January 25, 2012

Georgia Pellegrini, Girl Hunter & Book Giveaway! {Tales from the Trenches}

Girl Hunter Cover

Today I am chatting with my friend Georgia Pellegrini about her new book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time. I read this book in two days flat and loved every second of it. It is all about chef and author Georgia’s personal journey to learn about the origins of her food and ultimately solve her own ominvore’s dilemma. This message resonated with me because where I grew up in Cooperstown, New York many of the families I knew hunted all fall to feed their families all winter. It was not about sport and reckless killing, it was about feeding a family responsibly and inexpensively, as well as respecting the wildlife in the area. Families depended, and still do, on hunting to put food on the table. I am so excited that Georgia is here today to share her story. To win a copy of her book see below!

1. Girl Hunter is about much more than hunting, it is about your coming to terms with your own views on eating meat and preserving wildlife. You say “I’m an omnivore who has solved my dilemma.” Can you elaborate on your hunting and eating mantra?

It is based off of my belief that we are all natural omnivores, regardless of the food choices we make. Our dilemma, which scientist Paul Rozin wrote about in 1976, and which writer Michael Pollan made accessible, is what we should have for dinner when we have so many food choices. The dilemma is even more important today because our industrial food system is so contaminated with corn, and hormones, and sick animals, that we humans are faced with the dilemma of what to eat so as not to get sick. My personal solution is hunting and gathering. When done ethically, this is the last natural and instinctive interplay between humans, the land, and animals. Hunting is an act involving all of the senses and I believe one of the most natural ways of being human on this planet. It is part of the natural cycle of life, humans eat animals and plants, animals eat animals and plants, plants feed from the dirt, and we turn to dirt. I think that is the part people have a hard time with—where there is the flow of life there is also the flow of death, and they have to acknowledge their own mortality.

2. In many ways responsible hunting is far more sustainable than factory farming, but most of us don’t have time to hunt. How can the rest of us make responsible choices about eating meat? Do you think it is possible these choices can help bring an end to the awful mass-produced meat problem in our country?

I don’t expect everyone to hunt. But I do hope that my book will prompt people to have a conversation about the role they play in the food they bring to the table. Because I think once we have that honest conversation about our food system and refuse to have an anonymous relationship with our ingredients, the kind of food we expect as omnivores will forever change. For me, hunting is paying the full karmic price of the meal, a chance to participate in every part of the process and use every part of the animal which is an invigorating experience as a chef. But there are other ways people can participate more closely in the cycle of life. One would be to join in with friends to buy a share in a whole animal from a farmer that raises their animals humanely. Another would be to purchase only grass fed, or free range or heritage meat. Even vegetarians can participate by stepping off the grid in small ways, even just once in a while–stepping outside their front door and gathering purslane for a salad or dandelions for wine. The idea is to get back in touch with our natural human instincts… as hunter gatherers, as people that used their hands and were more connected to the world that we live in.

Georga with Dogs

3. Do you ever stop at the grocery store for meat anymore or are you able to eat exclusively what you kill over the course of a year?

I definitely still go to the grocery store and buy protein. It’s pretty hard to only eat what you harvest with your own hands given our modern lifestyle, and our population. But what is interesting is that since I’ve started hunting I eat less meat. At some point along the way we humans started to think we needed a big thick steak with every meal. I’ve discovered that having a small amount of game meat can be ten times more satisfying and flavorful than your standard steak or chicken from the store.

4. How do you feel about trophy hunting, when hunters don’t eat what they kill or respect the beast?

I have no interest in trophy hunting. But I do think some people perceive that any time an animal has been brought to the taxidermist and mounted on a rafter, that it was trophy hunting. I understand hunters wanting to preserve the memory of a particularly life changing hunt and I don’t have a problem saving the hide or antlers. There is also the thought that if it doesn’t look like an animal you would eat, than it wasn’t eaten–a lion for example. What I learned while writing my book is that hunters that go over to Africa to hunt exotic animals are actually doing something constructive. First, the local tribes eat lion meat and reap the benefit of the hunter’s harvest. Second, the $100,000 + that a hunter pays to hunt an exotic like a lion injects money into local economies that need it, and also encourages those local economies to keep the exotic animal populations healthy. The hunting of them is actually what is preventing them from going extinct in some cases because otherwise there wouldn’t be vigilant conservation practices. In the U.S. we have brought over some of those exotics to hunt here–the Axis deer for example. And many years later, we’ve had to reintroduce them back into their indigenous location because they were allowed to go extinct.

5. You say that working at a farm to table restaurant where you had to kill and serve the animals from the farm reawakened a primal instinct in you.  That you suddenly felt responsible for taking the life of an animal and needed to respect it’s death by utilizing the entire beast. Do you still feel this way when you hunt, or do you find this feeling dulls with time?

