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What are you eating?

(ROCKWALL, TX — March 5, 2018) “Whatcha eating, Dad?” I often asked when we went to lunch at his favorite “Luby’s-style” cafeteria. His answer could be anything from veal parmesan to Salisbury steak.

“Wanna try?” He’d ask.

“Eeww,” and just like that, I stepped in his trap.

In my family if you turned your nose up on anything you’d never tried, it was automatic, you were sampling.

“Don’t knock it, till you’ve tried it,” he quipped.

And over thirty years later, I have the same conversation with my co-workers, but I’m the one eating weird food. Last month, it was wild duck sandwiches. Philip, my oldest, had a great duck hunt and my lunch contained leftover duck breast, sliced and cooked medium-well, topped with onion and a little horseradish. A few weeks before that, venison stew with sweet potatoes, from a very successful hunt I had, and when the savory-sweet smell filled the break room, most wondered what’s so yummy. Once told, yummy turned squeamish.

It’s funny how many act about eating wild game, and in some respects, I understand. We have become a society that has no involvement to the blood, sweat, tears, and work that goes into harvesting and preparing what we eat. We go to the store, pick out something trimmed perfect and wrapped in plastic, and we fix a number of meals from it with no emotional connection. In fact, we’ve become so disconnected, that we may even hold beliefs that hunting is cruel, an unfeeling bloodsport, while we eat an endless array of chicken sandwiches or hamburgers, as if those items were concocted in a lab (now that’s gross).

But I’ll be honest, being a hunter and a fisherman that attempts to be responsible, not wasting the lives of that quarry, is not easy. There are tons of emotions involved from excitement to sadness to determination. The first time I learned this was as a kid. My dad gave me a BB gun for my birthday despite my mom’s “you’ll shoot your eye out” protests. It was my holy grail, my prized possession and I wanted to be a little Daniel Boone out back. One day I shot and killed a squirrel. It was the first time “hunting” I had actually gotten something. I ran inside and began to share the play by play of my great adventure. My dad asked where the squirrel was, and I responded, “by the tree.”

“Go get it,” he commanded.

“Why?”

“Because you are going to eat it. You don’t waste a life.”

He showed me how to clean it, and prepare it, then he battered it up and fried it in a sizzling skillet, like the folks in the frontier days, and I ate that squirrel (which, by the way, tastes like chicken, the “chicken of the trees”). It was emotional, and I nearly cried. I had to force the bites down, but I realized the lesson and pride and gratefulness washed over me.

I eat wild game because the feeling of having provided for my family from field to table with my own hands is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. I eat wild game because the meal is more than just another meal; It holds a story, a meaningful time with my sons or friends, an adventure. I eat wild game because it connects me to a forgotten past, before Facebook likes and Twitter shares, when faith, family, simplicity, and survival were the main concerns.

So yeah, I love wild game, and prepared right it tastes amazing, but it is way more than culinary. As Dad said, “Don’t knock it, till you try it.”

By Scott Gill of Rockwall. Scott is a teacher, coach, and author of “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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