I’m so excited to begin my food blog. It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time, to share my thoughts with all of you and maybe teach you how to create some amazing moments with family and friends over a delicious meal! My writing skills might not win me an Academy Award for Best Screenwriter, but that’s okay, because I’m speaking from the heart, and that’s so fulfilling. So here goes:
When I started cooking for a living, I wanted to specialize in a cuisine most folks haven’t really focused on for a long time: Wild Game!! So I named my personal chef service Cookin’ Wild.
Even though our country had feasted on wild game for hundreds of years, the increase of agriculture, the mass production of meat and the growth of cities and suburbs meant people turned away from field to table for local meat markets and grocery stores. Quality often gave way to convenience. Wild game hunting became more of a hobby, and not as a primary means to feed one’s family. Unfortunately, that meant most folks have never had the opportunity to enjoy all the wonderful “wild goodness” wild game had to offer. Even foraging for wild sources of greens, vegetables, nuts, herbs and seeds seemed “far too time consuming or out of reach” for busy folks. Even plantinga small vegetable garden became difficult due to a lack of space in the typical suburban dwelling, and “high density homes.”
But there has been a change in the last several years. People are turning toward more healthy, organic forms of meat and vegetables. They want to know where their food comes from and want to be part of that process. No longer are folks content with pre-packaged foods without flavor, without a soul. This movement means a return to foraged and hunted foods and that includes wild game! When I was a kid, I remember picking wild blueberries near my Grandparents house in the hills above Osceola Mills, PA and bringing back pails of blueberries. My Grandma Hynd would pour some evaporated milk and sugar over a big bowl of them and I’d gobble them up! Danny recalls coming home from school to the incredible aroma of his Mother making a large skillet of fried rabbit for dinner. He said the smell from the kitchen was so comforting.
But no longer is wild game just for the hunter who learned how to hunt from Grandpa. Gourmet chefs, foodies and those seeking free range, organic options have been jumping on the band wagon. The idea may seem like a romantic one, but knowing you’ve worked hard to bring in fresh harvested meat and vegetables to your table seems so fulfilling. We are learning to appreciate our food again and it’s a throwback to our own primal need to survive and to connect with others over a great meal.
And let’s face it, a beautiful wild pig chop with a pomegranate glaze is so much more impressive than a pale, tasteless pork chop from the grocery store purchased on the way home from work. A pig that probably lived a very short life, within a confined space feeding on pesticide sprayed grains, and pumped full of hormones to increase it’s weight, not to mention given large amounts of antibiotics because living in such tight quarters to other pigs is a breeding ground for sickness. Hardly a happy life for a pig, and certainly not healthy for consumers. Wild pig is NOT “the other white meat.”
For my husband, Danny and me, the idea of eating hunted game and foraged food is normal and desired. Danny and I have known each other since the second grade and as a matter of fact, he was my first crush.
That first day of second grade at Rush Consolidated Elementary School in Osceola Mills, PA was our beginning. A hunter, and a future chef was a match made in Heaven. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania gave us an opportunity to learn how to hunt and forage for food, as part of our culture and tradition.
Twenty five years later (yes, he took his time making me his wife), when we moved to California after marrying, we didn’t know anyone. But we are both adventurous and open to meeting new, diverse folks and exploring many types of cuisine Cali has to offer. Danny asked me one day,”How can we make friends?” I replied, “Well, the best way I know how is through a plate of great food and even better company.” So that was the easy part, the hard part was getting many urbanites and suburbanites to embrace a very different type of cuisine.
Most Californians know about seasonal, organic, fresh ingredients, and the value in “eating local”, but convincing them to try wild game might prove a bit more challenging. I’ll never forget the look on my neighbor’s faces as they walked past our house, on their daily dog walking to see me plucking a wild goose in the driveway.
And Danny was doing plenty of hunting. He’d bring home California blacktail, wild pig, pheasant, and turkey. “Okay, now what can we make with this to impress our guests so they’d be willing to try it?” So I started researching cookbooks and I was coming up short. Old wild game cookbooks were a good foundation, but I wanted to elevate wild game cuisine for more diverse, modern palettes , yet still remain true to the flavor and beauty of wild game. So let the experimentation begin!
