We didn’t know any different, growing up in Alaska. We knew that the ships came in on Tuesday, which meant you bought your fresh beef from the grocery store on Wednesday. Beef was always a treat, kind of expensive, but something we didn’t have a lot of.
Other meat we had a lot of. But how we got that meat wasn’t always what the folks in the south approved of (anyone living in the lower 48 was the south).
This never became more apparent to me when we ran into a deer in Iowa. My first comment was, “where do you keep the knife, I can skin this while you gut it?” You would think I just asked for a pork sandwich in a synagogue. Now, back home, in Alaska, we did two simple things: if the deer was in season you gutted it quickly to make certain the trauma of the accident wouldn’t ruin the meat. Once the animal was skinned you quartered it, and packed the meat quickly in your car, went home and prepped the meat or froze it. It was only then you call the insurance folks for a new grill.
If the deer wasn’t in season, well, you did the same but you brought the meat to the police station and they confiscated it, bringing it to any family that might be having a hard time (in Alaska in the off season this might be the difference between getting a meal for the day or not).
Now when I tell this to my southern friends we get two reactions: my more liberal brethren wonder why we didn’t always bring meat to the police station. They clearly don’t understand that when things are in-season everyone has a shot at the deer and no one starves. But when things are out of season, well, we don’t want the meat to waste and if we took it home we might get a ticket for poaching. My more conservative friends worry the meat might have something bad in it—of course, they probably have never seen a stockyard – there is nothing better than free-range meat, and if it ran into your car that fits the definition.
But a lot of folks just seem to think it is ok to leave perfectly good road kill on the side of the road to let the meat waste and that just never made sense to me. Or they want to call the police first or the insurance agent to get a new grill. I mean, the insurance agent isn’t even going to be at the office when you are likely to run into a deer (dawn or dusk), and the paperwork takes days.
The reaction I didn’t understand was from my card-carrying PETA girlfriend. We were driving along in the Oregon coastal range in my VW when a deer ran smack into me. She wanted to call the vet. Now anyone with a bit of sense knows that a 1966 VW is a fatal injury to a deer, and while you wait for the vet to tell you so the meat is being ruined by the trauma to the deer. But against my better judgment I found a vet who answered his phone and was kind enough to come out (he lived a mile away from the accident). He was nice enough not to laugh at her, and confirmed the deer was dead and there was nothing we could do. He arranged to take the remains of the deer (apparently it is law in the south that you cannot even attempt to keep a carcass) against my girlfriend’s mourning who wanted to have a small service for the animal.
Of course we did have a private service for the animal; attended by the local PETA group in Oregon (a lot of folk showed up). For the occasion my girlfriend made certain I wore my gortex belt, canvass shoes, and we served a nice bit of fresh vegetables (recipes later) and had a photograph of a stunning deer taken by me years before. My tears were for the lost meat, theirs were for the animal, but out of such bonds come mutual respect (well, maybe we didn’t understand the basis of each other’s emotions, but we thought it was a common ground).
This entire verbiage introduction is to tell you about this recipe book. I grew up in Alaska, in case you couldn’t tell, and this is the story of my road trip and the things I learned to cook when I came to the south (for us the south is anywhere south of Alaska, which is everywhere – from the continental US to Europe, Asia, Africa). This is not a book about running over defenseless animals with instructions for how to skin them or gut them (that is illegal, I mean I see their point).
My golf buddy lawyer friend of mine, Steve, tells me that if I gave those instructions that some yahoo would be running down animals with car and might sue me as a result of such behavior. Apparently I could not counter sue God for making someone both stupid and greedy. So, here, from my lawyer buddies $600 per hour quill pen is the “disclaimer” ( I have modified it a bit, because if I see whereas one more time I will aspirate my asparagus):
Do not aim your automobile, truck, tank, SUV, or other vehicle at an animal for the purpose of killing and eating the animal. More often than not this results into you being hurt more than an animal (anyone who has run into a moose knows this, but you folks in the south are kind of ignorant about this). Animals can cause more harm to your vehicle, result in a crash and kill you – or worse, cause you to be permanently harmed then you end up living in a nursing home.
Do not take any road-kill off the side of the road and attempt to eat it (I can’t believe Steve is making me write this). It is illegal to skin, gut, and take meat even if you think it is fresh. Road kill animals harbor germs (I mean come on, if the damn thing has been hit in the gut the meat is ruined if you wait too long, so don’t even think about it). Even fresh road kill can have parasites and other organisms that can cause disease resulting in hospitalization and even death (ok, in the south things are not as clean, but even in Alaska don’t eat what has been left on the road, instead call the local authorities to have this cleaned up).
This book is not an endorsement of eating, cleaning, killing any road kill.
Alright, that was for my buddy, Steve. For the rest of you, read on . You will learn how this simple kid from Ketchikan, Alaska went from road kill to learning how to grill some great meat and a few other things. Thanks for reading.
Just a little post script. The laws in Alaska about road kill, and game, and what to do have changed. Not for the better, I am afraid. Well, they changed in the larger cities. Heck, some of my friends in moose season still keep moose in the backyard by feeding them apples before harvesting their meat — but that is a different story.
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.