From Field to Table
It’s National Read A Book Day, so we’d like to share one of our favorite “newish” cookbooks from the former editor/publisher of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, Susan Ebert.
You don’t get far into The Field to Table Cookbook: Gardening, Foraging, Fishing, and Huntingbefore you realize this book isn’t just about venison sausage recipes or how to grill redfish.
Susan L. Ebert’s new cookbook is as much a philosophical meditation on what it means to hunt and fish as it is a practical guide to using what you harvest from the land, either from your garden or out in nature. Much of it is downright poetic. Take Ebert’s description of a duck hunt:
“The predawn marsh evokes cathedral-like reverence; the dawn of creation itself could not be more stunning. This magical morning as we situate ourselves in the blind among the sennabeans, the Comanche moon is preparing to dip below the western horizon with the ascending sun a mirror image in the east. Scores of egret, heron, ibis, and roseate spoonbills transverse the dawn, the spoonbills’ rosy wings as translucent as cathedral glass against the sunrise. The teal will come soon.”
Talk about painting a picture with words.
But it’s not all poetry. Ebert gets down to the nitty-gritty of how to butcher hogs and pluck doves, as well as useful information on license requirements and bag limits in Texas.
Still, the book has a lovely way of meandering through the seasons while bringing together what’s available each month: which hunting or fishing seasons are open, which vegetables will be ready to harvest, what food you can find in the wild. Take June: You can cook sunfish in fat from ducks you harvested in winter, add a side dish of your garden’s summer squash, and top it all off with ice cream showcasing foraged elderberries.
Talk about delicious.
Cooking this way takes time — a lot of time — so why go to all that trouble? It’s about the desire to “feed my loved ones the cleanest, healthiest food. I can, and to take personal responsibility for the life of the animals that grace our dinner table,” Ebert says. As it does for many hunters, that personal responsibility can come with the conflicted feelings she reveals — loving the hunt but sometimes mourning the animal; feeling reverence for life but being honest about our role in the food chain.
Taken as a whole, it’s a cookbook that’s also a graceful argument for protecting habitats and conserving wildlife, even as we harvest it — a book that can appeal to everyone from the most experienced outdoors enthusiasts to those who have no plans to fish in the Gulf or hunt down wild persimmons. It’s at once practical, philosophical and celebratory.
Talk about food for thought.
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