Monday, September 30, 2013

Stop Sucking

Holding expertise does not always result in good teaching.  We've all had the express displeasure of being taught by less than stellar educators.  Not just in the classroom, but also in life, and for the purposes of this blog, in the field.

I've been told many times that I should've been or still should be a teacher.  The numbers are probably skewed simply because I know a lot of teachers and everything looks like a nail to a hammer, but it happens fairly often that somebody says, only half mockingly, "Dude, you shoulda been a teacher."  I disagree.

Even in the few areas in which I hold a modicum of expertise, my teaching style often leaves quite a bit to be desired.  Holding the knowledge is not the same as being able to express it in an articulate and useful manner.  I can easily recall more than one instance in which a session showing somebody how to tie a fly or make a roll cast devolved into near-silent charades, ever increasing in intensity until both of us were frustrated almost beyond caring.  Monkey see, monkey don't.  When I get flustered in a demo situation, my usually acceptable command of the language largely sublimates into the wind, and I'm reduced to mumbling idiocy.

Stop sucking, just do the shit like this! may have actually passed from internal mantra to verbal exhortation on occasion, though only with the buddies I know can take it while happily pointing out everything I stumble over.

Pro Tip: if you ever get the urge to teach your significant other to fly cast, just slam your head in the truck door a few times, and get it over with before you start.  The only time I've bickered more intensely was the time we tried to put plastic film up on the windows together in an old apartment.  That stuff that probably saves three nickles on the gas bill, but takes a year off your life due to the stress of putting it up together -- divorce lawyers should sell that stuff in bulk.

Zeke gives spinning a shot on my vice by lantern light
I will say that when it goes well, introducing somebody to a new skill can be very gratifying.  A while back I was in New York for a fishing vacation with some friends from an internet forum.  My buddy Zeke and I sat down at the vice for a lesson in spinning and stacking deer hair on the hook.  I managed to remain coherent and somewhat informative, he didn't get frustrated, and all went swimmingly.  As it ended up, a line of people formed at the table to take their turns at spinning hair, and I had to rush at the end to catch the evening bite out on the lake, grateful and humbled to have been looked to for a bit of instruction in something I am fairly practiced at.

It doesn't always go so smoothly.  I once found myself watching late night baseball with an inebriated Argentinian college student in a dorm room in Portland, Oregon.  You heard me.  We'd returned from a long night on the town with a group of students, and I was none too sober myself.  I don't recall now what happened to the rest of the group, but there we were, suddenly alone with the Mariners on the tube.  Saturday night rock stars.

While I'm no baseball expert, I am a patriot and fan with a comprehensive understanding of the rules.  Twenty-some years of fandom, however, did little in preparation to explain the simplest of baseball regulations to a wobbly South American struggling mightily to understand the game and remain upright on a bean bag chair.  Our little vignette here opens with a foul ball down the third base line.

"So, nothing happens if the man hits the ball outside those white lines?" slurred our foreign friend.

"Not exactly. It counts as a strike unless he already has two strikes.  If he has two strikes, then nothing happens.  Then it's basically out of bounds and a do-over."

The catcher then immediately fielded a foul pop to end the inning.  Slowly assuming the form and posture of a garden slug in the bean bag, "I thought you said nothing would happen?"

"Yeah... unless the defensive player catches it on the fly.  Then it's an out."

"What's 'on the fly'?"

"... so... you play soccer?"

Which goes to show there comes a point in our understanding of any subject or activity wherein we are able to pass over the details to take in the entire picture.  The little stuff becomes given that the big picture may play out.

Experts hold "conditionalized knowledge," meaning the knowledge they hold reflects context and situation, and they can retrieve it quickly without much additional effort in the corresponding instances.  Novices, by definition, cannot be so lucky.  They have to slog their way through seemingly important patterns and facets that may mean nothing in the big picture, but appear to hold the key to cracking the code at any moment.

We woodsmen look at the woods and see individual species.  How they might be useful to us or relate to the species we're chasing, be they feather, fur, or fungus.  We see systems and interconnectedness and where we'd build the lean-to if we had to spend an unplanned night.  The novice can't see that.

On the other hand, if I look at a spreadsheet full of numbers or a malfunctioning carburetor, my brains starts to go all soft and tallowy.  I hear the Benny Hill theme, and feel the need to go fishing.

