The Nugents are not only good cooks, they're a spiritual phenomenon.
Kill It and Grill It, (Regnery, 203 pages)
Two years ago, Ted Nugent — rock guitarist, writer, hunter, and family-man — penned God, Guns and Rock and Roll, a book of political thoughts and life anecdotes that sped onto the New York Times bestseller list.
So how does Nugent follow up such a success? He writes a cookbook, of course. Kill It & Grill It, written by Nugent and his wife Shemane, is a compilation of more than 50 recipes for deer, elk, wild boar, rabbit, bear, wild turkey, duck, squirrel, and more. But the culinary formulas are only
part of the menu offered by the Nugents. Ted and Shemane also suggest that you accept responsibility for being carnivores by going out and killing at least some of the meat you eat. They also have some meat-eating tips that will make for a more fulfilling experience. For example, when the kids are in bed, try and eat game in front of a roaring fire while seated nude on a bearskin rug. The Nugents let your imagination fill in the rest. Saucy stuff.
In God, Guns and Rock and Roll, much of America was introduced to Ted's lively prose. It's a writing style that continues in the cookbook (Shemane contributes two chapters of twenty-two, so the majority of the book's prose smacks of Ted). Why is game important to Ted Nugent's diet? Here's his answer, penned in a style that can only be attributed to one human: "Pure, real, honest-to-God freerange protein is the rocketfuel for my spiritual campfire."
The carnivorous Nugent family has not bought any meat from a grocery store since l969. Their theory, which is Ted's theory, always goes back to the diet-richness found only in wild game. Ted writes, "How better to give honor to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than to party hardy with delicious meat, lovingly carved from skeletons of protein-rich animals in the ultimate afterlife habitat of steel and charcoal?"
Ted may speak rock and roll, but this book is grounded in science. Wild-game meat is low in fat, low in cholesterol, and high in protein. The American Heart Association recommends wild game. Native people whose regular diets are similar to the Nugents' show little evidence of the heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and hardening of the arteries that plague modern civilized man.
So, if you buy into the formula so simply stated in the book's title, Ted and Shemane are ready to walk you through the process of transforming wild game on the hoof into meat on the table. The Nugent hierarchy for cooking game is this: "kill, clean, cool, cut, cure, freeze, cook and rejoice." At each step, their suggestions — and recipes — are pragmatic and clear.
The majority of the recipes in Kill It & Grill It are for deer and wild boar, which not only are Nugent-family favorites, but are out there in abundance.
There are at least 33 million whitetail deer in the U.S. today — more than at any time since the white man arrived. And the white man brought with him domestic pigs, some of which got loose and went wild. These feral hogs have since multiplied and bred with true wild boar that were introduced to the wild more recently. So, "wild pigs" are now found across the U.S. They
multiply like rabbits and wreck havoc on the landscape as they dine. In most all states they are considered pests, and there is no hunting limit or closed season for this game. To be sure, if you follow in the footsteps of the Nugents, you're not going to threaten the ecology of North America. There's plenty of game to go around these days.
And now to the taste test. I had a wild-boar roast and some chukar partridge in the freezer, bagged during a trip to the Turk Station Lodge in the rolling hills around Coalinga, CA. A recent trip to the Consumnes River Ranch near Sacramento had resulted in a fine wild turkey, and I added that to the test-game pile along with some wild geese and ducks left over from last fall. Friends chipped in some venison and antelope steaks, and we had most of the bases covered. I got out the cookbook, and we assembled for a beast feast. From the start, we had some tough decisions. If you're a meat-eater, you would too, having to choose from Jamaican Jerk Venison, Stuffed and Rolled Venison Log, Italian Venison Casserole, Wild Boar Chops, Sweet and Sour Antelope, Goosebreast Rendezvous, Squirrel Casserole, Pheasant Chow Mein, Rabbit Belle Chasse, Wild Turkey with Morel Sauce, and on and on. But we narrowed it down, and went at it.
As an appetizer, we brewed up some Canada goose Biltong jerky. It is not always easy to render wild geese palatable, but this recipe produced dark, leathery, flavorful strips that were a quick favorite. Slow-roasting the antelope on the grill — the method the Nugents suggest for this type of game — made for a flavorable and tender Bar-B-Que Antelope Backstrap. Shemane's recipe for Coca-Cola Venison Stew was shocking on paper but it produced a delightful surprise — the beverage tenderizes and sweetens even the toughest old wild stag. And Ted's recipe for Quail Roast was not only tasty, but also addressed the toughness problem inherent in this bird.
As for the pièce de résistance, we used the Boar Roast recipe. It calls for about four pounds of wild boar, which is seasoned with basil, pepper, thyme, three cloves of garlic (Ted loves garlic), and paprika. The roast is then wrapped with four strips of bacon and put in a 350-degree oven with a meat thermometer. Cooking time is three to four hours, for as Ted points out, pork needs to be cooked to at least 160 degrees internally (170 for well done) to kill trichinosis.
"We don't just cook, we dance naked at the primordial campfire of life," the Nugents proclaim. I don't have a bearskin rug on my floor. I have a woodstove, not a fireplace. So, once our feast was over, we had to depart a bit from the complete Nugent game-eating experience. However, after savoring as many of the Nugent-family recipes as possible, that Marin County hot tub sure did feel good. And the coyotes and owls in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area did seem to sing an especially good concert for us that night under the spotlight of the full moon.
Kill It & Grill It is more than just a good cookbook, it's nourishment for the soul and inspiration for the heart.
Mr. Swan, "Media Watch" columnist, North American Hunter magazine