Summer Woodcock

Georgia friend Gil Stacy has more sense than we did when I hunted Woodcock: he keeps some for the summer mushroom harvests… chanterelles in this case.
Also notice the color of the cut flesh. Like all good Woodcock (and snipe) cooks, he
sort of passes them through a very hot oven. I get tired of hearing how dark- fleshed birds “taste like liver”- good LIVER doesn’t taste like liver when it is cooked rare, turned over quickly in hot bacon fat and butter. My disgusted French- born gourmand friend Guy de la Valdene, after he read an American recipe for woodcock that involved two cans of cream of mushroom soup and an hour and a half in the oven, wrote (in Making Game in 1990): “As this recipe negates the whole reason for killing the birds in the first place, why not take it a step further and poach the Woodcock overnight in equal parts of catsup, pabulum, and Pepto- Bismol.”

  
 I need to hunt Woodcock again before I die.  First pic below by Betsy Huntington from 1976, with her Parker 16, in Easton MA in the coverts I grew up in, no longer open to hunting but mercifully preserved from development as a park; second Bar Mills ME, 1987, the year after her death, in a place I still hope to hunt again, with Bart and Darne.

Incidentally, the greatest (and most undeserved ) compliment as a cook I ever had was by Russ Chatham at his old place in Deep Crick, when he and Libby and Guy and I had whipped up something impromptu and good.All I remember now was that it had sweetbreads- Guy I think– and Risott’, from me. Russ suddenly burst out with “This is so good I wish I had FOUR cook stations so we could all cook at once, all the time!” Russ is an emotional half- Italian like me, and  think it was the magical wine from his legendary cellar talking, the best I have ever had, usually with labels falling off. Surely Jim Harrison would have been a better fourth cook. But I will take my compliments when I get ’em….

Party!

After a slightly exhausting week, the much – postponed party finally straggled in to Reid and Connie’s country manse in Parker CO  on Saturday. Not every one could make it (Smokey Paul and Lynne met us at a Santa Fe highway exit to hand over a pistol for Carlos —  we still live in a free country where a poet can hand a handgun to a writer to pass to an ornithologist, and pass it through three states, all legally!)

I am not sure what the “Theme” of the party might have been– probably NOT blogging, though it had brought some of us together. But only Reid, Arthur, and me met primarily that way. Andy Wilson has known Libby from Outward Bound days, 40 years and more. Many of the others were members of what Carlos  and the (absent ) Gerry Cox facetiously call the  “Sewing Circle”, a bunch of writers, academics and artists fascinated with fine guns. Guy Boyd, who is holding the iconic Purdey, came down from Fort Collins; our first contact was through birds I think, as he flies a pursuit Gyr named Darwin, but I have also worked editing his yet unsold thriller ms. Chas Clifton blogs at Nature Blog, but we have known each other forever; he went to Reed College with Tom McIntyre, is a retired professor of English literature and comparative religion,  knew “Seasonal” writer Ed Engle (who once remarked after a hike in the San Mateos that we had seen a redtail catch a squirrel, but “if it had been twenty yeas ago, we might have seen Mescalito!”, and, if memory serves me right, first read me in the rather odd venue of Chronicles, in a nature- themed issue put together by Chilton Williamson and his legendary damned Patagonian conures!

Themes were guns, books, ideas, and food, plus a standing desk of splendid oak for me (thanks to Laramie based novelist Brad Watson); horses (Akhal Tekes) and dogs (Aussies- ours had stayed home) and a little mostly Chihuahua named Rainbow. And GRILLED MEAT– thanks especially to Carlos, and to Arthur for bringing lovely chile- flavored booze for a marinade.

And of course the Purdey, which is exquisite, not just the finest for its price but one of the finest hammer Purdeys I have ever handled. But, contrary to what everyone seems to think, despite my trade goods and its relatively good price, I do NOT have the full price yet. Perhaps, as the Nature Conservancy’s Matt Miller suggests, I should swallow my pride, and try a little crowdfunding– it looks like now or never… ideas, please!