No matter our level of teaching proficiency, it is our duty as outdoorsy folks of all stripes -- fishers and hunters, foragers and wanderers alike -- to teach.  To get outsiders involved in our favorite activities.  Not only to bring to them the same joy we feel out there, but to preserve our outdoor way of life.

I used to bristle at that thought.  My personal manner of getting outside involves a lot of getting away from, well... everybody.  That's not the right way or the wrong way, but often when I head out there, I'm hoping to pass my time without seeing another soul.

The thought of bringing others into it only to clutter up the joint once seemed so counter intuitive.  Why would anyone ever want to see more chuckleheads clogging up the trout stream?

The answer has become obvious with age and accumulated knowledge.  If we don't encourage others to partake, vast libraries of personal knowledge and experience will be lost forever.  Not only that, but when there's nobody left to practice our lifestyle it will be deemed outdated and inconsequential, ancillary at best.  It will wither on the vine.

The proliferation of technology as it pertains to our outdoor pursuits is a massive subject due an entire blog entry of its own here (and much more), but I will say that there are many examples of how it can be used for teaching and learning in the arena.  For me, YouTube plays a very large role.

I watch a lot of fly tying demos.  I have shelves full of fly tying books, and while they remain both useful and sometimes beautiful in their compositions, nothing beats seeing it happen right in front of your eyes, sometimes in high definition, with the ability to pause and rewind at will.

There are all sorts of fly tying teachers floating around out there in the YouTube ether.  They range in style, quality, and teaching ability across a wide spectrum -- from Brian Wise, whose videos of chunkalicious streamers are played back on fast forward to thumping music for those of us who have existing knowledge of the materials and techniques used, to Davie McPhail.  His very comfortable pace and euphonious brogue lend themselves to in-depth and relaxed, comprehensive instruction.  If you ever zoned out to Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting on PBS back in the day, that's the neighborhood Mr. McPhail inhabits to me in the fly tying world, and his videos are as mesmerizing as they are instructive.  A happy little pine tree lives right here...

This post is sort maundering out of control at this point, but I think what we're driving at here is that if you know how to do something, especially something outdoorsy where this blog lives, I think you should teach others how to do it.  Don't mind the fumblings and stumblings if your teaching style is as abrupt and stilted as mine sometimes is.  They'll be happy for the instruction.

Brian has been shooting woodcock since before I could dress myself.  When I think of proficiency in an outdoor activity, I often think of him.  The way he powders a bird, then thumbs another shell into that ultralight pump gun as an afterthought.  I'm grateful for his years of instruction, and happy to report that the young buck here can now often hit the bird before he does when we swing on the same one.  Sucks getting old, I'm told.

Of course, all the experience in the world, mountains of teaching and learning, can do little when the birds simply aren't there.  Sometimes you just have to follow the old guy's lead when he says...

... Piss on it, dude.  Let's go get a burger.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

This is Nuts!

I dumped out my morning haul of hickory nuts today, and they just landed like that.  I swear!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Zoning Out

I played golf once in college, and that was about the third time I'd ever been on a course other than to float tiny "boats" down streams and generally stomp around in winter.  I don't remember the circumstances that lead to me suddenly finding myself, squinting slightly dazed and out of place, on a driving range with my buddies Ace and Dean, but there I was giving it a shot.

I had an excellent teacher in the Aceman.  He was a single-digit handicapper at the time with the long, flowing swing employed successfully only by those of athletic grace unknown to most of us.  (An athletic prowess, by the way, that also allowed him to almost casually throw at extremely snappy velocities.  I can easily recall that distinctive rocketing hssssss of an Ace-thrown baseball -- the hiss you only hear when a ball has been fired from a serious arm cannon.  And the startling mitt POP! that would make people stop and look while we threw the ball around in the green space now occupied by the Kohl Center.)

There we stood on the recently rain-soaked range with a bucket of balls and a teacher whose very moniker had been earned through achieving a hole in one not once, but twice.  Ace is a good friend, so with undying patience he instructed me from the ground up.  Tips and pointers I don't remember about hips and elbows.  How this should feel and that should look.  Keep my hands here, pause there, and remember to breath.

