Tuesday, October 9, 2012

MEAT EATER: Book Review and Interview


With hunting season in full swing, it is time to start putting long hours in the stand. For those long sits, I normally like to take a book to break up the mid-day down time. In mid August I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Steven Rinella's latest book, "MEAT EATER," as named after his hit TV show. I highly, I repeat, highly recommend this book to be with you at camp, in your stand, or even in you lazy boy for that lazy rainy Sunday while watching football, it is that good. I have have now read it twice and am still carrying it in my truck to read whenever I get some down time. This book does not just cover Steven Rinella's adventures in hunting, yet it dives in deeper to why we hunt and the experience we get when hunting. This book is a great read for anyone from the casual to obsessive hunter, as it will turn anyone into a true MEAT EATER. Below is a short interview I was able to conduct with Steven.
Foggy Mountain Meanderings: To begin, I'd like to thank you, Steven, for standing up and believing in the idea that hunting for sustenance is still acceptable in today's world! With that being said, you have an amazing passion for hunting and the outdoors, but that passion also comes through while you are preparing the food, where and when did this passion begin? And how do you continue to let this grow, do you pick up techniques from others or learn by trial and error?
Steven Rinella: My family ate a lot of wild game when I was a kid but it wasn't exactly adventurous cooking. My dad had a commercial sized deep fryer that he kept in the garage and he ran everything from salmon to squirrels to snapping turtle to deer through that thing. My mother did more creative cooking, like the occasional minced meat pie and roast wood ducks and sautéed venison liver. My own personal passion for eating wild game started to develop when I moved away from
college and began eating wild game for all of my at-home meals. Being stuck with my own cooking really inspired me to figure things out. Later, when I was about 26, I moved to Montana. There my potential pool of ingredients seemed to quadruple. Suddenly I was coming into elk, mountain lion, blue grouse, you name it, and I really started experimenting heavily. At that time I also started reading books by some of the great chefs like Escoffier, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin. Also the food writing of the novelist and poet Jim Harrison, an avid hunter and eater from my home state. Everything started to coalesce, and my love of hunting expanded into a love of cooking as well.
FMM: A common question in these interviews is what was your favorite hunt or what hunt are you looking forward to, sorry but that seems to be a little too easy. My question is what was one of you most difficult hunts (conditions, gear failure, injury/illness, etc) and what advice would to give to anyone else attempting this hunt to help overcome this?
Steven: I’ve had so many tough hunts it’s hard to pick one. Everything from gear failure to bad weather to illness to just plain miserable luck. But the difficult hunt that most readily pops into my mind was a mule deer hunt last fall in Montana. That trip was at the tail end of a three-pack hunting venture that went from Arizona (coues deer) to California (hogs) to Montana. In Arizona I managed to pick up some waterborne virus. In California I got coated in poison oak after butchering a hog that must have been rolling in the stuff. By the time I was in Montana, where it was -5 degrees, I was harboring a colon infection and open sores. When I got home from that trip I was passing blood and I landed in an emergency room. Spent four days in the hospital. That’s a hell of a hunting trip!
FMM: As someone I highly regard and look up to as an outdoorsman, what would be your message to hunters and non-hunters alike as to why hunting for sustenance is such an enjoyable goal?
Steven: For me, and for many other hunters, hunting for food taps into something that feels primal and instinctive. The history of anatomically and behaviorally modern humans goes back some 50,000 to 100,000 years, and for the vast bulk of that time we lived off hunting. There are cave paintings in Europe dating to 36,000 ago years that demonstrate a very complex relationship between human hunters and their prey. The residents of this continent were hunting since their
arrival about 14,000 years ago, and mostly kept at it until just a couple hundred years ago. So I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I suggest that we humans are built for hunting. Or rather, built from hunting. It makes us feel real and alive. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today.
For more information or to order your copy of MEAT EATER, check out www.themeateater.com.

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