This set all by Andy W:

Chas sights Broomie with Steve & Carlos in enthusiastic discussion behind

The younger set–Arthur and gunsmith Adam (not in this set, brother Oliver)

Novelist Brad Watson (check his new book on Amazon), Carlos, Steve

Reid with MEAT

We do love our food– and guns …

Hunting for “Millenials”

This fine video of deer hunting in Paradise Valley is better than 90% of such stuff:
Wild Harvest from Native Boy on Vimeo.
But it is more remarkable then that, for it is linked to a Huffington Post article, titled “Millenials Must Hunt.

I rather like that imperative– not “can” or even “should”, but MUST. I had reason to cite the link between foodies and locavores to hunting in my recently completed text for the art show, “Wild Spaces, Open Seasons”, but I had no idea how far this way of thinking has penetrated…

This year’s Boletes

Not a great year– the southern San Mateos, our main source, were a bit drier than we’d like– but we got a gallon of dried, first adequate harvest in 8 years. The photos span the trip down and back up the Plains of St Augustin  by the VLA; flowers, like the white poppies, show we have had a monsoon. The album also includes processing, Ataika, out for the ride, and one mushroom you really don’t want to eat…

Don’t eat this one.

One More Link

Best Product Description: “Icelandic Beer Made From Smoked Whale Testicles”. Really.

“We started last year with our first whale beer, Hvalur 1. The health
department didn’t want us to produce it at first, but we were allowed
to. The beer used whale meal as an ingredient, and it was something new
for Iceland. It sold out almost immediately. This year, for Hvalur 2, we
wanted to keep the concept, but use a different whale ingredient. We
decided to use fin whale testicles… We wanted to create a true Thorrablot atmosphere that celebrates
traditional Icelandic food. Every winter, Icelanders gather to eat
traditional food that sustained our ancestors for generations. This is
very popular here in the countryside, and we wanted the beer to be
released at the same time of the festival. The dishes we eat include
boiled sheep heads, liver sausage, ram testicles, fermented shark,
wind-dried fish, smoked lamb meat, and blood pudding. We thought that Hvalur 2 would fit in well with Thorrablot…

Courtesy of David Z.


Found Data

From The Eskimo Cookbook, Shishmarek Alaska, 1952:

 “Soured Seal Liver:

“Soured seal liver is made in the summer here. Place liver in enamel pot or dish and cover with blubber. Put in warm place for a few days until sour.

“Most boys and girls don’t like it. Only grownups and old people.

“I don’t like it.”

“Loon Soup:

“Take off feathers and clean the loon. Wash, and put into cooking pot with plenty of water. Add salt to taste.

“Do not make the loon soup.”

Book Review #2: Rifle Looney News

John Barsness and Eileen Clarke seem like such normal people that is hard to realize at first just how unusual their “lifestyle” is. They are ubiquitous in the hunting and gun magazines, more so than any other couple I have known (I dare say I have known many of the sporting couples of my time). John writes technological piece in vivid and comprehensible English. He writes exotic hunting pieces, many of them on the big game of Africa, Europe, and Alaska, that make you feel that even a poor man might get to do these things.

Best of all, he writes of a life of hunting in his native Montana. As he once said to me, in a manner not entirely satirical, “I am a third generation Montanan… academic.” And though I believe that he ended up as I did studying biology, his first published material was a book of poetry. And his mentor in the woods and fields, before he met the old Lakota patriarch Ben Burshia, was the New York transplant Norm Strung.

Eileen’s history is even less likely. She came from New York and studied literature at Missoula. She was also a vegetarian. Needless to say, she got over that. I don’t think she and John ever eat any domestic meat ever, except possibly at restaurants. Furthermore, she has written some of the most important game cookbooks of our time, ones that can delight the sophisticate but explain everything to the rankest beginner. And she is this knowledgeable about everything. I think she is still the only published cook I know who puts enough fat in game sausage. 


They live the life of the hunt, also the title of one of John’s books. They may be the only writers of our generation who have made a decent living entirely as freelance sporting and culinary writers. As publishing changed, they decided that the best way to present and sell their work was by taking ownership and control of all of it, and publishing their own books. You can judge their success by going to their “Rifles and Recipes” website. It’s all there — all the books and cookbooks they have written since they started, and links to other things of note.