I was headed for the PGA, and I hadn't even hit a ball yet.  After absorbing all the instruction I could hold, I stepped up to the tee for my first colossal hack, and unceremoniously buried the face of the club deep in the mud about a foot behind the ball.  A ball that remained frustratingly inert on the tee, completely unmoved by my ungainly thrashing.  It was then that I further considered dedicating my free time to becoming a mediocre fly fisherman rather than an awful golfer.

Somewhere in the midst of our later 9-hole round a wholly unexpected thing happened.  I'd hit a decent drive (one that didn't fly off on some oblique trajectory, actually landed in the fairway to the amazement of all),  and under Ace's instruction, I lined up my iron shot.  In that mystifying and elusive moment that happens only so rarely, I swung easily and made a fine shot.  More importantly here, I felt it almost immediately on the strike.

It landed pin high, on the left edge where he had told me to aim, and followed the natural slope of the green down so near the cup even I could make the putt.  I walked up, read the break correctly, and put it in the hole.  The remainder of my round was an ongoing and unmitigated catastrophe the likes of which they should've written brooding Norse sagas about, but for the briefest of instances, I'd known what it felt like to be "in the zone" on a golf course.

I don't think we really know what "the zone" is.  The fact that it may be different for everyone or may come in varying degrees of intensity for the same person make defining it even more difficult.  For me it involves a full immersion in the activity at hand.  Complete focus and control in that time span also play roles.  And the infamous time distortion people mention.  It felt like everything was happening in slow motion -- we hear and say that a lot when we talk about the zone.

It's a rare and beautiful thing to find oneself in the zone.  Even rarer to suddenly blip into existence there right out of the gate.

I took a walk in the woods behind the house this past weekend, armed with my much-loved bolt action .22 and thoughts of fried squirrel.  Hunting seasons had just opened that morning in Wisconsin, and I was primed and pumped to gather some protein.  A shotgun is often a more logical choice for early season squirrels, often obscured from the shooter with all the green still up, but my first tree rat hunt of the year will be with that nimble little Savage rimfire until one of us is in the ground.

I grew up shooting that peep sight, and had a bit of a tough time adjusting to scoped rifles when it became clear I was going to get more shooting opportunities using them in the low light conditions when bucks often appear.  I got comfortable enough eventually, but there still exists a smidge of hesitation and adjustment when I put my eye behind a scope that isn't there behind the Lyman.

It's to the point now, using that .22 with the peep on shots that test the limits of both gun and marksman, that it becomes nothing more than a matter of feel.  Meat conserving head shots are paramount to me on small game such as squirrels.  When Mr. Fluffy Tail appears before me at such a trying range that he is almost completely obscured by the front sight post and I lean the barrel against a tree for support, I hold on the center of his body, and give the slightest nudge with my cheek or left thumb as I take out the last bit of trigger creep. (I actually clench my teeth when I need to push left, making that little knot pop out on the corner of my jaw, and that does the trick).  I settle there, and with the lightest, almost inadvertent addition of pressure to the trigger, when I'm in the zone, the lead is well on past my dinner's far ear before he even begins his tumble to the forest floor.

I gave up, and contented myself with stealing his dinner.
It doesn't always happen that way, but it did twice on Saturday morning.  A welcome and surprisingly abrupt return to the sweet spot in a breeze barely hinting at the cold to come.  Monday morning I missed a much closer squirrel twice with a scatter gun.  Though, as if to present a convenient excuse for me which I'll gladly employ here, he was bounding along up in the thick green tops.

Comfort, and even a little time in the zone, did eventually come with the scoped rifles.  I remember the first buck I shot when I used to hunt over by the rifle range years ago.

I had a tree stand parked on a thickly poppled knob overlooking a beaver pond and the game trail that encircled its perimeter, supported by an aspen roughly the diameter and tensile strength of overcooked rigatoni.  It was a nice spot, but there was plenty of pucker factor in that little tree on windy days.

I'd grown comfortable enough with the scope by that point, but by some happenstance unknown to me, I found myself running through the process of the shot in my mind all through the season that year.  Even on the drive up, I concentrated obsessively on sight picture, trigger pull, and follow through.  While hunting, I ran the imagery through my mind on a near-constant loop like an athlete would do before a contest, as a way to remain alert on the stand.

