Culinary Dream Team
Texas authors headline the book fest Cooking Tent
Afield: A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fishby Jesse Griffiths; photos by Jody Horton, foreword by Andrew Zimmern (Welcome Books, $40, 272 pp.)
Afield is more than a cookbook. It's also a collection of true short stories about a man enamored with the philosophy and practice of living from the land. Jesse Griffiths – avid hunter, fisherman, and Dai Due head chef – is dedicated to sustainability and local seasonal eating, and this book is his gentle manifesto. Tales of adventures traipsing through the beautiful and diverse Texas landscape during long days of hunting snipe and catching sunfish exemplify the firsthand expertise he has gained while merging modern technology and ancestral hunter-gatherer techniques. Jody Horton's bold but graceful photography enhances Griffiths' recipes; their realistic pictorials result in a user-friendly manual to sustainable cuisine. The entire process of returning to real, good food is depicted and woven into an enjoyable narrative interspersed with culinary sensations such as venison moussaka and duck yakitori.
Jesse Griffiths' profound respect for every animal taken as food is evident. I found myself teary eyed and focused, re-reading and absorbing several times the powerful photos and Griffiths' vivid account of a quest on the Hog Highway. He uses bits of humor throughout his writing, and the book reads with the simple eloquence of a passionate friend. The seamless tutorials, such as "Field Dressing Large Game" and "Butchering a Feral Hog," team with flexible recipes that accommodate bounty yielded in season, per geographical region. Geared toward fresh game and fish, Afield emphasizes not only the importance of eating seasonally and locally, but also the ease of preparing sustainable and ostensibly organic meals.
Admittedly, I did not hunt or catch my dinner on my first date with Griffiths' first book. Instead, I perused the butchery in Central Market and prepared the Bad Day Dove Risotto with Quail and the Braised Greens. Earthy and delicious, hearty and nutritious, this recipe was a hit; the braised greens rivaled any I have ever eaten. In a post-dinner phone conversation with my beloved grandmother, she told me she wished she had owned a cookbook such as this when she was preparing the wild game my grandfather brought home to her so many years ago. Whether new skills and recipes are the goal, or finding a gorgeous book that bridges generational gaps and cultural differences, Afield hits the mark. In addition to my plans for sharing this treasure with many people and cooking extensively from the mouthwatering recipes, I was inspired to accept an assignment to cover Dai Due's Hunting School for Women this November. Stay tuned.
(published Sept. 14, 2012)