Editor’s note: This is the first article in a new Sporting Classics Daily series. Each Wednesday we will feature two new recipes from longtime Sporting Classics Editor at Large and Books columnist Jim Casada. Jim said he has always been fascinated by food from the wild, and now he’s bringing that passion to SCD each week.
Jim kicks things off this week with a bit of bio and a look forward at what the series will include. Enjoy!
“Putting meat on the table” is a concept directly connected with nature’s bounty from the beginnings of American history onward. The ethical sportsman eats what he catches or kills, but the matter involves far more than the dictates of sound sportsmanship. Fresh foods from nature’s incredibly diverse larder, properly prepared, offer delights you will never encounter in a five-star restaurant. Moreover, there’s a special kind of quiet satisfaction in dining on game garnered in the course of an arduous quest or fish caught on a memorable angling outing.
Many of our country’s great outdoor writers have recognized as much, and in one way or another, food figures prominently in the words they have left for posterity. Nash Buckingham once wrote: “In the matter of a certain goose stew, Aunt Molly had outdone herself. And we, in turn, had jolly well done her out of practically all the goose.” Those remarks, along with his noting that “supper was a delicious memory,” set the stage for a time of storytelling and post-meal conviviality that lie at the heart of much that is endearing and enduring about the sporting experience.
Similarly, the man I consider our greatest outdoor writer, Robert Ruark, could describe feasts from the wild in a fashion which sets the reader’s salivary glands into involuntary overdrive. If you doubt this, I would humbly suggest that you revisit the tales in his timeless “Old Man and the Boy” series which deal with a trip he and his maternal grandfather made to Cajun country in Louisiana.
Archibald Rutledge tales from the South Carolina Low Country are filled with mention of that region’s special fare, and are so appealing that when I edited and compiled an anthology of his writings focusing on sport in the Yuletide season, entitled Carolina Christmas, inclusion of a chapter with recipes for many of his favorite dishes seemed obligatory.
In my boyhood there was a brand of cane syrup known as Dixie Dew. It carried a slogan which was an advertising stroke of genius: “Covers Dixie like the dew and gives a biscuit a college education.” I’m not sure that I’ll be able to achieve the level of giving readers a “college education” in terms of offering scrumptious recipes, but what I do aspire to do, once a week for the foreseeable future, is to share my lifelong passion for what Grandpa Joe always called “fixin’s” from the wilds.
In my mind’s eye I can still see Grandpa, seated at the head of a table laden with fare from the field in forms such as squirrel and dumplings, roast grouse, or baked rabbit, or perhaps looking with longing hunger at a heaping platter of mountain trout decked out in cornbread dinner jackets. He would return thanks, focusing on how fortunate we were to be about to partake of earth’s bounty. He always ended his simple blessing with the same words: “You’uns see what’s before you. Eat hearty.”
My goal for the recipes you will be offered focuses squarely on what this wonderful old man suggested. These recipes come from a lifetime of sampling and savoring nature’s bounty, thanks to countless joyful hours spent over backcountry campfires, backyard grills, and kitchen stoves. Along with my wife, I’ve written, edited, or been a major contributor to roughly a dozen cookbooks. All of them have dealt exclusively with wild harvests of one kind or another, and if you derive anywhere near as much satisfaction from these recipes as they have provided us, I’ll be mightily pleased.
“Eat hearty” indeed, and while doing so, rejoice in the fact that what you are consuming is not only tasty, but healthy and represents the essence of sporting ethics.
Jim and his wife have written or edited many wild game cookbooks. To purchase these and other great items, visit jimcasadaoutdoors.com today!
Cover image: Thinkstock