Probably the first challenge was to learn how to age and butcher our own hunted game. Danny and I are control freaks, so allowing our hard work in the hands of someone else is too difficult for us, plus we just enjoy the learning process. As the cook, I want to have very specific cuts to pair with very specific cooking techniques and the only way I can ensure that is to butcher it myself.
Then the next challenge was to understand HOW to cook wild game. Since it’s so low in fat, wild game has different cooking processes that must be taken into consideration before searing that first steak. What animals eat, and when they are hunted have a lot to do with flavor. Venison from Idaho can have a different taste from let’s say, Wyoming. Also, we must consider the fact that even wild game can on occasion, harbor tiny little critters best not consumed. Two minutes too early, and you’re facing Trichinosis, but two minutes too late and you’re eating shoe leather.
So in the coming months, on “He Hunts” blog, Danny will be sharing all things hunting. And on “She Cooks” blog, I’m going to begin teaching you what I’ve learned, and in turn, I’d like all of you to share your own recipes and techniques for creating a great dish!! Danny and I are committed to bringing all of you a new way of looking at an old favorite. But if you aren’t a hunter, or you’ve been eating a lot of “tag soup” lately, FEAR NOT, because we are going to inform you of resources we occasionally use, so you too can try various types of wild game. No, technically speaking, they are not wild harvested, but wild game isn’t raised the way domestic meats are, so most purveyors employ free range raising.
I plan on creating recipes for all types of wild game, fish and seafood, including large and small game, free range raised, fresh water and ocean fish, sea food, and even some exotic meats. Think all types of venison, antelope, rabbit, quail, wild goat/sheep, duck, wild pig, steelhead, lobster, bass, crab, tuna, crawfish, frogs legs, turtle, alligator, rattlesnake, raccoon, kangaroo, ostrich…. from A-Z!!
I love all types of cuisine, so I’m going to use flavors and recipe techniques from Italy, India, Philippines, France, England, Thailand, Germany, Iceland, Russia, Australia and of course, the good old USA, just to name a few. So if you have Great-Grandmas recipe for English venison meat pie, turtle soup from the Bayou, Italian plum tomato braised boar with homemade gnocchi passed down for generations, a big bowl of Vietnamese Pho, or if you make the best venison chili for Superbowl Sunday send me your recipe!
And I love sharing recipes! So every Wednesday is going to be “Wild Recipe Wednesday.” Each Wednesday I’m going to highlight YOUR RECIPES! Send me an email with your favorite recipe and I’ll pick one each week from all the ones I receive and if I use your recipe, I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a little gift from me as well as give you props on my blog for your creation.
I’m always learning and lately I’ve been interested in wild food foraging. I’ve been taking classes from foraging experts like Kevin Feinstein aka “Feral Kevin,” and Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
So on occasion, I’ll also forage wild foods to incorporate into my dishes, such as sea beans from the Pacific coastline, acorns from the Sierra Nevada’s, my childhood favorite tea berries (aka wild wintergreen) from Pennsylvania, wild nettles, wild fennel picked in Golden Gate Park, spring pine tree pollen, Bay leaves from California Bay Nut trees, Napa grapes and mustard flowers, wild fruits and so on.
I enjoy preserving my foods with techniques like canning/processing, drying, smoking and pickling vegetables and fruits, so I’ll be including those from time to time.
I also love to throw parties!!! So I’ll be adding a spot for menu planning, and decorating tables for special occasion dinners such as:
Danny’s Birthday “The Tuxedo”: Apple Chestnut Stuffed Duck Breast.
“Hey! Something Fishy Is Going On Around Here!”: Trout Croquettes with Thai Basil Dipping Sauce.
“Corn!”: Cornmeal Crusted Scallops with Corn Succotash
So I hope this gives you a glimpse into our culinary journey we will be taking together. I’m looking forward to have you all join with me and Danny as HE HUNTS SHE COOKS takes off!