Note 1, for October 1, 2021: Terminate an elk.
Note 2, for October 1, 2021: Contact son in-law Jon, and ask him to terminate an elk. Offer to contribute $10 to help pay for a cow tag. Even though she might be a mom, and her death deprives an elklet or two of a proper upbringing, a cow elk provides better quality meat. It’s cruel, but that’s Nature for you, fang and claw, survival of the fittest, etc.
It’s not that I couldn’t dispatch a female forest-dwelling ungulate should a crisis require it, but I’m uncomfortable whenever I leave the house and the basement. Plus, I don’t own the appropriate footwear, and I dislike loud noises. If there’s no crisis, and I have an option, I exercise it. That’s Jon.
Reinforce the request by highlighting the fact that Jon’s family will consume nearly all of the meat during the following winter, avoiding significant expenditures for flesh at the market. He has a wife and two sons; protein and budget control are important.
Remind Jon that elk meat is lean and clean, no hormones and antibiotics. Run the bulk of the beast through an industrial-grade grinder, freeze the results in two-pound lots, and there’s elk chile and elk burgers up the wazoo from October through April. Perfect for growing boys, and parents.
Note 3, for October 2021: when the deed is done, tell Jon how much I admire his skill as a hunter and that I respect his generous nature. Then let him know what a wonderful thing it will be when he gives his father in-law the animal’s backstrap. The whole damned thing.
Indicate, subtly, that this might be his last opportunity to endear himself to an elderly relative.
Note 4, a scheme for October 2021: Receive backstrap and, in a gesture signaling deep gratitude, provide gifts in return: a sampler of high-grade bud from nephew Carter’s dispensary (only if Carter is up for making a donation), a six-pack of the craft beer of Jon’s choice, a sealed-in-plastic sleeve, pristine copy of the 1972 Academy Press publication, Surfer Girl Lesbians, Vol. 7, “Malibu Muff Divers Ride the Curl.”
Invite Jon, Ivy, Ryder Banzai, and Bodhi Valhalla to dinner, where they’ll enjoy rare elk tenderloin medallions with a choice of three sauces (cabernet reduction, bearnaise, and chimichurri) and a supporting cast of delicious sides. Mention that Jon’s elderly father in-law will produce a mess of dauphinoise — one large pan’s worth, perhaps two. Jon loves dauphinoise.
Oh, and provide vodka tonics (sparkling fruit drinks for the boys).
Also, uncork plenty of wine. Given the abundant, rare elk flesh, a couple bottles of Sang des Cailloux should do the trick.
Perhaps a bit of dessert, should anyone remain conscious.
Jon and clan will tote the remaining dauphinoise home. Jon can warm a slab in a microwave and eat it while perusing Surfer Girl Lesbians during his lunch break in his office at the ski area. Nothing tops the combo of incredibly rich tubers and a Golden Age of Porn classic, enjoyed at high altitude.
There will be plenty of the tenderloin left over, since the primal is substantial. The meat will remain in Jon’s father in-law’s custody, perfect for elk hash at breakfast, with over-easy eggs and thick-sliced, heavily buttered sourdough toast. Perhaps a bit of wine. There is no rule that says I can’t enjoy a glass or two of excellent red with the first meal of the day. I’m told it’s a tradition in Beaumes-de-Venise, one that goes back to the founding of the commune. If it suits the good folks of Beaumes-de-Venise, count me in.
I tell Kathy about my elk plan.
It doesn’t go well.
HER: There’s absolutely nothing you can say to convince me that killing an innocent and beautiful elk is an acceptable thing to do. Wanting to kill a mom doubles the offense.
ME: Excuse me, but we outdoorsmen don’t say “kill,” we say “harvest.” A hunter harvests wildlife, just as a farmer harvests winter wheat. I don’t hear you expressing sympathy for the death of a non-GMO grain, now do I? Everything you eat was once alive, so where’s your concern when it comes to dispatching quinoa? Seems a bit hypocritical to me.
HER: You are a total moron. Fuck off.
ME: Plus, the death is not in vain; little of the animal is wasted following the harvest. Nearly everything edible is consumed and enjoyed, and the scraps are given to the dogs. The circle of life, and whatnot. Everyone benefits.
