Bob Garner: Are you game?
Sunday, February 4, 2018
For eastern North Carolina male hunters and trappers of my generation, the wild game supper was the “adult” equivalent of the kid’s prank of putting a spider down a girl’s back at elementary school. It was practically guaranteed to evoke an “Ewww!” reaction.
Listen to the 2008 Jim Stafford hit “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes” for elucidation. It’s still being covered by younger artists, strictly as a history museum piece.
I just received my word-of-mouth, grapevine invitation to a wild game supper. I made immediate plans to attend, maybe in the company of a far younger man. At their best, wild game suppers are still multigenerational in attendance and appeal. It’s how and where “fish house liars” and “hunting camp liars” are trained.
We’ll gather around a fire pit for an outdoor cocktail hour that stretches on too long. The pit at this particular venue is fancy, with comfy, angled-back, porch-style chairs available. The simple bonfire of the past still does nicely most everywhere.
Thankfully, the topic of alcohol is no longer verboten, even when too heavily favored by discussions of craft beers, like all mixed-age gatherings.
I’m getting over it, Don Henley and reassembled Eagles from the 1994 “Hell Freezes Over” album.
There will be only scattered female guests, since women are mostly on the job, at the gym or mothering children. Much of the game to be served will probably be provided by females, though.
One young, professional wife I know periodically stops nursing her newborn for a moment, switches to a baby bottle and pokes a rifle barrel through a hole deliberately punched through the screen. She’ll also harvest a fat doe for the freezer, if necessary, provided it meets local official and unofficial criteria.
She’ll likely be humming Jim Stafford as she lines up the shot at a big buck, fondly breaking into the lyrics when she gets to “… Cause that ain’t what it takes to love me like I wanna be loved by you.”
I hope it’s obvious she lives in the country with a woods-backed field behind the nursery.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot the supper part. (Hah!)
Hunting and trapping is almost never done strictly for sport in these parts. Food is processed and consumed by someone.
Duck and goose breast, mid-rare or dredged, battered and deep fried. Venison three ways. Frog legs. Raccoon. And the ever-popular squirrel and pastry (dumplings to expatriated Westerners and Midwesterners).
No humanely trapped and deep-fried muskrat, a favorite harvested from the tidal flats of rural southern New Jersey. Most of us won’t go there. At least not for muskrat.
But most of us will still go to a nearby wild game supper. Oh, yeah.
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker.