Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Supper Club

Sir Benjamin Thompson is not a name many people know, but all winter long when I walked into keep of Livingston Brook Farm I mouth "thank you Sir Ben" and raise a glass to the fireplace if I have one in hand. Also known as Count Rumford, in the late 1700's Sir Ben did "investigations into heat" and created the large, wide, shallow fireplaces designed to actually heat a home and not just look pretty in the corner. Rumford Fireplaces are rarely built these days, but if you ever get the chance to build a home or purchase a very old one, remember that name. The farmhouse at Livingston Brook Farm has a 1700's original Rumford Fireplace and it is so large it has a build in iron cooking station, a bread oven, and is large enough to roast a shoat in. I am very jealous of this fireplace. Count Rumford, Thank you.

And that was part of the warmth that slammed into me soon as I walked into the kitchen door last night. The other part was Mark, who instantly handed me a tray of just-seared venison loin off the skillet. "You've GOT TO TRY THIS!" He said. I did. Dear lord, it was perfect. The meat was creamy, melting into my mouth and bursting with flavor. Think of the best cut of filet mignon you ever had and give it the Academy Award for trying to be fresh venison. The hunter who had taken the deer was a few feet away and I tipped my hat to him. He had also provided smoked salmon. An entire neck roast was whistling in the pressure cooker with onions and gravy. Garden potatoes were mashed, salad greens tossed, and I brought the loaf of braided bread I had baked. This would be a meal to remember.

Everyone at the Game Dinner was friends and most of us hunters or married to them. It was myself, Patty and Mark (hosts), their neighbor Ken (Venison Lord!), and Tyler and Tara (hunter and baker). This Supper Club was the entire reason I hunt and the hope of everyone worth their license who tries - to share a meal you knew as a wild prayer, a primal action, and amazing story.

We sat around the table passing plates and bowls and enjoying the food hunted, grown, baked, and (in the case of the boiled cider pie) alchemized and whipped! We shared stories of hunts - and laughed at the many more stories of going home empty. Everyone had a heavy wine glass, a full crop, and when we retired to the fireplace I sat on the stones with Harley the bird dog right by the Rumford. It was so warm and I was so full Thanksgiving felt like a juice cleanse. Not because we were gluttons but because everyone was just so wrapped up in the warmth. Outside a wicked fog, wind, and pouring winter rain made the fireside even more inviting. Within ten minutes Harley and I were both on low bake. Sir Benjamin knows his stuff.

This is what I was thinking of, fondly, as I sat in the high reeds this afternoon hidden in a hand-me-down duck hunter's camo jacket. I laughed because the wetland patter of tall, tan, grass was perfect for my position near this stream. This was the kismet that leads to future meals like last night's. Rifle Season is almost over, just a few days left, and despite trying so hard this season I haven't had the perfect combination of luck and circumstance to take a deer. I even won a doe tag in the state's hunter lottery and could take any adult deer legally, but even so the chances were few and shots fired, missed. I was no Ken. He has been hunting for 60 years. This was my 6th. I still have yet to shoot a deer.

I sighed and sat, looking down so my brown beret hid the moon-white face among the reeds.  I was hoping after some meditation time I would look up and see him. A young buck that shoots out of the forest's edge into this area, dances around, chases ladies, and then disappears right away again. I named him Mr. AllofaSudden because of how you can look one way, then turn your head back and he's there - trotting in the soon-to-be-dusk fog. He is the Armie Hammer of white tails.

He was who I wanted a shot at today but instead a trio of deer came out of a higher piece of ground. I watched with that excitement you see at the end of a cat's tail when her eyes are on a bird at the feeder. It didn't take long to realize that it was a mother with two younger fawns, weaned but small. I raised my gun with the safety on to use the scope to view them. Everyone looked healthy and all had made it this far into the fray of the season. I wasn't going to shoot at her, at any of them. I didn't want my neck roast dinners to come with a side of guilt. I had lamb, pork, and chicken in my freezer and I didn't have to commit cervine matricide to add some ego venison on top of it. I sighed, lowered my father's gun, and started to head back to the truck.

I hope all three are tucked in together and warm tonight. May they make a windless, dry, hidden place among the thickest cover a Rumford of their own.