December 11, 2021
Do you smell that? Timeless recipes? Boiled down memories? Bottled joy and steaming pots of soothing sympathy?
The answer is no. You don’t.
Welcome to the Saturday Morning Post, where we're cooking up old classics and experiments, comfort foods and things you would eat on the hunt, party food and hearty meals — everything that you could hope to find for recipes.
Our food is not in a recipe book… in fact, most of the dishes haven’t reached the point of becoming “recipes” yet. In the south at least, we live in a culture of “put it in a pot with anything you’ve got,” and “found it in the woods - lets see if it tastes good,” kind of people, so most of the recipes have are half-recipes that change every other time we use them.
Of course, then there are the “recipe polices,” in our culture. They have the "handwritten-by-their-memaw" recipes saved aside so they know just the right amount of times to pat the dough, open the oven, and churn the flour through a hand-me-down flour sieve. The vague measurements (like “a chunk of,” and “a can of”) seem to appear everywhere. Recipes are like a religion and old wives tales like formidable rules — it’s always consistent as long as you do it just right.
Both kinds of people bring something important to the table (literally) and we have both in the family!
Needless to say, the food we make is always meaningful, mostly nourishing, and steadily becoming timeless, but there's nothing truly sentimental about it. It’s not like a certain recipe is full of memories guaranteed to make everyone who eats it think of home (although some recipes we have cause that effect on two or three people).
It's just food — just the nourishment and the pleasure that everyone seems to commonly desire, just one way to bring everyone together.
Like any family out there, we all have our disagreements about the process. Different members like cooking in different ways — but there's one thing we all agree on: food from the grocery store always gets overlooked when we have food we’ve harvested ourselves.
As you can imagine, hunting is a huge part of how we eat. That doesn’t mean we eat deer burgers and garden tomatoes at every meal — actually, it goes a little bit deeper than simply doing that.
We eat game when we have it and we kill it when we don’t. Whenever a certain animal is harmful to the land or other animals, we take it out and either eat it ourselves or give it away for someone else to eat.
It isn’t just about the meal or we wouldn’t treat it quite so ceremoniously. It isn’t just about the fun of it or we would have plenty of large-racked, colorful trophy animals all over the place and maybe a bacon popper or sausage link every now and again.
That would just be wasteful.
No, there has to be a balance in this lifestyle we choose because, though hunting is a sport, it's more than just that.
If it were solely a sport, we might as well just go find some moving man-made targets to shoot. The disappointment in that? It's much less exciting to take a picture behind an arrow in a foam target. There just isn’t the same sense of accomplishment — the thrill of taking something once and for all is stripped.
It wouldn’t take you long to find the answer if we asked the main difference between a foam target and an animal. One is alive. One isn’t. Naturally, the thrill is greater to shoot something that was once a living breathing, moving, eating thing.
Not only does the reality make it more exhilarating and the unpredictability of animals make it a challenge — hunting and fishing produce a tangible profit. You have something to keep from those shots — whether it's for the food or if you caught a fish for the mount or deer for the antlers.
Well, hunters, here’s the deal and your decision pertaining to it could make a huge difference between a healthy population and land or a declining one.
You can’t eat antlers. You can’t eat feathers. You can’t eat scales.
While all of those are all exciting and intricately designed aspects of the animals you harvest, animals harvested just for those things can be taken in vain. Of course it's more thrilling to shoot a huge buck or a young male wood duck — but when you think about it, those are often exactly the animals the population uses to sustain itself.
Doe's are normally more popular than big bucks, and the brownish female ducks often far outnumber males. It can be a little underwhelming sometimes to shoot the animals less beautiful or big… but honestly, if you refuse to shoot the dull and small ones, you are really missing out!
It turns out, those animals that outweigh their counterparts in number and need to go, are often the best animals for eating too. Unlike the big, muscular trophies that can make for tough meat. Smaller animals are more plentiful, they tend to have a rougher time in the weather, and their's is some of the best meat out there.
It can seem a little less exhilarating to harvest an animal that wouldn’t make a sizable trophy. It can be a humbling experience — but don’t make the mistake of thinking it to be boring.
Sure, smaller animals are easier to transport and by far easiest to clean, but in our family we have all come to agree that the tender meat of a smaller deer or a dust-colored duck or bird tastes just as good, if not better than their greater variations.
And the land will thank you too — by removing the weaker animals of your property you give the stronger ones more of an opportunity to prosper. In a few years, you could find yourself with an entire generation of trophy game — every time you let a big buck walk, after all he’ll get bigger and bring up more after him.
There's always the question of whether or not you should shoot for the hope that the animal could be even better next year. It’s good to learn how to judge those decisions by learning your property. We take it seriously here to do that.
We harvest the animals on our land and in our water with prudence so we can enjoy them more completely when we eat them. We take pride in our recipes and although we can disagree once in a while, the values above are what make the food on the table really matter. It's good for us, good for the land, good for the farmers and their crops, and amazing for the soul.
Some may disagree, but we say if you're going to eat meat, it might as well be meat you helped raise and harvest yourself.
In the end, hunting what we eat is about being a part of something greater. When we directly take and eat the animals and plants, we are following some of the earliest commandments of God to rule over them and take them as nourishment for our bodies. Some prudent decisions in the field can change a lot and those changes are best exhibited not only outside, but on our plates!
Interested in some of our motley recipes that reveal how we cook our own game?
Be sure to keep up with the “Recipes” section of the Bowtreader blog, where everyone in our family from the kids to the oldies are sharing their favorite recipes!
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