Your intrepid reporter is in pursuit of something Eastern European, y’know, werewolf bread, Soviet yams, something. He’s heard mysterious tales of a soup made from blood. Yes! Blood! No kidding! So I looked long and hard. I mean I asked around casually. And guess what, reader, it’s not actually hard to find a czarnina (blood soup!!) recipe. Everyone has one. They’re even like, ‘You have blood pudding in England, don’t you?,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t, no!’ and they’re like, ‘You use too many exclamation points!’ but in any event, it turns out that the difficulty isn’t in finding something mildly exotic to eat, but rather, in discriminating between the different recipes that every single person gives you. Which is actually the best? And how much homecooked blood can a man eat in a week in the name of psuedoscience? (Or psuedo-psuedoscience, as it were)

Turns out, a lot.

And a whole lot of the whole process involves birds getting their heads lopped off.
I’m actually a picky eater, kids. If I can shake a piece of bacon without breaking it I put it back in the pan. I’m almost positive I ate nothing but chocolate milk and Kraft Cheese n’ Macaroni for at least two months straight at one point in grad school. But I’m traveling, I’m trying to be up for anything, I’m trying to be at the mercy of new places.

So I set out to eat any and every bit of blood soup I could manage to convince a student or student’s mother to serve me.

Have you ever had a really bad bloody nose? With celery in it?

One thing that seemed to be a constant was vinegar. Many questions and increasingly fat Polish-English dictionaries finally revealed that it prevents clotting. I’m almost sad to say that the ‘goose’ blood made the best soup, to my mind. (By goose I almost certainly mean swan, but my chef disagreed, so who am I to argue).

Discard guts, or do whatever tickles your fancy with them, the ‘goose’ isn’t going to mind at this point.

Chill the blood and vinegar.

Pluck the ‘goose,’ then put the meat and organs (sans lungs, as far as I could tell, but with liver, gizard, and heart) into a big pot, pour water over it until it’s full, then boil it all. You take the goo off the top (and I’m sure there’s a name for this stuff, but I don’t know it), then mix in whatever’s in the garden, apparently, for example: onions, celery, peppers, stuff that I couldn’t pronounce in a thousand years and lots of it, with the goo, put it in a little cloth bag and let that cook with the ‘goose’ meat at a low temp for about 3 hours.

Sorry I don’t know the exact cooking temperature, but it was a gas stove and the cook was an 80-year old woman whom I was physically afraid of anyway, and who seemed to like to swing a cleaver around whenever she talked to me (or anyone, for that matter), not necessarily threateningly, but threateningly nonetheless.

Once everything would seem to be done, throw in whatever fruit you have, we had prunes, cherries and apples.

At this point the blood/vinegar came out of the fridge, was mixed with (I think) sour cream and (I know) flour at an excruciatingly slow rate, to prevent, by my translation, ‘life via air,’ which better translators (ie:people who can actually speak both Polish and English) have since called’ curdling’, but whatever. Pour some water from the boiling meat into the blood, stir it, then pour it all over the ‘goose’ meat.

This woman threw a small fistfull of sugar into the pot like she hated it and said something I could only construe as a curse on my flesh as she did.

Serve and eat.

Sorry my measurements are either nonexistent or totally unspecific, but the whole ‘goose’ fed four of us, which included one smallish woman, me (something like 200 pounds) and two elderly folks who ate more than me, with marginal leftovers.

Ducks, chickens don’t make much of a difference, so far as I could tell, but beware, I’m not much of a gourmand.

Enjoy if you dare.