Around five years ago, they also started publishing a quarterly online newsletter, Rifle Loony News. At eight dollars for the year, it may be the best bargain in outdoor writing yet. Its eight pages contain some of the best and clearest- headed technical prose on rifles around, presented without the constraints of length that make all magazine writing difficult; all the more so these days, as so-called editors, searching for advertising space, shrink content to 500 word “essays”, captions, and bullet-point lists, all written by young staffers who would probably pay to be in print.

Generally John does most of the technicana, and Eileen the food. But don’t miss Eileen’s gun writing or either of their occasional story-telling. What it is exactly like is sitting down to a long fall dinner with both of them and somehow having a recording of what ensues. It’s too bad we don’t have an audio version, punctuated by Eileen’s whoops of laughter, which stepson Jackson used to claim kept him awake at night, and John’s dry interjections. He may have invented the genre of old-style outdoor writing we called “I knew an old dog who died”. I also remember telling them about how I shot a blue grouse off a limb when I was first dating Libby, at her… request. I opined that women were more pragmatic hunters than men (and perhaps more enthusiastic; when they first visited me more than twenty five years ago, in Magdalena, Eileen mimed her stalk of what I believe was her first pronghorn through a northern Serengeti of everything from mule deer and bison to sandhill cranes, with  prickly pear sticking into her hands).

John looked at this wife and said “Pragmatic? The first seven sage grouse she shot had skid marks on their breasts.” I believe that story is in there too.

So it’s fun, for sure; a hunting life lived 365 days a year. It will make you a better cook, and tell you of new products that are really useful rather than just pushed by marketers. As for rifles: John probably has 80 rifles wandering in and out at a time, though I bet fewer than 10 make his permanent list. He shoots constantly, and while he is the gentlest and most genial of men, he will neither praise crap nor take another’s opinion as truth without testing it for himself. If you read carefully, and are a typical modern hunter, he will save you a lot more than $8 a year while entertaining you in the process.

Rather than searching for quotes, I will give you Eileen’s account of last year’s first volume. “Year six started with Eileen’s feature on brining wild birds and venison (yes, it’s different from chicken and beef) and a to-die-for and easy-to-make Cookie Dough Truffles as well as John’s reports on laser range finders, the CZ Model 452 .17Hornaday Rimfire Magnum, ‘Guns I Don’t Buy Anymore’ and lots more.”

John also has another new book out, Modern Hunting Optics. I’ve hardly had a chance to open it in the chaos of the last two weeks, but I will say that it is the most up to date and comprehensible account of that ever-changing subject that I have seen yet. John also can’t resist debunking cliches. I always thought that the 25-yard sight-in worked, not that I actually did it. We who read more than do need John’s writing to admonish us for intellectual laziness.

It has 200 soft-cover pages and goes for $25 postpaid. Rifle Loony has 264 pages and a color insert as well as black and white illos; it goes for $28.95, media rate shipping. Both are sold exclusively through RiflesAndRecipes.com or from Deep Creek Press, PO Box 579, Townsend, MT 57644; telephone 406-521-0273.

John with Selous buff and CZ .416 which he bought in NM and modified to be like Harry Selby’s– one of his keepers I think…

Seasons 2: Big game & harvest

With a little help from my friends– Carlos, Brad, Jim. I am not doing big game these days except in a group, hard in NM if you don’t pay top dollar. Which is why I may move my meat hunts north if health permits…

All animals here provided feasts including long- gone lion– see Don Thomas and/ or David Quammen.

And after thought I added locally grown free range pigs, Mark’s, still on the hoof, out in front, and a suckling from a previous Thanksgiving. Big game season for me is FOOD first…

                                                            

Jack calls the last “Contemporary Norman Rockwell”.

Hemingway, with burger

I have been saving this found image of Ernest and Patrick Hemingway. Patrick, closer to 90 than 80, doesn’t look all that different today, but then, he did when he was about 8, too.

This month,  Saveur published a real Hemingway hambuger recipe.We just made two, and I swear it may be the best I ever ate. The only ingredient we lacked was “India Relish”.