The hunt for real food, big guns and safaris

December 2, 2011


The search for quality ingredients and adequate cooking equipment seems to be never ending. If you’ve seen Chef Gordon Ramsay’s show “the F Word,” you understand the extremes he goes to raising or hunting for the finest ingredients available.

Sometimes it really takes him on a wild game hunt. So, in Chef Ramsay’s image and with funding from my winning a free speech law suit, I have undertaken the planning of a couple of adventures. First, when my daughters come to visit this Christmas, we will recreate a favorite movie scene by rotissering a lamb on the front yard. Next, I’m all set to visit South Africa to hunt something large and yummy, although I plan to share.

In search of cooking a lamb on ones front yard

Those familiar with the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” know the famous scene in which a whole lamb was barbecued on Gus’s front yard. Four things would be needed: a whole lamb, something to cook the lamb, a good recipe, and marinade. Fortunately, the recipe and marinade were the easiest challenges.

I wanted to cook a lamb on a spit or rotisserie, but as I was to learn, the search for an affordable barbecue was a challenge. The truth is that you could pay a lot of money and get much more than you need or spend very little for a spit that was completely inadequate. However, I found a spit on-line measuring over 51 inches that would be perfect. Anyone who has worked a rotisserie knows that a five hour slow cooking process with the final searing done up close results in perfection.

One question remained–where to find an entire lamb?

Finding an entire high quality lamb involved a bit of travel and a few tweets to chefs I know for recommendations. I stopped by Superior Foods in Vernon (near where I once worked for Kal Kan) and picked up a choice 29.2 pound lamb that I had previously ordered. I tied my trip to Vernon with a stop at the South African Embassy and the U.S. Customs office at the Los Angeles airport.  More on that in the next section.

How I ended up on safari

I would like to say that this was all part of a master plan and that I knew all along what impact my fateful trip to Los Osos would have on my normally calm existence. For all I knew, I was off to a simple fundraiser with about $20 in my pocket. Oh, if it were only so simple. So here is how it happened.

A few months back, I took notice of a small but interesting posting concerning a fundraiser for the “Friends of the NRA.” I have been acquainted with the National Rifle Association for a long time. The fundraiser was to be held in the Los Osos community center in the evening with a live and silent auction as well as some raffles and such that conform very strictly to California laws. The money raised that night is poured into a variety of worthy projects that serve the local hunting/shooting community. I bought a couple of entry tickets on-line and put them on a board by my computer; however, I should have taken a closer look at the date.

Leaving the hunting life of Texas as a young man was hard for me; so I was pleased to drive to Los Osos the night of the fundraising event to meet like minded people. As I approached the parking lot half full of cars, I couldn’t help but observe that my Ford Expedition stood out. I was in the land of Smart Cars, Priuses and other hybrids along with the token ancient Mercedes or two.

Walking into the main foyer, I was a bit surprised by the tables of what I thought were unusual complimentary snacks. The people looked unlike the typical hunter types that I expected.

However, I shrugged it off and thought to myself, well, this is California. Inadvertently, I had shown up exactly one month early and found myself at a Weight Watchers meeting. I smiled, but it quickly became apparent that I was about as welcome as a man walking into a woman’s locker room, which really wasn’t too far from the truth. Laura and I walked out chuckling and headed home a bit amused at my fallibility.

Friends of the NRA

The following month we returned early, which was a good idea as parking was tough to find if you arrived later in the evening. The view of the parking lot contained plenty of pick up trucks and larger vehicles. As we walked inside, I felt instantly more comfortable. These were people who could take care of themselves. Ah, I love the smell of testosterone in the evening.

Laura and I walked around to see all the activities, prizes and auction items. Later, Laura remarked that these folks really knew how to run a fund raiser. Last year alone we were told that they raised over $ 500,000. However, this was not just an auction of wealthy folks. We noticed quite a range of society coming in to bid on items that they felt they needed, wanted or believed they could use. Those attending knew that their donation was going to a cause they believed in and also hoped to get a bargain or two in the process.

As I quickly looked around, I knew that to raise that kind of money they were expecting they would have to turn me upside down and shake me until everything fell out; I am afraid they would be disappointed. The truth is that all they only had to do is to have something I or others really wanted. This they did.

As was the case with many attendees, the item that brought me to the fundraiser was a Kimber 1911 pistol and it finally went for $1050. For those of you who don’t know, that was a bargain. No, I didn’t win this. However, I was more interested in experiences and travel. The item I won was a seven day Safari in South Africa with two trophy animals thrown in to complete the package, valued over $6000. Obviously, this is not the end of the story.

