GRIT Country Skills Series

Savory, Satisfying VENISON RECIPES

Deer and humans have evolved together. We’ve hunted deer, and deer have escaped us, for so long that neither of us are what we were when our intimate, eons-old relationship first began. Our dance with deer is eternal.

Many paleontologists believe that the ancient pursuit of deer-like animals made us fully human, fundamentally changing our inner life, our identification with the world — even our cognitive powers — through the planning and execution of the hunt.

Deer hunting is firmly embedded in our ancestral DNA, and deer, or the more general category of venison, is a staple food item recognized throughout the world. Tell most people you’re deer hunting and they’ll barely shrug. Tell them you’re swan hunting, or even bear hunting, and you’ll likely get a very different reaction. Humans hunt and eat venison; it’s just what we do.

The word “venison” derives from the Latin word venari, “to hunt.” Evolving through Old French, the term came to refer to any hunted game, a reference that is still widely used today. Although venison can mean different things in different cultures, the word most often refers collectively to all the deer-like animals: the cervids (especially deer, elk, and moose) and the non-cervid pronghorn and African antelopes. This is the definition I’ll use here.

Given our long history as eaters of venison, it’s more than a little surprising to discover that, with the possible exception of waterfowl, no game animal is more horribly treated in the kitchen by contemporary cooks than deer.

Nasty, gloppy cream-of-mushroom

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