I feel it every time. It is emotional, intense, and spiritual. I’m a bit of a nerd in case you can’t tell by now, and my mind starts to race with all of the parts of the animal I’ve harvested and the ways I’m going to cook them. When I see a band of wild pigs I see running sausages. I sometimes blurt out “Those look goood” and people laugh at me. But this journey that I wrote about in Girl Hunter really inspired me, was transformative and incredibly fun.

6. Many people don’t realize that responsible hunting practices can actually help keep a wildlife population healthy and thriving. Can you explain how this works?

The best metaphor is to think about planting a garden. When you plant seeds you let them sprout into seedlings and then you weed out some so that the others can grow strong. If you didn’t do this, they would all shrivel up and die because there wouldn’t be enough resources in the soil for all of them. This is exactly the case for animals. When you see roadkill deer, for example, it is because the deer population in that area has overrun its “carrying capacity” and so they are wandering into the wrong areas in search of food. They die and are wasted. I would rather eat them and avoid feedlots, which are, ironically, partly responsible for eliminating the deer’s habitat. We’ve leveled a lot of our woods for industrial agriculture.

7. I will most likely never be a hunter, but how can I support my local hunting community and encourage responsible hunting practices?

In some ways, it’s simply about moral support. Hunting at some point became the notion that a bunch of middle aged white men go out into the woods together and shoot at things. I want Girl Hunter to encourage even city dwellers to go outside and smell the fresh air and hear the woods wake up. It’s not something we do anymore with the pace of life. Being outside and watching nature’s gentle rhythms heightens your senses — you hear differently, you see differently, you smell differently, you feel differently. Those genes in your stir with the distinct vibration that makes us human. It is the best way to be a human on this planet and I think it will make us better citizens. If you really want to be more hands on but not hunt, you can also get involved in local conservation groups and support your local fish and game commission.

8. Finally, what’s next for Girl Hunter? We all want to know!

Oh, well, you know…. things : )  There are a lot of projects in the works but it’s all smoke and mirrors until I see it in front of me. But I promise to tell you as soon as it’s official!

For More About Georgia:

Visit her website HERE.

Cookin’ Canuck’s trip with Georgia

Family Fresh Cooking’s trip with Georgia

GoodLifeEat’s interview with Georgia

To Win a Copy of Georgia’s Girl Hunter:

1. Leave a comment sharing what food you cultivate on your own, be it a garden or animal.

2. Like Georgia Pellegrini on Facebook*.

3. Like The Naptime Chef on Facebook*.

*If you don’t know Facebook please tell me in your comment and that will be waived.

4. Winner will be announced on Monday, January 30th at 7:00am.


15 Responses to “Georgia Pellegrini, Girl Hunter & Book Giveaway! {Tales from the Trenches}”

  1. Marci says:

    I grow a vegetable garden, my personal favorite is fresh garden tomatoes

  2. April V says:

    We do plant gardens, but from a family of hunters, we get a lot of deer meat!!

  3. April V says:

    FB fan of GP!

  4. Sarah H.P. says:

    Every year in December, my mom’s side of the family spend an entire weekend hunting deer. We process everything ourselves and all get a share of the product. Steaks, jerky, sausage links and patties…we make use of everything we can!

  5. Sarah H.P. says:

    I like The Naptime Chef on Facebook!

  6. Sarah H.P. says:

    I like Georgia Pellegrini on Facebook!

  7. jen says:

    I have you both “liked” on FB…   I do alot of hunting and am constantly on the hunt for ways to eat more of each deer I kill… and also to defend my dietary preference for hunting and  eating squirrel, which is how I found Georgia.  (I have a great squirrel pot pie recipe)  I also like to go into the woods behind my house and gather snacks such as the wild blueberries, strawberries, cattail, walnuts, acorns, and many other wild delectables described in the foraging books by Thayer.

  8. Georgia Pellegrini says:

    So fun chatting with you! Thanks for having me and I’m so happy you enjoyed the book.

  9. When I’m able, I love to garden. I buy eggs from a friend who raises chickens. I grew up eating wild game and fish since my dad was a hunter. Sadly, my hubby doesn’t hunt and I don’t either.

  10. Christine says:

    Good article! I am intrigued. I do not hunt, generally against hunting as I have always percieved it to be a good ole boys chest puffing affair at the sake of a wild animal. I am honestly going to check this book out as it seems to be inline with my own values. I dont hunt (obviously) but my father always did and ate everything he killed. I do garden as much as possible to reap the benifits of super fresh, safe foods. I seek out local meat providers and pay a premium for it..perhaps there is a better way. hmmm

  11. Trisha says:

    I love to have my herb garden all year long, as well as root veggies. I am not a big meat eater, but my hubby is starting to get into hunting, so soon we will have fresh game!

  12. Linda Brown says:

    My dad was a hunter .We had squirrel ,rabbit, pheasant. I miss the fried rabbit. I’m not a hunter but grew up with these flavors and miss them. My mom did a good job of cooking them. I do love my garden with tomatoes .potatoes ,green beans and peppers.Yummy!

  13. claire says:

    We have tons of peppers and they are SO SPICY!!