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Personal Foodstory: When a Situation arises around venison and veganism

A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in a Situation, the kind where you’ve been going along just fine and suddenly, you are diametrically opposed on some issue that was never even a thing until five minutes ago.

Husband was like, “I think I’m gonna take up hunting,” and I was like, “I’m actually done eating meat,” and he was like, “I’m gonna subsistence catch all our food now,” and I was like, “But not animals right just plants,” and he was like, “I just really enjoy tiptoeing around in these whispery camo yoga pants and I need two weeks bye” and I was like, “come back with a lot of saaaaalad!”

For a hot minute, he was a hunter and I was a vegan; our kids mostly just ate cheese.

At first, it was kind of fun staking our claims. We plotted our visions for our family’s food future like the chess game neither of us knows how to play. Alterna-milks and Earth Balance in the fridge. Hunks of venison swaddled in white paper in the freezer like little bitty body-babies.

I might be paying bills, look up and say matter-of-factly, “I am just trying to decolonize my animality,” or shout, “ ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma!’ ” while pointing indignantly at the sky.

“I have no problem with the predator-prey relationship,” I’d casually note, while rummaging for Chapstick in my bag, or “Let’s just not be immune to the cruelty embedded in the marketing of convenience.”

One night before bed, I suggested, “In each other’s shadows we grew less and less tall. Eventually our theories couldn’t explain it all.”

I rolled over and heard him mutter, “Are you quoting Ani DiFranco now?”

In the end, there was no need to debate false dichotomies and infinite points of view, when the deepest, truest, most steadfast ideology I ascribe to is, um, a neurosis.

That is: more than wanting to extricate myself from complicity in humanity’s over-taxation of natural resources, more than wanting to embrace wildness and revile callousness – I do not like to waste food.

I am this household’s suckermouth catfish, slurping up and filter feeding all the half-eaten PBJs and cold quesadillas and two day-old leftovers I can find.

And it is easy to find them: there is a trail of half-eaten food everywhere these children go. And until we aren’t wasting all of this perfectly nutritious, only slightly-moldy food (I kid), I guess I’m going to keep Hoovering it into my body.

Here lies the banal truth of the matter. My diet, illustrious in theory, is basically comprised of morsels, crumbs and sandwiches-with-one-bite-taken-out-of-them, highlighted with the occasional glorious vegan masterpiece, and supplemented with hunks of venison.

Meanwhile, the deer’s life force, the very one that started this whole chain reaction in me, whooshes around the world in some way I don’t understand. The deer meat becomes me, I am of it; it is juicy or a little dry, feels like a muscle and has a tang of wildness that’s real. It’s really really real.

It’s different than eating a vegetable, even something you pluck straight from the earth, and it’s nothing like eating “facon.” It makes me feel like the animal I am, and this humbles me.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Argentinean Chimichurri

From “Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America” by Maricel E. Presilla, 2012, W.W. Norton & Co.

This is the recipe Ellen Welcker’s been using, substituting her husband’s venison for the skirt steak the recipes calls for.

For the chimichurri

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped

1 head garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, and finely minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano, lightly crushed

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup safflower oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the steak

4 pounds skirt steak, trimmed

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Mix all the chimichurri ingredients in a small bowl, or combine in a food processor and pulse to a coarse puree.

Light a grill or preheat a broiler on medium-high heat. Season the steaks with salt and brush with some of the chimichurri sauce. Grill or broil the steaks about 4 inches from the source of heat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until medium rare.

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. If you wish, thinly slice the steaks across the grain at an angle before serving.


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