Cookbook features recipes using game meat

press_0213_Hunter

Georgia Pellegrini hunts for her food in an approach that she calls “Field to Stream to Table.” (Photo courtesy of Pellegrini Pictures)

Brittany Smith

Georgia Pellegrini, a recent Austin transplant, has beautiful blonde hair, perfect skin, high cheekbones and bright blue eyes. She cooks, cans her own vegetables, gives instructions for making rustic homemade gifts and shares recipes from her grandmother's kitchen. But she is more than a frontier-style homemaker. In addition to her self-described “girly-girl” activities, she also hunts. She kills squirrels, elk, wild turkey, deer and wild boar and then butchers and cooks them herself.

Her latest book, “Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat One Hunt at a Time,” includes recipes for squirrel Brunswick stew, beer-battered fried dove breast, braised javelina haunch and curried pigeon.

After graduating from Wellesley College, Pellegrini began her career in the world of finance at the Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers. She wore tight business suits and stilettos, attended rooftop parties and lived the fast-paced life of a New Yorker.

A year into her career, she realized that her heart wasn't in the work. Her grandfather's words lingered in her head. He told her, “Do what makes you happy and the money will follow.”

With that in mind, Pellegrini took a leap of faith and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, leaving finance behind. She had grown up around food, and was especially influenced by her grandmother's home-cooked meals.

“It was always food, it was always cooking,” she said.

As a chef, she worked at a handful of farm-to-table restaurants in the United States and France and became interested in the source of the food she was preparing.

She started thinking deeply about what it meant to be an omnivore and decided that if she were going to eat meat, she would know how to kill an animal with her own hands. Pellegrini now hunts, prepares her own meat, makes jerky from cuts of elk and guides her blog readers through the process of butchering a turkey and cooking deer heart. “It sounds grody, but it's super delicious,” she said.

“I feel like when I’m eating, I've paid the full karmic price of the meal,” Pellegrini said.

Some might criticize Pellegrini’s approach to food as being idealistic. “It's not every day that you can go and kill a deer for 100 pounds of sausage,” said Solomon Wang, nutrition senior and amateur hunter. Hunting is time-consuming and the seasons for doing so are short.

While Wang loves hunting on occasion, he doesn't think that the rest of the country is necessarily ready to add game animals to their culinary repertoire. “Some people always want beef, chicken or pork,” he said. “Those are not as easy to come by, at least if you want to kill them yourself.”

Besides these practical criticisms, others are turned off by what they perceive as a crude and unsophisticated process. Caroline Heldman, an associate professor at Occidental College said in an interview with Pellegrini on Fox's “Follow the Money,” “Talking about eating squirrels … no offense, but I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.”

But Pellegrini doesn’t approach hunting in the same way the stereotypical American “good ol' boy” does. For her, it’s a profoundly spiritual activity and an important part in bringing her food philosophy full circle. She believes in using the entire animal, rather than taking out only the most popular cuts. The cooking, to her, is just as important as the killing.

“It's the whole process that makes it so satisfying,” she said.

Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Former Wall Street player publishes game cookbook