Like no other piece of art I have encountered – not the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, not Hemingway, not The Unforgettable Fire, not even the photographs of Diane Arbus – has something influenced me as much as the syrupy overwrought masterpiece, Bambi. I would go so far as to say that Bambi (I first saw it when I was three) formed the foundation of who it is I have ultimately become (although there is a vague mix of the claymation version of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Elsa, the lioness from Born Free and Rocky Balboa – the first version – the one who gets his ass kicked but, because of this, gets the girl): A sniveling and snuffling sentimental pacifist who can’t manage to kill the ants that are presently marching single file under my desk, past my right foot, towards some crumb I no doubt dropped this morning during one of my several unconscious trips to the kitchen.
But I am not the kind of pacifist who denies another’s right to hunt (even if you are the one who killed Bambi’s mom). In fact it is the opposite. I, too, want to hunt. Well, I want to want to hunt. The whole idea of it (with the exception of the part where you pull the trigger and the deer dies and the other forest animals comfort each other by singing mournful songs): the stalking, the camping, the bow and the arrow (in my imaginary life as hunter I am a traditionalist.). The whole cycle of life thing. The idea of knowing where my meat came from. The idea that I earned it. The idea that I can thank the animal and God (instead of the cashier) directly for the gift. The elk burgers in summer and the Christmas goose in December – it all sounds idyllic and like living fully engaged.
As it stands now, right this minute, we are thawing a frozen block of anonymous vacuum-packed grocery store salmon on our counter. Of course it is “wild caught,” but not by me or anybody I know. I am not even sure what “wild caught” means. Aren’t they all wild in some form or fashion before they are caught? Tomorrow we might have chicken. Free-range hormone-free chicken. I have a suspicion that their definition of “free” and “range” differ from mine and Merriam Webster’s. But I don’t know and apparently don’t want to know.
Nonetheless, you raise it, you stalk it, you kill it, you package it. Only then will I eat it.
Our managing editor, and real-life cast member of the Little House on the Prairie, and her family have a life quite different. They hunt, they gather, they ferment, they store, they butcher, they brew and yes, they live right in town. And she often writes about it either here or on her popular blog. This issue, Rachel tackles home butchering. Now that you have shot it what then do you do? Rachel will demystify the process. She also talks about root cellars and roots in another story – yet another food item that I myself seem to be happy to numbly harvest from the far right aisle of the local supermarket.
Durango chef, Lauren Slaff will also help. You see, elk or deer – or really any animal – have premium cuts and then not-so-premium cuts. The not-so-premium cuts make up a majority of the haul. But there are tricks and solutions. And Chef Slaff will also give you some ideas for those root vegetables that, we trust after reading this issue, you have stored in a cool place in anticipation of tasting the memory of September in the reality of January.
So yes, Bambi warped me. Somehow my genetic makeup was permanently altered as if by radiation – but by Disney. The ants at my feet are singing a song that only they can hear. A marching song.
And right now a frozen chunk of anonymous salmon thaws on the countertop.