Quit making me laugh, ya bastards. This is serious.
When that massive northwoods buck (OK, it was just a little forky) stepped into view, I was prepared.  For the first time in my brief career as wielder of a scoped centerfire, there was no need for pause or adjustment.  It was about the only time I've ever set the crosshairs immediately and precisely where I wanted them on an animal.  One of the very few times I pulled smoothly and saw the impact happen through the scope, saw the insides explosively become the outsides on the other side of his rib cage as clearly as if it had happened five feet away.  I guess sometimes you can pick the locks, and force your way into the zone.  I don't know why I don't more often.  I miss often enough that I certainly should.

That sweet spot of perfect execution is not limited to shooting, of course.  I most often encounter it at the fly vice and sometimes in the kitchen or sitting here spewing forth these tales of outdoor triumph and failure.

The doing of repetitious small tasks often leads me there.  Anything from spinning repeated gobs of deer hair on a hook to peeling a pile of spuds, the activity in question doesn't matter.  If I'm in the right mindset I'll make it a game, imagining myself in a contest to become the fastest and cleanest tater peeler this side of the ol' Mississip.  Soon I'm on autopilot, hands functioning with almost no thought given to their actions.

We used to talk quite a bit about that state of "rigorous autopilot" in drum & bugle corps (insert collective moan from the DSO fellas, I know.  Bear with me, gentlemen).  At that activity's highest levels, the search for perfection leads up a path that eventually comes to extremely small degrees of differentiation at the apex of a huge scale.  Minutiae and exacting detail rule your every performing thought at those tiny spans of separation.  Fractions of pitches and inches and seconds.   After hundreds of hours of rehearsal on a single piece of music and movement, so much information concerning technique and execution has been wedged into the soul of the player that he or she cannnot hope to perform at an acceptable level outside that near-mystical level of precision autopilot.  You just line up and twelve minutes later, panting hard and dripping sweat, they're screaming in the stands.  Deep in the zone.

The place I often find the autopilot zone most fleeting and frustratingly elusory also happens to be one of my favorite pastimes -- fly fishing.  More specifically, the glorious and terrible art of casting.  Much like the golf swing, fly casting is all about rhythm, timing, and feel.  And much like the golf swing, you can learn the basics in a short time, then spend decades working out the kinks to perfect it.  It's all long flowing loops and the poetry of physics in motion until it isn't.  Then it's tripping on line, strained epithets, and ugly coiled heaps on the water.

I have dipped a toe in the cryptic pool of flycasting zone on occasion, and a particular cast and fish stands out in the recalling of rare moments basking in that gentle glow.

A couple years ago I was invited to take part in a shakedown smallmouth trip on a Michigan river with my buddy Flockshot and his guide friend Aaron.  Even though we caught fish numbering somewhere on the north side of sixty that day, Flock may remember this particular fish when he reads this.  I'm not a whooping and hollering Fish On! type when I latch in to a big one.  Instead I usually go silent in concentration, but at the moment of this particular bite in the zone, I startled myself and everyone else by sharply bellowing, "Holy shit!" loud enough to shatter the gentle sussurations of a pleasant trip down the river.

My float had begun spectacularly far outside the zone.  Casting with a guide rod, on an unfamiliar river, standing at the bow of a raft I'd never been in, I was a towering beacon of suck.  Flailing like a crack monkey.  I couldn't see the solar system containing the zone with the Hubble Space Telescope.  With time and a couple smallish fish, I slowly improved.  Eventually, I got my wits about me and my act together, and began to fish like a moderately competent human being.

It was an odd day on the river, for me at least, in that we started with dink smallies, and the fish got progressively larger as we neared the end.  Maybe Aaron used his double secret guide mojo or the power of the beard to home in on the proper fly selection and boat positioning as the day played out.  Or maybe the fatties were too lazy to swim upstream to our launch.  I'm not sure.

Somewhere around the midpoint of the float, I found myself approaching an event horizon of imminent zonage.  Still in the bow as a guest, my cast had un-bungled itself into something resembling an effective fly presenting tool.  I spied a perfect lie -- an underwater log, barely visible from behind polarized amber shades, jutting into the current with that slick of pillow water behind it that denotes a washed out hole.  Overhanging brush provided both shade and cover for the hole, and a formidable defense against probing flies.

You forget to grin like an idiot when stumbling down out of the zone. 
Everything slowed.  I took a breath, a double-haul false cast, and laid a long, low cast perfectly just upstream of the log.  A quick mend gave the streamer a moment's pause, and it disappeared into the deep.  The instant my offering vanished from clear view I witnessed that slightly eerie signature apparition, that thing we're all chasing out there waving sticks around -- the torpedo flash and shadow of Darwin's own predator crushing the life out of a fly.

