I blame the lingering recession / bank crisis / political ineptitude (pick whichever one you fancy) here in Ireland for young families following so many from previous generations and emigrating. Back then, it was a big thing. Children left and lost all contact with parents. It was a real life sentence. Nowadays, there’s a lot of emotional claptrap spoken about this, usually by people who like to look backwards into our fraught history rather than forwards into a brighter future. With low-cost air fares, Skype and generally improved living standards, the long journey is not the trauma it once was. The other end of the world, yes. But not the end of the world.
Last weekend, a couple of friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to go for a long cycle on Sunday morning. It had been snowing and the forecast was for things to clear. So, with a degree of abandon, we met soon after sunrise and headed south. Temperatures were holding above zero and after about 30 minutes cycling the pain (along with the feeling) went out of my extremities.
What do you do? The Wicklow Hunter’s youngest brother calls to the office and leaves a sack. He tells me that it’s a gift from the brother. “All legal ‘an all” he assures me. I thank him profusely and check the contents. YES! It’s another venison leg, from a pretty young deer by the looks of it. This gets me thinking.
Let’s face facts. Norway is not at the centre of gastronomic excellence. Many believe that all they know about is salting, sugaring and burying various kinds of fish and meat before digging it up again and eating it. Not the best calling card for a premium cooking reputation. However, there is another side to these weather hardened northerners.
Not the sort of thing one expects to have delivered. Particularly as I’m not a butcher.
Question 1 “This early in the season, is this a piece of legally shot doe?”
Answer 1 “I’m told it is. The now infamous Wicklow Hunter tells me that they were out on a night shoot on the 31st October and ‘…just after midnight’ he downed a young doe. That brings it into the November season where that sort of thing is OK in Wicklow.” In short: Doe.
Question 2 “What recipe are you going to use?”
Answer 2(Here’s where the Homer like d’oh! could come into its own.) “I am going to try something totally original. I am going to cook Venison and Plum Stew.” Given that I had no real idea what to do with the venison, this was a brave outburst on my part. An outburst, fuelled by a glass or three of Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. In short: D’oh!
I want you to imagine my youngest daughter. She is an innocent thing who likes small animals and fluffy things. She loves Disney cartoons. One of her favourites is Bambi. She finds the various scenes of innocence touching. When she watches it, she will be heard to say things like “Ahhh, so pretty.” and “Ohhhh, aren’t the chipmunks so cute.”
I am telling you all this because I recently suggested that I cook a rabbit stew for the family. This led to the following unfortunate conversation: