The guns are blasting outside, so it must be hunting season in Umbria. Mushroom hunters battle for territory, clusters of men dressed in camouflage gather on the sides of the road clutching walkie talkies in one hand and the lead of a barking dog in the other. Cinghiale is hunted ‘in battuta’ meaning the hunters and their dogs bark and whoop and flush the prey into a tight spot and then they shoot it. I have mixed feelings about battuta style hunting as it doesn’t’ seem very sporting to have 10 men with advanced weaponry, dogs and a lot of communication devices chasing after one wild boar. On the other hand, the terrain around here is seriously challenging, one misstep and you disappear into the bowels of a bottomless ravine, so maybe it’s best for everyone if they hunt in a group. That is, everyone but the cinghiale.
Dana McCauley’s recent blog post “How Bloodthirsty are you?” is a lively piece where she grapples with her own issues about hunting.
I have to support responsible hunting because I love to cook and eat game, so I can’t be wishy-washy on the subject. But, could I pull the trigger? I just don’t know.
According to my dear friend Jay Cassell, a life long hunter and big muckedy-muck editor at Field & Stream, the number of hunters and women hunters has risen in the US to around 15 million, but as a percentage of the overall population, the hunting population is shrinking and women account for less than 10% of hunters. Jay thinks I should take up hunting, and maybe I’ll go out with him when we get back to NY, if only to symbolically honor the fallen deer (Because Jay, if I go out with you, I totally expect to come back with a nice buck, none of this, oh better luck next time nonsense like you pull with fly fishing!).
In Umbria, hunting is so woven into the fabric of life, you just accept that in the fall it sounds like you are living outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, it’s best to wear a red bicycle helmet and you always hope that sooner or later someone is going to hand you a choice piece of cinghiale. This weekend, we are serving cinghiale with black olives at the Taverna del Verziere during our Festa del Bosco and I promise to say a small prayer of thanks to the animal spirit. It’s the least I can do.
So, what about you? Do you eat game? Could you pull the trigger?