As part of my education at NECI, I am required to complete at least 4 hours of community service. Every week, our student services coordinator sends out events and opportunities for students to work or volunteer. Many times this is food-related, such as in soup kitchens, teen food programs, farming/harvesting events, private catering events, and so on. I have already volunteered more than four hours, but continue to volunteer since every event is another window into the industry I’m getting in to.
A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to cook food for a special dinner a faculty member from NECI put together for residents of Waterbury, VT who had lost property due to the recent flooding. You can read more about it at this blog. It was a really great experience to give my time and skills to people, some of whom had lost everything.
Another recent volunteer activity was at an event put on by the National Wild Turkey Federation. I didn’t know anything about this organization before I went to the event, but from what I understand now, they are mostly comprised of hunters. AND REDNECKS!!!! This is one of the first things the men said when they introduced themselves to me. The event was a fundraiser for the organization. Most of the activities they put on are hunting sports related, including for children and young adults. The organization is also interested in preserving lands for wildlife.
So if you know me at all, you might wonder why I even went to this event. I don’t really support hunting as a sport, and rednecks mostly aren’t my type of people. However, I do support hunting for families as an additional source of food. At any rate, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I signed up. The event was advertised as a “Wild Game Dinner”, and the opportunity to both prepare and taste the different meats. This is what attracted me to the event. I was interested in tasting wild game, and I did! Although the people were extremely disorganized, which I find is a pattern at these kinds of events, I had fun with the men, and made a bear meat stew, and also green beans, caramelized onions, and glazed carrots.
One thing I thought was a shame was that these hunters had managed to hunt bear, deer, moose, and wild turkey, but they weren’t very good cooks. Most of them didn’t know what they were doing. I felt bad that some of the meat was wasted, as it were, because it wasn’t cooked properly: mostly overcooked, using the wrong cooking method for the cut of meat, or not seasoned and flavored in a good way. After all the effort that goes into hunting, what a way for the meat to be treated.
In the end, I tried moose, bear, venison, wild turkey, and even alligator! I liked the wild turkey best; it had a really nice fresh, moist poultry flavor. There were moose meatballs, venison meatballs, various casseroles, deep fried meats (but without any batter, which I thought was odd), and grilled bear and moose. Overall, it was worth the experience. I started thinking of ways to inform hunters about the cuts of meat they were preparing, and how they could be educated in making good tasting food. At least then, the life of the animal and its death would be respected.