Last night, I made a savory stew, but I also made some homemade, oat bread with pecans –because I knew that would draw the attention away from the main course. I felt this was wise because I was feeding my innocent, unsuspecting family deer meat for dinner. I was careful not to share this truth until they were halfway through their “beef” stew. I wanted to give them the opportunity to consider the taste and texture, after they fully acknowledged that were enjoying the meal. I didn’t want them pushing their plate away and saying, “Pass the salad” at the thought of being a Bambi carnivore – (which Denver did indeed do the moment she found out what it was she was consuming.)
Hunting season opened two weeks early this year because the deer population is so large. They claim this is important to keeping wildlife in balance (and considering how many deer I’ve seen these past few weeks, I can believe it). Therefore, we’ve been hearing shots in the evening around the cabin.
Denver said, “What is that sound I keep hearing?”
We told her it was deer season.
Incensed, she said, “They can’t shoot them anywhere, like where we live can they? That seems awfully dangerous.”
I explained that they can shoot them anywhere the deer lived, so they probably don’t shoot off their guns in downtown Blue Ridge or suburban areas where most people dwell. Since we live in the forest, they actually can shoot them where we live. We need to keep that in mind when we take walks this time of year.
Sad, but true.
Of course, I pointed out that no one can shoot deer where we are going to live, because we have claimed our 50 acres as a “Wildlife Preserve”. This decision was made to take advantage of a great tax break, while also living true to our (my) moral ethics. (I should point out here that Mark is more and more open to the concept of hunting now that he has made friends with hunters. I don’t imagine he’ll ever go hunting himself, but he thinks it is fine for others if they eat what they kill. And he happens to adore deer meet.) Making our land a wildlife preserve means no one can shoot anything on the property for the next ten years. Even if we sell the land, the new owners must accept in advance that it is a wildlife preserve until 2016. Do I need to tell you how much pleasure this gives me? Heck with the tax break – I just love that our land is a safe haven (with lots of goodies set about from the mistress of the preserve) for animals.
Anyway, back to my deer meat dinner. At the end of the season, last year, our builder and friend, Ronnie, gave us several packets of deer tenderloins to try. Venison happens to be low in fat and very healthy for you. Mark has been pushing me to try it. I tucked those neat little butcher paper wrapped packages in the back of my freezer, where I planned to forget them. But as hunting season opened up again, it occurred to me that Ronnie was bound to ask us how we enjoyed his gift last year, and if we wanted anymore from this year’s bounty. I think it would be rude to admit we never even tried his meat– and I certainly don’t want to lie about it.
The fact is (as I explained to Denver) if a deer is shot and consumed, it is really a natural thing. They live a far better (free) life than the cattle we purchase from slaughterhouses, and the circle of life demands that some creatures die to allow others to live. But if we just throw out that meat, then the deer died in vein. What a crime to have the creature killed and then tossed in the garbage. In a way, we are paying respect to the deer by eating it, since it has already been killed.
This was somehow accepted by my children, and we all tentatively sampled the meat, agreeing that it was tender and had great flavor. It’s diety too. I enjoy learning to cook new things, and I have a ton of venison recipes, but honestly, this wasn’t as much fun as thought it would be. Eating a graceful, peaceful animal, such as a deer, doesn’t sit as well with me as it should, considering I accept the logic of the hunting issue. In fact, I am leaning more and more towards returning to my former vegetarian state. I don’t eat red meat much anymore, unless it is a bit of hamburger in a meatloaf, and even then, I use mostly ground chicken or pork. I think of steak and see the soft, gentle eyes of the cows I pause to watch when I run. Can’t help it – makes the bite stick in my throat. I don’t think I’ll ever feel this way about chicken. I have chickens. I like them. But chickens are dumb. I can eat them. Not MY chickens, of course, but other, nameless, faceless chickens are OK for the skillet. It’s a double standard, I admit, but that is how I feel.
Anyway, my family survived the deer meat test – with Mark almost too enthusiastic for my comfort. But to be honest, the best thing about it was my discovery of the new bread recipe.
We must all be open to new things. That doesn’t mean you have to like everything you try, but you should at least experience things before passing judgment. Gee, does this mean I can pass judgment on the hunters and nag them at every possible opportunity now? Guess that would be a stretch. I’ll just have to let our “wildlife preserve” act satisfy my desire to serve and protect the deer – be happy in the knowledge that they can live out their graceful, gentle lives in peace . . . with the Hendry’s blessing.