One evening earlier this year, as I was walking back to my truck in the waning days of my state’s late bow season, I came across a pile of breasted-out quail carcasses in the parking area. I knew there was a group of quail hunters in the area, as I had walked by their truck on the way to my spot. The hunters had just left and the carcasses were still warm. I kneeled, picked up a quail, put it to my nose and drew in that sweet, slightly sagey fragrance that is unique to wild bobs. I then started counting. I finally stopped at 24. Someone with very good dogs had had a very good day, and I envied, but did not begrudge their success.
I then did what any good scavenger would do: I grabbed every one of those quail, stuffed them in my backpack and resumed walking to my truck. Waste not want not, and better me than a passing coon or coyote. A few of those quail wings will come in handy if I decide to get a setter pup this spring and I now have 48 delicious – if diminutive – quail drumsticks in my freezer. I’ll figure out some dish in which to utilize them.
It’s a perfect example of how differently people view what is useful and what is simply waste, and I thought of that incident this morning when I saw this story in Men’s Journal about London chef Fergus Henderson. You probably have never heard of Henderson, but his classic 1989 book entitled The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating revolutionized how we view the odd bits and pieces of the animal that are often thrown out. And I’ve always believed there’s a natural correlation between his philosophy of utilizing everything possible and hunting for your food. They’re both honest, pragmatic attitudes on where out food comes from.
From the story:
_As Fergus Henderson leads me into the kitchen of his world-famous London restaurant, St. John, he pauses to watch one of his cooks chop the arteries off crimson ox hearts big as cantaloupes, cut apart their blood-pumping chambers, and then slice up the deep red meat for char-grilling. Nearby, another apprentice eagerly trims rusty-red lamb kidneys, cutting white fibrous lobes from their middles. Henderson then opens the walk-in cooler, pulling back the massive door to reveal pretty little pink suckling pigs packed like dead babies into a white plastic tub, young and peaceful as if napping in th soft English sun. Chopped-up cow bones fill several bins, pig livers cure in a salt-sugar mix, and fresh pigskin, rosy and supple, sits in big folded sheets.
A deliveryman brings in crates of fist-size pigeons and decapitated, skinless rabbits looking like greyhound racing dogs slaughtered mid-run, quick little legs fully extended. Over near the industrial range top, another of Henderson’s underlings cuts around a blood clot in a deer’s liver, while still another chops chitterlings — or “pig’s poop pipes,” as Henderson calls them, adding, perhaps to settle my nerves, that “they’ve been brined quite far away from all that.”
It’s an interesting story, and it got me to thinking about what we as hunters keep and what we throw away. For example, I know many quail hunters simply breast out their birds, but I’ve always used the whole thing, and when I saw that pile of breasted out quail I thought, “their loss, my gain.”
What are some of the unconventional odd bits and pieces you save from your game? Maybe I’ll learn something new…