Figuring out how you feel about a book can be tough. After complaining about the lack of foraging or hunting books written by women, finally there is one. And so I can be happy, right? Sure thing!
Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time fits nearly into the genre of memoir I'm naming "corporate-to-culinary" or "grey suit-to-toque" because there have been dozens of such books published in the past seven or eight years, and likely thousands more untold stories of people who tire of the rat race or were dumped out of it due to the economy, and so have turned to another means of making a living, or reconciling their lifestyle with a sustainable and reconcilable of generating income.
Georgia Pelligrini participated in the killing of five turkeys while working for a chef on a Rockefeller estate. She butchered the turkey and
the experience awakened a dormant, primal part of me, and more so, it made the kind of sense to me that I could feel deep in my marrow.
She wanted to learn more and connect more intimately with the natural life-cycle of her prey and the seasons.
Eventually she met The Commish, the commissioner of game and wildlife for the state of Arkansas who took her under his wings and introduced her to hunting and fishing in the Arkansas Delta where much of the book is set. She describes the region as one whose demographics are the same as they were before the Civil War.
This is one of those preserved places, its authenticity both inspiring and heartbreaking at once. It is where you make your own destiny and you make your own food.
The Commish describes how the young people leave the states which reduces the state income and thus plunges Arkansas further into poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. She remarks that living off the land is easy when you have no choice.
Besides the time she spends hunting and fishing in Arkansas she makes trips to other states such as one to Texas for javelina. She's made lots of friends via her blog/website and occasionally they contact her with opportunities to join a hunt. So Jim invited her to meet his family in west Texas and hunt javelina. Then there was the semi-scary experience in Montana hunting grouse with Wilbur, Kurt, and Sammy.
From the start, I worried about Pelligrini going off with strangers. Of course, since she had a gun and above average butchering skills, I hoped she could protect herself. I'm up for adventure--foraging, hunting, skydiving, what-not, but any person must be careful when meeting people in person they've friended over the internet (although I've had the best of luck with that and invited blogpals for overnights at my home which turned out to be most pleasant experiences).
Oh, and the recipes! Mostly I bemoan the dearth of gamemeat recipes in southern cookbooks. Seriously southern cooks, if you're a bone fide southern cook, then you've dealt with some game meat and you know how to incorporate it.
But. I'm wishing for game meat now. I threw out about a pound of deer steak last year because I had not used it. Pelligrini's recipes are mouth-watering. Poached Dove and Pears in Brandy Sauce. Moroccan Elk Stew. Duck with Cherry Sauce.
But what I loved most of all was her chapter on squirrel hunting. Apparently--having never eaten squirrel, i didn't know this--squirrel meat is nutty, sweet, buttery, and tender because the adage "you are what you eat" is true. So a squirrel who feasts on acorns is, according to Pelligrini "better tasting than any other meat in the woods." The love of squirrel meat was so great, especially in the eastern US that many marvelous guns were crafted in their honor.
There is so much to recommend this book. I learned a great deal from Girl Hunter, and that's what I love best about a book, that it imparts new knowledge and understanding.
Pelligrini hops across the pond to the UK to spend Thanksgiving with a college classmate in the village of Ellington where they go on a hunt for woodcock and pheasant. They shoot gund worth $100,000. So several things were interesting here. I learn about aging meat. I hadn't thought about it so much before. But they used to age the woodcock and pheasant, let them hang in, oh a barn or pantry, I guess, until they turned green and their heads popped off, so they had a bit of flavor to them. And then they were cooked and eaten.
Shooting clubs are common in British schools like debate or sailing. Being a sure shot is an essential skill that making you a well-rounded person. Guns are associated with class and sophistication. Knowing how to shoot demonstrates your high class.
Yet in the USA guns--and we're talking rifles and shotguns, not revolvers--are not associated with high class, they're associated with and the less-evolved backwoods element, think something out of Deliverance and making grown men squeal like piggies.
In the end Pelligrini hopes that if you read her book and follow her journey into hunting and fishing, that you will be inspired to make your a wild journey of your own into becoming a completely different person than you were before.
She makes a compelling case:
I am a more thoughtful eater, a more thoughtful chef, and a more awake human being. I am a fuller woman and in a waym, I am much more like Diana than I ever was... there are even days, stepping out into the morning when I think perhaps that I could rule the forest and the moon.