With my words, I expect to lose a few friends. Or at least bring on some 2 a.m. drunk cell phone calls from some area hunting condos.
Yes. I said hunting condos. That is, after all, where many people ‘hunt’ from these days.
There was a time when hunting was necessary for eating. My father is a living example of someone who grew up hunting his food.
‘Have you ever eaten wild duck?’ I once asked my dad. He answered in the affirmative.
‘What about dove?’ I followed up.
‘Yep,’ he responded.
‘Goose? Crow? Blue Jay?’ I continued, with a slight attempt at humor.
‘Adam,’ he interrupted ‘I’ve eaten all of those, along with black birds — anything that flew by that I could hit.’
‘So, what about squirrel or possum?’
If it crawled, slithered, pranced or flew, Dad ate it. I’m not sure whether he was always the shooter, but I do know that his family’s diet was often one degree separated from a box of 20-gauge shotgun shells.
When he hunted, Dad wore a hand-me-down jacket and raggedy trousers. He didn’t sport an ‘If it flies, it dies’ decal on the rear window of his car. And he never had antlers dangling from the walls of his small home. Dad’s trophy was the meat that sat on mismatched dinner plates.
Many hunting organizations disagree with the mocking of modern ‘hunter’ from the likes of Southpark or King of the Hill. Just you remember though, most stereotypes have at least some basis in fact.
Have you ever seen someone wearing a camouflage cap … at the supermarket? Ever notice the trite decals on the rear window of the modern hunter’s pickup truck that say things like ‘Hunters prefer big racks?’ And the pickup, by the way, usually has some sort of 800-pound wildlife guard affixed to the grill — and chrome rims for the shiny tires. It just makes no sense.
Now, before you take aim at me, just know that you’d find it a little odd if you were to spot me donning a toque as I made my way about town in a food truck decked out only with a massive stereo system. And I’d bet the farm that you’d find a cooking-related bumper sticker that reads ‘I like my meat young, if you know what I mean’ to be somewhat offensive.
Go to any hunting-related website and you’ll see advertisements for night-vision scopes, automatic feeders and the most comfortable chairs for the sound- and scent-proof stands. Not to mention, the designer camouflage
The modern ‘hunter’ is one who fills his rust-proof automatic deer feeder with farmed corn throughout the year. He knows what’s eating the stuff because he reviews the photos from his nearby mounted wildlife camera. Keep feeding them and they’ll stick around.
His modular perch is made of steel and sound-buffered Polyester, and is often outfitted with a comfy chair and small table — enough room for a small solar-powered TV or iPod dock. For the modern ‘hunter’ who has saved enough pennies, that deer stand might also be heated. — Ironically, he’ll only inhabit the place for a few hours, or maybe a weekend. He has, in fact, trained the deer to make daily stops at the nearby corn supply.
And when he spots his trophy? Well, thank goodness for the 500X scope and the semi-automatic rifle. Indeed, he needs both because he’s not exactly a marksman.
My son, inherited the same 20-gauge single-shot Savage that I received from my father (all of us at age 15). But, as I reminded him when he asked to go hunting, he never wore a ‘Daddy’s future hunting buddy’ T-shirt. So, I called in the expert.
‘Chris, do you know how nasty it is to hunt?’ my dad questioned my son.
‘What do you mean, Grandad?’
‘I mean, we ain’t gonna sit up in a heated stand and then haul the deer to the processor,’ Dad responded. ‘Do you know what field-dressing is?’
‘No sir,’ Chris replied.
‘Well, you have to gut that deer when you kill it or else it spoils. It’s nasty and it stinks.’
The description didn’t faze my son, though it brought back memories of me fishing alongside my father many years ago.
I was about seven when Dad and I cast our lines in a small pond near Durant, Oklahoma. After a few boring minutes under the morning sun, my father handed me my rod & reel and told me to start bringing in my catch. With more help than I care to remember, I reeled in a largemouth bass weighing about eight pounds. (I later learned the pond was stocked.)
I had visions of a large version of this fish hanging on my wall. It weighed more than most of the winners of the annual fishing tournament at Lake o’ the Pines, and those anglers took home $100,000 in prize money. But Dad had different plans.
As I walked around the side of the house of Dad’s cousin Betty, I saw him kneeling. A closer look revealed a mess of skin, blood and bones to the side of a piece of plywood. Dad was filleting my fish.
This catch didn’t belong on a wall, he told me. It was meant to be coated with cornmeal and fried. Indeed, there are many hunters (and anglers) who respect old traditions and treat hunting season similarly to my father’s family — as an opportunity to fill the freezer.
But folks who spend most of the hunting season at ‘deer camp’ with a Budweiser in one hand and a Playboy magazine in the other should call it what it is. And it ain’t hunting.
If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. — Special thanks to Megan E. ‘Casket on a Stick’ Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece.
Most reputable culinary historians agree that Pollo alla Cacciatore was developed in Italy about 500 years ago (interestingly, not long after the French debuted fricassee, which is the cooking method used in this dish). They don’t necessarily agree on the name. The most popular title — cacciatore — (roughly) translates to English as ‘hunter style.’ But some sources, such as Saveur magazine, maintain that the dish is called Pollo alla Cacciatora. In most Latin-based languages, that ‘a’ brings on a feminine meaning and in this case it means Chicken ‘in the style of the hunter’s wife.’ Please don’t ask me what it’s called in Italy when the wife does all of the hunting.
My first taste of Chicken Cacciatore came from my own kitchen in the mid-1980s. It was a recipe from a Skinner brand (pasta) calendar. I’ve redeveloped and overhauled the dish many times since then. My own version is slightly more grown-up and certain to make the real hunter — or ‘modern’ hunter a happy camper indeed.
1 – Whole chicken, cut up (8-9 pieces)
Vegetable oil (about 1/4 cup)
Freshly ground Black Pepper
2 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 cup – Baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 cup – Chicken stock
2/3 cup – Red wine
1/3 cup – Onion, finely diced
1/2 cup – Yellow or red Bell pepper, julienned
1/4 cup – Celery, thinly cut
1/4 cup – Carrot, minced
1 tsp – Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp – Dried Rosemary, crushed
28 oz can – Italian plum tomatoes w/ juice, lightly blended (or roughly chopped)
Season chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper. In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat oil to about 350F. Dredge chicken pieces in flour, shaking off excess, and place in hot oil. Brown both sides (about 5 minutes per side); set browned pieces aside.
Reduce heat slightly and allow oil to cool for about 2-3 minutes. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook until golden and fragrant — about 1 minute or less. Add celery and carrots. Cook, stirring regularly, for another 2 minutes, or so.
Deglaze. Add wine, using a wooden spoon to remove bits from pan. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, Oregano, Rosemary and mushrooms. Stir. Add chicken pieces to pan. (If you are using bone-in breasts, you can add them now along with the dark meat. For boneless breasts, wait about 20 minutes before adding them.) Top with peppers.
Cover tightly and reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes.
Remove chicken pieces to a platter and raise heat to medium high, stirring regularly for about 3-4 minutes, until sauce is thickened slightly.
Pour sauce over chicken and serve with potatoes, pasta or polenta.