Finding the big gun

Bringing hunting rifles into another country is always challenging and knowing the rules helps save a lot of aggravation. In talking to friends and my ‘PH’ (Professional Hunter) assigned to my Safari, I discovered that none of the rifles I could lay my hands on could be taken into South Africa. A lever action Winchester is considered an automatic and has to be left home.

What I needed for South Africa was an old fashioned bolt action large caliber rifle. To be practical this rifle would have to have a dual purpose: it must be able to hunt smaller game like the relative of the antelope called Springbok or the larger Reedbok; but, it also should be capable of bringing down a Cape buffalo and other dangerous beasts. With our anniversary coming up, Laura knew what I would need and began searching. Don’t you love a woman who understands you?

For hunting large and dangerous game there are many choices today. Many of the “shoulder cannons” that are offered are rather expensive as wondrous as they might be. The “T-Rex double barreled gun” that appeared in the second Jurassic Park movie is a good example of “very expensive.” My task was to find something effective and priced reasonably, or at least more reasonably.

Historically, the term ‘big gun’ is relative. During the American Civil War, many battles were fought using 56 caliber rifles. The thought of two armies fighting each other with what were essentially “Elephant Guns” is chilling.

375 caliber rifle and scope

We ended up buying an Interarms Mark X with a scope, a case, lock and some ammo through Four Season’s Outfitters here in San Luis Obispo. This is the big game hunting rifle your mother warned you about. My gun is around 50 years old judging from the petrified recoil pad and the low serial number. This is not your casual ‘plinking’ target rifle as the bullets cost around $70 for a box of 20 and you need about 100 for a trip alone, not counting all the preparation at the rifle range you want and must do. This was never an expensive rifle to begin with, but while reading the various hunting boards on-line, I quickly realized that it is a sentimental favorite. My first trip to the range was an amazing experience with this accurate and powerful rifle. It was a perfect choice for me.

By the way, Interarms had a very interesting history as did the international arms dealer Samuel Cummings who owned the company. Wikipedia reports an interaction between Cummings and Fidel Castro:

“…In 1958, Cummings sold 100 ArmaLite AR-10 rifles to Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, but in 1959 the entire shipment of AR-10 rifles was captured intact on the Havana docks by the victorious rebel forces of Fidel Castro. Cummings wrote Castro and asked him if he would pay for the rifles or return them, and was invited to visit Cuba in return.  Reportedly impressed with the firepower of the AR-10, Castro paid for the rifles and asked for more…”

Preparing and cooking game

Back to hunting big game in South Africa, I was placed in contact with a S.A. professional hunter who supplied me with all the info needed for me, my gun and ammunition to legally enter South Africa. It appears that hunters today act very much like I was raised; you eat what you hunt. When I asked the obvious question, the P.H. told me that they reserve a portion of the animal for meals, but the entire animal is ultimately used in one fashion or another. If the meat is a little tough, well, they set it aside in some marinade and we all will enjoy it later on in the week.

It’s no secret that men who enjoy cooking will often grow their own food, be it a simple herb, vegetable or an animal that was raised under exacting standards.The point that often divides is in those adventurous few who add hunting to their sourcing talents. Chef Gordan Ramsay is one such a man.

Some of the most enjoyable cookbooks are those that address preparing game caught in the wild and often prepared in more natural surroundings. McClanes is one source, but there are many other wonderful contributions. Nowadays, the great outdoors does not offer as many obstacles to the budding chef as both equipment and nonperishable foodstuffs are readily transportable. Those experienced with marinades can turn the toughest wild game into tender succulent culinary marvels.

How to speak safari and ‘bucket lists’

Many people go on a hunting trip after thorough planning, others find a professional hunter to guide them. I have done both, but the latter is easier. This time around I will be traveling to South Africa to hunt Springbok and Reedbok and something very large and yummy to be determined later. One of the advantages for Americans touring South Africa is the need for only a passport, but no visa. Although many Americans take shots before traveling, none are required unless you pass through a Yellow fever country.

While I was searching for my lamb last month in Los Angeles, I brought my hunting rifle to Homeland security and completed a form #4457. It was quite a strange feeling walking near an airport carrying an undisguised hunting rifle. For all of our protection, one must log their rifle serial numbers as we leave and reenter our country and submit to various background checks.

My daughter Kristin asked me if this was on my bucket list of activities that someone might do before they pass on to the great beyond?  My bucket list, I told her, was about raising a family–this is all extra.

This may not be a dream vacation for everyone and is turning out to be a bit more expensive than I anticipated, but for me, it doesn’t get any better than this. Next, we are hoping to get the entire family together afterwards somewhere for Laura’s and my 40th wedding anniversary.

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To put Mr. Freberg’s upcoming “safari” in proper perspective, I suggest reading Ernest Hemingway’s brilliant short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”.

