For the adventurous gourmet out there may I recommend this gem of a book, which has remained hidden in the culinary forest for many a year. I discovered it in a small bookshop whilst holidaying in Canada many years ago. It’s well known amongst those with a discerning palate it deserves to see the light of day (or night if you are planning a special shopping trip). The author, “Buck” Peterson, has delicately crafted a paen to the pleasures of nature’s bounty. From the time your vehicle gently kisses the denizens of the forest and field, to the sumptuous banquet ending up on the table of the connoisseur you are held enraptured. At this point I can imagine some of you falling off your chairs with horror and reaching for a sick bag. Desist, dear reader and be prepared to open your mind (if not your wallet). In these economically difficult times we should be receptive to new and imaginative ways of obtaining and preparing our food. Has the supermarket signalled the death of our deep connection to Mother Nature and her fruits? I think it has, but it is not my intention to get up on the soapbox and decry the decline of modern civilisation.
Buck takes us back to a time in our far distant past, when the ancient hunter (he/she/it, we are not gender biased here) ventured fearlessly into the wilderness to capture their prey and drag it back into tribal camp to dismember and share the kill amongst the clan. The very essence of this book calls to the atavistic urges within us all but I would caution against sinking your teeth into the nearest skunk whilst it still breathes. Moderation in all things people.
A word of advice, please acquaint yourself with the laws of the territory where your purchases are concerned. Getting a rap sheet in the pursuit of filling your belly is not the purpose of the book. Our author is at pains to reminds us of our duties and obligations.
Instruments of Oblivion
A motorised vehicle or something less obvious? Some vehicles are better suited to the purpose. If by chance you are on a Sunday drive through the woods, safely ensconced in your E-Type Jaguar I would avoid hitting anything as your mechanic bills may end up being a little astronomical. Suffering emotional trauma is not to be recommended. To ensure you are well prepared, give your vehicle a thorough check, tyres should be at the right pressure and the bumper should be able to withstand several hundred pounds of flesh hitting it. Or not. Some of our smaller furry and feathered friends may surprise you by bouncing a long way off. Let me be clear, the author is not categorically saying you should be roaming the highways with the intent of despatching the local wildlife. Not at all, this is an activity everyone can join in, from the semi-professional cyclist to the skateboarding wizard, all are welcome. Just think of it as doing a public service by keeping the roads clear of debris, especially near urban centres.
The author gently and clearly guides us through the minutiae of despatch methods, the best localities to search out these delicacies and at all times keeping our eye on the budget. Your pocket is not the casualty here only a passing squirrel. Indeed, raiding your kitchen for equipment will yield much gold. Whisk anyone?
Scrape ‘em off
For the virgin hunter, there is much wisdom contained within the pages of this book. The mysterious art of butchering is expounded beautifully, indeed it brought a lump to my throat and I felt my shoulders heave with emotion (or that could have been the indigestion). Do not dally when gathering your road kill, avoid stinky and go for fresh. Apply your knife with the skill of a sushi chef, there is no time to waste. Work delicately through flesh and sinew, cutting round all that is unpalatable and setting aside those tasty morsels. Meat does not start out encased in cellophane wrapping dear reader, it is bathed in blood and attached to sinew and bone. Someone has to clean the carcass in order to make it presentable. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Forgive me, I don’t mean to be patronising.
There are some chefs who make a pretty good living out of syndicated shows, books and public appearances. Then there are the unknown heroes who beaver away in obscurity, putting heart and soul into perfecting their art. Their creations are truly ingenious, flavoursome and utterly magical. One such individual is our author, a man who fearlessly pursues his art with a deep passion. Our Buck is a true spirit of the wilderness with a sly sense of humour and a mean technique in the kitchen. Has this whetted your appetite for the feast that is to come? This is where he shines, excelling in the culinary arts. Braised bear, roast moose, stewed squirrel. One taste of cat and you will be hooked. How about rat ragout? Armadillo on the shell, grilled newt, snake marinated in herbs and olive oil. Not your usual fare but who is to say our eating habits do not shock other cultures. It is all a matter of perception.
If this little tome has stirred the sense of adventure within you or in fact made you an avowed vegetarian, bravo! A little healthy emotion is better than indifference and cynicism. This is a clarion call to all of us to break the bonds of modern civilisation and look outwards towards that wild frontier just on the horizon. It shakes us up and forces us to face our fears and prejudices about food. All done with a gentle humour of course. In my humble opinion this book may be the “Larousse Gastronomique” of the wilderness genre.
“The Original Road Kill Cook Book”
B R “Buck” Peterson (Illustr. J Angus Mclean)
ISBN-10: 0898 152003