Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hunting for meaning

Graham’s not the only one who got gifts on Saturday.

My dad showed up with the following goodies for my freezer: bass fillets, venison stewing meat, moose chops and wild boar steaks.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled or more proud.

I am thrilled because I love to cook and I especially love to cook with food I know is delicious, fresh and organic. I am proud because my father, an avid hunter and fisherman who has long preached the virtues of harvesting your own food, has finally found himself in vogue.

In 1991 I was working as a summer student at this newspaper when I wrote a scathing editorial lambasting meat-eaters who criticized hunters as hypocrites. It was cut out, laminated and hung for years at a store in my home town which sold ammunition, bait and tackle. I was 21 years old and full of self-righteous indignation at anyone who disparaged the rural cultures and traditions with which I was raised.

And while I am still quick to proclaim my love of small towns, these days people like my dad don’t need me or anyone else to defend them.

Today people are more concerned about the systemic cruelty in factory farming and its effect on the environment than they are about a person or group of people venturing into the woods to track and kill their dinner.

In fact, I think people like my father who have the skills, the stamina and, yes, the moral fortitude to hunt, kill and clean the food that lands on their kitchen table are more admired than reviled.

The environmental movement and the popularity of bombastic chefs like Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain have forced people to start confronting the fact that eating animals is bloody business. Hunters have always known this, unlike some urbanites who only now seem to be waking up to the fact that their veal shanks were once baby cows.

My sister-in-law, the very portrait of an urban foodie, practically salivated when I shared some of the bounty with her. And when I told her that the deer providing the venison had been taken down with a bow and arrow, there was no mistaking the admiration in her eyes.

It felt good to see it. It felt good because I spent my teenage years with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The community I grew up in was then, and is now, overrun with wealthy city folk on weekends and holidays and many times I chafed at their expectation of what kind of people lived there year round.

Even when I became an urbanite myself, I spent many a dinner party rallying against stereotypes of people who lived in rural areas and arguing that the perspective I gained growing up only enriched my understanding of society in general.

And so this weekend, when I savour my favorite venison stew, loving prepared from a recipe from the chi-chi Inn On The Twenty, I will reflect proudly on all of the gifts my rural upbringing has provided.

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Kayris said...

I used to work for a vet who also hunted, but she and her husband were doing it for the trophy aspect and not for food. They had an entire room full of dead animals with glass eyes and it really creeped me out. I had a hard time reconciling someone who is supposed to help animals going out to shoot them. It would have been easier had they eaten the meat.

In my state, black bears are a huge problem in the western part of the state, so the governor has opened a black bear hunt for the past couple of years. Every year, a petition to stop the hunt circulates. I wonder how many of those people who object to the hunt eat meat?

Great post, very thought provoking!

Claudia Blanton said...

Coming from a completly different background as you, I am fascinated to see your way of looking at hunting. What I like so much about reading other people's blogs, is that my (and I am sure others) views have grown, as I have learned through the reports on the real lives of others (not the media version of reality). I am originally from Nuernberg,Germany, a larger city in the Southern part of the country , so I grew up riding subways, and having to go to the Zoo to see a deer. Thank you for that glimpse into your life.

Have a great day!

Claudia Blanton
Motivational Coach, Fundraiser

Tania said...

Very insightful post. I'm a reluctant meat-eater regardless where the meat is from, but I do like the perspective you have given me on it.