It also might be relevant to note that Mr. Hemingway blew his brains out with one of his hunting weapons, leaving others to clean up the awful mess.

One further question for Mr. Freberg: Why do you feel compelled to repeat the ludicrous, misleading meat-industry lobbyist propaganda that only the flesh and organs of dead animals is “real food”? This is not only an outright, self-serving lie that denigrates farmers world-wide, it also promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. It is so wrong-headed.

Sure, people are allowed to have their own opinions and preferences, but I find it troublesome when people try to selfishly mislead and denigrate others based on those opinions and preferences and, worse, promote unnecessary killing and suffering among God’s creatures.

Yes, we must have compassion for those like Mr. Freberg who feel compelled to kill for sport, but we can also hope that he would be sensible enough not to blithely brag about his flesh eating and killing addiction, let alone try to hook others into following his lead.

But enough of the moralizing. How about Mr. Freberg simply answering my question as to why he feels compelled to promote meat as the world’s only “real food”? Can you answer that basic question for us, Mr. Freberg?

Mr. Freberg is clutching for straws. In his response to critical analysis of his article, he tries to defend himself by reframing and mischaracterizing the positions that threaten his world view. So, we are left with him trying to tell us there are some mysterious “unintended consequences” we will be subject to if we don’t mindlessly kill animals for sport.

Then he brings up this concept of “vegetarianism” as if anyone who cautions against eating meat is part of a cult of dictators and mass murders and communists.

Then he tries to suggest eating less meat has some connection to a global warming.

Significantly, Mr. Freberg erroneously suggests that the only way to “experience the hunt” is to include unnecessary killing as part of the “experience.” I’m a photographer, so I track and hunt animals, but I don’t have to kill those animals. I take their photograph. That’s good enough for me. I don’t try to convince people that killing is a vital part of the human experience to be promoted in public forums like this.

Then he tries to suggest that no one who has ever hunted (and presumably killed) has ever done anything to take the United States “down the wrong road.” In other words, he’s telling us that hunting and killing animals by itself makes all Americans better citizens.

Finally, brings religion into the discussion, trying to justify his penchant for killing and promoting killing on religious grounds.

What compels a person like Mr. Freberg to go out of his way to promote unnecessary killing, killing for sport, and denigrating those who suggest that there good reasons for the average U.S. citizen to shift their balance of diet from meat toward greater consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Meat is so over-rated.

Anyone who would like a good introduction as to why Mr. Freberg’s meat and killing campaign is so wrong-headed and dangerous should read what people who know what they are talking about have to say about everyday meat eating in America.

Here’s one book that addresses the subject with a level of education and logic and experience so lacking in Mr. Freberg’s ego-boogie selfish bloodlust campaign:

MAD COWBOY: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat by Howard F. Lyman and Glen Merzer

Let me see if I can sum up:

1 — There are those souls who believe that we can be brought to a higher place by eating a vegetarian diet and thereby saving the innocent lives of wild animals. However, they ignore the unintended consequences …. but that is a discussion for another article.

Let remind you of three of the greatest vegetarians of all time: Hitler, Stalin and Mao…

2– The second rational of the pro-veggie gurus is to say that bad things happen to people who eat meat. I see a lot of poor science thrown in which — like global warming ( or are we supposed to call it ‘climate change’ now?) — doesn’t stand up to public scrutiny.

BTW, Yes, I believe boys and girls should experience the hunt. Yes, it changes them, reminds them of who they are and prepares them for the world ahead.

3– There are those who invoke religious tones in protesting meat eaters… however, I am unaware of any religious dietary laws that support their position.

The whole lamb I have in the freezer is ‘fallal’ … does that make it easier for you on the left?

Finally, as someone pointed out that there is much wrong with our society… and I would agree. Our country has been taken down the wrong road and there is a lot of denial going on as to who brought us there. Let’s just say, it wasn’t the hunters.

This notion that one has to kill animals in order to get “real food” is so unevolved and destructive. That some people feel compelled to promote such a regressive, misguided and completely false idea to others is sad, especially in SLO County, where we are blessed with so much wonderful locally grown fruit and vegetables.

I’m not telling anyone they should’t eat meat. But I do suggest that people consider cutting back on the amount of dead animal flesh and harvested organs they consume. That alone will lead to healthier people and a healthier environment for all.

Mr. Freberg’s article, ironically, presents a great picture of what is so messed up about our society, andhow mindlessly and blithely some people are about killing and causing pain and suffering for no good reason, but simply for a person’s selfish interests. So absolutely unnecessary.

But it is nice and encouraging that so many people see the error and horror in articles and attitudes similar to what Mr. Freberg has pooped onto this forum.

Why does CCN always print this egotistical booster ? This really hurts CCN’s credibility .