It was a great fish, though not my biggest of the day.  Probably not even the biggest that hour.  But it remains clear to mind (and heart) among countless other catches before and since because it happened when all things came together, when focus and motivation collided with loss of self consciousness at the zenith of control.

It happened in the zone.    

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Tenderloin, Found

I've written here before, a couple times I think, concerning how I often view the calendar year in terms of outdoor milestones.  That first time the chill catches your breath one fall morning when you step out the door, the arrival of morels and ramps from some mystical land where they overwinter, the many openings days of fishing and hunting seasons -- they all hold special places as they roll by.

As I perused the freezer recently, seeking sustenance and taking stock of the available space I'm going to need come meat gathering time, I was confronted with yet another of those yearly moments in the life of an outdoorsman.  And not one I enjoy -- the final pack of venison.

I don't watch a lot of hunting or fishing on TV, mostly because there are very few shows that depict the sorts of hunting and fishing I like to do, and certainly not on a level based in reality.  But this time of year, I do find myself parked in front of the tube at the end of the day, watching some dude pass on bigger deer than I will ever see because they aren't up to his inflated television host standards.

It's a fine diversion, definitely gets the blood flowing for hunting, but it doesn't relate to my personal proclivities very well.  I don't hunt over farm fields because there are none where we hunt, I can't score deer on the hoof mostly because I've never seen anything bigger than a rack the TV hosts would scoff at in the woods, and most of all, because the great majority of the time, I'd rather be following a dog with shotgun in hand.

And while we're at it, a slightly grumpy aside: Would a well shot and produced upland hunting show be too much to ask among the tsunami of Bubba and His Tree Stand deer hunting shows currently flooding the market?  I realize birds like grouse and woodcock would be extremely difficult to shoot with cameras (try it with a 20 gauge), but other than that pesky detail you've got all the makings of great TV there.  The guns and gear, the dogs, the fall woods -- throw some thoughtful Flip Pallot-esque narration over the top, get a slow pull on the campfire or a macro shot of some dew in the grass... boom.  That show is never coming off my DVR.  At the very least, we should give some serious consideration to banning all hunting hosts from recording their own theme song on an ill-tuned guitar in their basement.  Think about it.


If it weren't for the deer camp life, that awesome crew of guys, and the treasured delicious meat, deer hunting would be somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as things I want to spend time in the woods doing.  As it stands now, it remains at the pinnacle of my outdoor year because of those two factors -- the men I love to spend time with next to the glowing fire and the venison.

So, I can say without much of a wry grin that finding the last pack of venison in the freezer is an important moment in my year.  It means that venison will not again grace my table until I spend time in a blind or stand.  Until I wait patiently, shoot true, and spill some blood.  Kinda.

I'm lucky enough to hunt with a group of men who have agreed by long tradition to split all the venison we gather evenly between us.  As it happens, I finished last year's deer hunting endeavors, both during the normal gun season and using crop damage permits on a farm, without ever having fired a rifle shot.  I had a deer in the scope once during gun season, but it was bald and I was without a doe permit.  That was it.  I sat and pondered, I shivered, I got up in the dark and shuffled around with sleep in my eyes, I listened and hoped on the stand; but I was never granted the opportunity.  I believe most of us hunters would grudgingly agree that it should be that way sometimes.

Thankfully, my generous hunting partners had more luck, and I found my freezer full at the end of November.

None of that makes the final chunk of venison loin, wrapped in white butcher paper with a tiny rivulet of blood-gone-brown frozen on one end, any less special to me.  If anything, it makes me thankful for the company I keep in deer camp.  If it weren't for them, this would've been a winter conspicuously void of venison, a privation I do not wish to endure.

I try to have all the unprepared venison (that not made into breakfast sausage, bratwurst, etc.) out of the freezer and into my belly by early spring.  It tastes better that way, and has been a habit for so long that it just seems "right" somehow now.  The brats do taste better on the grill during summer though.

