Thoughts on the book “Girl Hunter”

Girl Hunter, the book

I should say firstly that I haven’t read this book, only the Grist.org review of it, which I will be excerpting below. Still there’s something fresh and appealing about hearing how a young woman — whose kind don’t usually go for hunting — has made her way into, and her peace with, that most ancient of human practices — to the point where I definitely want to read the book and am going to order it.

I’ve hunted myself as a teenager, but not that successfully. And no, that’s not why I gravitated to vegetarianism. 

Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the guy who helped found the recently raided Rawsome Foods club in California tells a wild story of how he made the transition from being a strict vegan, to being an eater of meat in his book, “We want to live”.

Aajonus was feeling not so good on his vegan diet bicycling around the country so he thought he’d just go camp in the desert and fast to death. While he was doing that, he’d gradually become aware of a pack of coyotes who made a sort of contact with him at night. One night he got the message (telepathically, it seems) that the coyotes wanted him to come with them, so he got up and followed them. They took him out to a place where they chased down a rabbit and killed it, brought it to him, dropped it at his feet, and told him “Eat this, it’s what you need”. Aajonus thought that if he was going to die, he might as well die from eating raw rabbit, so he did eat it. And he felt better! And that’s where he got the idea of eating raw meat, which totally turned his life around.

In his account, he describes “seeing” something leave the rabbit moments before it was killed. Perhaps the rabbit soul, seeing that the end was near, decided to check out early so it wouldn’t have to experience the pain of being killed.

South African writer and friend of the Bushmen, Laurens van der Post, tells fascinating little stories about hunting animals in his many books. In a typical story he will be trekking through the bush with his men, and describe how they need food to keep going. He’ll talk to one of the animal species in his mind, and ask for one of their kind, so he and his men can eat. And lo and behold, it’s usually not long until such an animal appears and seems to offer itself to be shot by Laurens. Now there is an entire book devoted to debunking Laurens’ stories, saying that he made up and embellished a lot of them. But I like to think there must be grains of truth among whatever embellishments Laurens may have added to mythologize his life.

Not unlike the stories of Michael Roads, who, when he was a farmer, would “talk” to the kangaroos, telling them to limit their eating of his crops to the outer 5 meters of the field, or else he would have to hunt them. Amazingly, they seemed to have got the message. Here’s a reference to one of his books.

And, for what it’s worth, the first of the serious German biodynamic farmers who came to Ontario in the 1980s, Bernhard Hack, had been a passionate hunter, before he discovered biodynamics.

Anyway, all this by way of preamble to the following excerpt of Twilight Greenaway’s review of “Girl Hunter” on Grist.org:

“Georgia Pellegrini did not write a book about hunting to prove she was tough, or to bridge the divide between foodie culture and rural America. Instead, the author of Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time wanted to know what it would take to spend a year eating only the meat she’d killed herself. She succeeded, and not just to woo Mark Zuckerberg, either. Girl Hunter tells a lively story of her time hunting and cooking wild boar in West Texas, turkeys in Arkansas, and ducks in the British countryside, just to name a few. And despite the mainstream Cooking Channel feel this book has on the surface (watch this trailer if you want to know what I mean), Pellegrini clearly has a genuine interest in seeing a larger structural shift to our food system. In the book, she writes:

People tell me, “I don’t think I could do it.” The good news is that you don’t have to. But if you want to feel what it is to be human again, you should hunt, even if just once. Because that understanding, I believe, will propel a shift in how we view and interact with this world we eat in. And the kind of food we demand, as omnivores, will never be the same.

We spoke with Pellegrini recently about the book, the role hunting can play in rural food systems, and the gender dynamic she experienced out in the field.

Q. What made you want to tell these stories about hunting?

A. I am a chef, so I look at it all through the lens of food. I grew up living off the land, with honeybees and chickens, and I fished and foraged a lot. But I didn’t hunt until after I became a chef. While I worked at Dan Barber’s restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns [located at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture], we were really hands-on with the ingredients — we did everything from collecting eggs, to working in the greenhouse, to killing turkeys.

Killing the turkey was sort of my watershed moment; it sort of woke up a dormant part of me. So many horrible things happen in our industrial food system and I wanted to explore what it meant to step outside the traditional way of procuring meat, and really go back to the way we used to do it. I wanted the experience of participating in every single part of the process — from the field to the plate — and to make sure that there was no suffering, that every part of the animal was used and used with integrity. I wanted to pay the full karmic price for the meal. Your perspective as a chef changes so much when you’ve had to work hard for every ingredient. I think the food tastes a lot better that way.

Q. Can you say more about what you mean by “pay the full karmic price” of the meal?

A. There were times before when I’d go to the meat aisle in the grocery store and pick up a boneless, skinless chicken breast wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam, and not really think much of it.

[Since I started hunting], I decided that if I was going to be a meat eater, I really wanted to internalize what it means to be an omnivore. And I really do, it’s emotional, spiritual, intense. And I’ve become a more conscious eater, a more awake human being….”

Read it all on Grist.org

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