It was unusual in the city to see a whole pig roasting on a spit. It was summer and, sitting in the passenger seat, driving along Broadway with my Mum, I saw a whole pig being roasted right on the sidewalk in front of a pub. I craned my head back frantically, not sure about what I’d just seen. I told everyone I knew about it, all equally astonished as I. When I told my grandmother in Fiji about this odd sight she said, “It’s the way of life.”
I’ve been contemplating that memory and, in particular, thinking of my grandmother’s words since reading Georgia Pellegrini’s new book, Girl Hunter. There is a moment in the book in which Georgia visits Yellowstone National Park and realizes the sad irony of people observing nature from their cars and behind fences; cameras ready for action. She questions if nature has become “the last great zoo”, living off the land simply a romantic notion but unrealistic.
Girl Hunter is about reconnecting with our food and ultimately with ourselves as human beings. Whether we hunt and kill our own food or not, whether or not you eat meat, there is something for everyone to relate to in Georgia’s book and hopefully be inspired by it. Girl Hunter‘s pioneer charm crept up on me, quietly at first and then holding me in its grip until the last page. I’d watched the book trailer and that led me to download the free Kindle sample, leaving me wanting to know more after I’d read it. I bought it on Kobo with my Chapters gift card I got for Christmas.
It begins with Georgia’s childhood, in which she describes catching trout for breakfast and growing up on the same land with the charming name of Tulipwood that her great-grandfather owned and worked in the Hudson Valley. Beautifully written, some of it is in the realms of the fantastic, what most of us could only dream of and believe to belong in fairy tales or that personally reminded me of an elaborate nonsense scribbling of Noel Fielding’s or Vince Noir being raised in the forest by Bryan Ferry: “…and I painted, using only wild berries and crushed grass as my ink. I hung from vines until they fell and then made vine wreathes that I studded with dandelions and rose hips.”
Generally from the professional reviews (from traditional media such as online versions of newspapers and other websites) I read, I somehow gained the erroneous impression that Georgia had been a city girl, switching from her Wall Street career to a classically trained gourmet chef. Actually, she was just going back to her roots – beginning when the chef at one of the restaurants she worked at requested five turkeys to be slaughtered for a dish. In that moment she realized she had to look her kill in the eye to truly understand where her food came from.
There is a wide gap in our connection with the food we eat and where it came from. It’s easy to become disassociated with our food when we buy it from the store or the supermarket, even when buying locally. It is easier to be thankful and be appreciative of our bounty when we’ve taken part in producing it or hunting it as our understanding becomes full circle. Now it’s not so much about that the vegetables you grew or the turkey you killed tastes better, but that you have that connection to your food. I felt (and had) that connection when my brother was in the UBC Farm’s Farm Wonders program last year, where the children learned about growing their own vegetables and harvested them.
I’ve never hunted or killed my own food in my life, however I wouldn’t say no if the opportunity rose. There’s the question if I could actually pull that trigger and be able clean my own kill but that’s something to find out.
“I will know while I eat. I will know how it all went down. And I still think that is better. Because it makes me a more conscious chef, a more careful hunter, and a more awake human being.”
It’s a meditation on life.
Interspersed throughout her narrative, there are recipes for the various game she hunts and that range beyond what’s usually available in a typical supermarket such as elk, pigeon, and even squirrel. Recipes range from Moroccan Elk Stew, Wild Turkey and Oyster Stew (a homely stew that I would love to try), and Pulled Javelina to Grouse with Cabbage and Chestnuts, Curried Pigeon, Buttermilk Fried Rabbit, and Squirrel Brunswick Stew with Acorns. There are also recipes for quail, boar, deer, and other game meat as well recipes for things such as stock, liver pate, and sausages. I haven’t made any of the recipes (yet) and some do use all purpose flour, although I’m sure that those ones could easily be made gluten-free.
However and whatever you eat, Girl Hunter is a book for everyone! Watch Georgia’s book trailer below to learn more. I’ll be surprised if you’re not left feeling inspired after you’ve watched it – I was!
Note that this review refers to the Kobo e-book edition.