Finding a hidden venison tenderloin, the very namesake of this blog and its profile picture on Facebook, in the depths of the freezer near the end of August is a bit of a blessing in disguise.  Even well cared for, properly cleaned and wrapped,  it will not taste so outstanding as fresh venison.  Nor will it even taste as good as it would've 6 months ago, whether that be a function of time in the freezer or my mindset that I should've eaten it in March.  Probably a bit of both going on there, though it was certainly no longer in absolute pristine condition in this case.

Now, here's the part where the cook in me went just a bit off the rails, I think.  Not that the results weren't completely delicious and satisfying, it's just that I could have chosen a better time and place (and a fresher hunk of Bambi)  for the dish I decided to prepare.

One of the problems with having unlimited access to information at the tips of one's fingers throughout the year is that it can sometimes leave the more adventuresome cooks among us flailing about with grandiose plans of suspect origin.

I'd seen a picture of venison carpaccio somewhere in the vast cosmos of the internet back in early winter, and thought to myself... Oooo... I need that in my face, pronto.  Then it was August and, never having put together the carpaccio, I spied a clump of edible yellow wood sorrel and the thought of it popped back to the fore of that enthusiastic, if slightly capricious, cooking corner of my brain.

Some confuse wood sorrel with clover thanks to those tri-lobal leaves
Which is sort of surprising because wood sorrel, with it's delightfully zingy sweet & sourness, is what most would consider a weed around here.  It grows in the cracks of sidewalks and just about everywhere else.  If you live anywhere around the same latitude I do and can see your yard from where you're reading this, and you aren't maniacal with the application of Weed-n-Feed, I will freely bet there's a bunch of wood sorrel in your field of vision.  Why noticing it for the ten thousandth time suddenly led to a connection with a picture I'd seen more than half a year ago will have to remain a mystery, but there it is.  I set about preparing a raw meat dish with venison frozen for 10 months.  Great plan.

I gathered up some wood sorrel from the edges of the woods, paying particular attention to find some of the minuscule yellow flowers because I wanted them on the plate.  Horseradish seemed like a good idea so I dug up a gob from the corner of the garden where they are currently staging for a world takeover.  Last to join the party was a leftover beet from the garden I'd thrown in the smoker on a whim earlier in the week with some pork.  That seemed like a good idea too, next to the chopped sage and rosemary I planned to roll my tenderloin in.

There's no real story in the cooking of the carpaccio... because there's almost no cooking carpaccio.  I seared it very quickly in a hot cast iron pan, rolled it in the chopped herbs from pots on the deck, and wrapped it in plastic wrap to chill out in the freezer for a couple hours.  Once thoroughly chilled it was ready to be sliced thinly and laid on the plate with the rest of the players.  If you count grating the horseradish and mixing it up with some Greek yogurt as "cooking," I did that too.

Thumbprint, 2 o'clock. Keep yer meat hooks off the plate, numbskull.
Happily, for one of the very few times in my life, I managed to mostly avoid my standard, ham-fisted, subtle-as-a-jackhammer plating style.  It only took a couple decades to learn that if I put about half as much on the plate as I think I need to, it ends up looking a lot less like Jackson Pollock did it while being assaulted by a gorilla.  I even did the spoon drag thing with the horsey sauce because it felt right to be a little fancy pants here.  A little technical knife work on the beet too, simply because that always makes me happy.

The verdict: The horseradish sauce was really quite good, and the smoked beet -- something I'd never even considered until I was walking by the running smoker with a fortuitous armful of beets from the garden -- may have been my favorite part.  Although I will admit that the fun (if a little pretentious) knife work did mitigate some of that smoke flavor.  Most of it was obviously on the outer reaches of the beet, where it was conveniently enjoyed by the chopper guy before the uniform little cubes from the center of the sphere ever made it to the plate.

The venison itself tasted like, well... it tasted like it'd been in a freezer for the better part of a year; sage, rosemary, and sear notwithstanding.  It was still delicious, and every bit was gobbled up with alacrity and horseradish sauce, but my brain and mouth both knew full well that it will be so much more robust and alive come November when it will be that much fresher... more fresh... whatever.  The capers and sorrel added what I thought was just about the perfect amount of zing and salt to the entire gathering.

Bringing us to the point and lesson that every cook worth his favorite knife learns well early on -- cook with the season and your food will be that much better, artfully plated or not.  It remains only to wait for deer shooting season, and to smoke some more beets.  Those things were amazing.

Gratuitous Food Porn
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