I can’t take game for granted
Why it’s up to me to do all I can to consume my share of shooting’s harvest.
Ihave a confession that I am proud to make. I love our sport. I love food. I love the fact that as a result of our sport there is a tasty, healthy and abundant supply of meat that all of us, wherever we are in the country and whether we shoot or not, can enjoy during the season. At this time of year you’ll find me skipping between one of several local butchers in my market town home, asking each aproned fellow behind the counter if there is any game to be had. Sometimes my enquiry is greeted with a nod and then a fresh tray of oven-ready partridges or pheasants is draw from the preparation area in the back, sometimes a dozen, sometimes two dozen birds to choose from. They come from local shoots in the area, each looking as appetising as the last. Occasionally I arrive too late and all the game is gone. I could be sad about that and leave the shop a little like J.R. Hartley, but I am energised by the fact that there are plenty of people in the local vicinity who enjoy game as much as I do.
I must also confess to being a little clumsy when dealing with birds in the feather after a day’s shooting. Try as I might, I make a complete mess of things. I attempt to pick out every last bit of meat from the carcass and it all gets eaten, don’t worry about that – you have to put my basset hound on lead when I bring the birds in from a day in the field – I just wish I was a lot tidier than I currently am. If you’re able to help me in my quest for the perfectly dressed bird please get in touch as I am keen to improve. One thing I have learnt in the last few years is how to hang game properly, or rather, not to hang them at all. A farmer friend told me a few seasons ago that a brace should not be attached to the hook in the garage but in fact wrapped carefully in a carrier bag, taken straight to the fridge and stored therein for a couple of days. Initially I baulked at such a suggestion but he was right; the way the birds’ insides break down when they are laid in a chilled area is markedly different than when hung by the neck – and they certainly taste better. Jose Souto agrees, as you may have read a few pages earlier. Perhaps I should start listening to my friend about my shooting, too.
As a food lover I naturally hate waste, even going so far as to admonish myself if I find there is a tiny morsel of mushroom in the back of the fridge that now resembles watercress. I’m very lucky to be offered a brace of birds – in the feather and occasionally ovenready – when visiting shoots up and down the land. I will always be happy to take a brace but on the rare occasions I can’t I’ll always ask if someone else will have it, and thankfully there’s always someone who will. I eat what I shoot and I hope that I can say, hand on heart, that I eat as much game as possible during the season. I’m not saying my freezer has to be bursting with game, perhaps that I just need to make an extra effort to take it home when offered or even encourage others to try what I know to be good eating when out at a restaurant. I’m lucky in that I know a great little place near us which takes the game off a shoot I have visited thrice with my farmer friend. It’s heartening to know that the roast pheasant I have always ordered each time may very well be that corker I plucked out of the sky a few days earlier and about three miles away. Better still, hopefully one of my fellow diners will try a piece and order it the next time we swing by. As a key link in the chain between field and fork it’s my duty to tell people as much as I can about the food source I love. I have to use it or risk losing it.
I’m very lucky to be offered a brace of birds when I visit shoots up and down the land.