HER: Everyone but the mom elk, and the precious babies she leaves behind.
ME: There’s also a vigorous trade in hides and antlers, so not only is the animal’s flesh eaten and enjoyed, but hide and antlers hit the market and provide product for crafty entrepreneurs. That’s the American way: Use it all, gorge and gain muscle mass, manipulate what remains, make money, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
HER: You’re a moron. Fuck off.
ME: With the snow starting to melt in the valleys, Armando Sanchez will show up soon. He’ll drive here from Tierra Amarilla, park his extra-long horse trailer on the empty lot across the highway from the library, and set up shop. Surely you’ve seen Armando’s trailer, with the large hand-painted signs on its sides that identify Armando as “The Antler Buyer.” His cousin Theresa painted a crude, but delightful alpine scene behind the lettering, on both sides of the trailer! A folk art extravaganza, regardless of the side of the road you’re on when he rattles past.
HER: The antlers? What for? A trophy to hang on some cretin’s wall? Only a brain-dead dipshit hangs animal heads and body parts on a wall.
ME: I adore you, but you are sadly unsophisticated and woefully uninformed. Armando takes the antlers found and gathered as the snow melts or, if it’s autumn, hacked off the freshly dead animal’s skull, and he fashions them into beautiful and durable creations.
HER: Oh yeah? Like what?
ME: Like handles for knives that guys use for a variety of purposes when they go out to hunt deer and elk: everything from gutting and skinning the kill —excuse me, the harvest — to doin’ a bit a’whittlin’ next to the campfire while a clutch of carnivorous compadres bellow, guzzle Crown Royal, and barf in the underbrush. And, more impressive, Armando creates those antler chandeliers that immigrant flatlanders purchase in order to impress other flatlanders with their solid sense of place. They usually hang the fixtures over clumsily-fashioned log dining tables, close to second-rate paintings of elk, deer, bear, Native Americans, mountain men, or cowboys. It serves as proof the immigrant flatlander belongs here, contrary to what people who really belong here might claim.
HER: You are totally full of shit. Those chandeliers are gruesome. I suppose if antlers are shed naturally and discovered in the woods, they can be used in an ethical manner. But, killing the noble beast…
HER: But murdering the noble beast, and hacking off the antlers? No. And, if you ever bring one of those antler light fixtures or a set of antler towel hooks into this house, it’s divorce time, buddy. I repeat: the elk shouldn’t meet an unnatural, violent end.
ME: Oh yeah? Well, Miss Smartpants, you’ll be singing a different tune about the harvest when the rare tenderloin hits the plate and the sauces flow.
HER: I won’t be singing anything, pinhead. I’m not eating red meat, especially elk. I’ll be otherwise occupied. I’ll probably have to go to a book club meeting, or maybe I’ll undergo a recreational appendectomy. That would be far better than eating the meat. Don’t bother visiting me in the recovery room with elk on your breath.
ME: Well, considering your sour attitude, I’m adjourning to the basement now, to watch the second episode of a series investigating the Chinese trade in animal-product aphrodisiacs.
Believe it or not, it’s not just rhino horn that gives Chinese guys a hard-on. Ever hear of the miraculous qualities of narwhal tusk? Grizzly bear gallbladder? Surely there are organs in a mature elk that a middle-aged fellow in Chengdu can employ in his quest to achieve a full and lasting erection. The animal kingdom is chock full of surprises and offers the shrewd entrepreneur many paths to maximum profit.
HER: That reminds me: I’m reading an article in the AARP magazine about some of the amazing tasks animals are taught to perform, by people who value and nurture the animals. You know, people who don’t want to murder them.
ME: Amazing? So, what’s new? Helping blind folks cross streets, fetching dead birds, detecting drugs, attacking meth-addled criminals, accompanying psychological basket cases on airplane flights and trips to Wal Mart? Nothing new there.
Actually, I shouldn’t be flippant; the use of a comfort animal has some merit. I see a time coming when I’ll need a comfort animal to accompany me to the liquor store and market. I’m beginning to suffer crippling anxiety when I discover bins filled with unripe avocados, and the distress I experience when I have to select a brand of gin for purchase is devastating. Perhaps a llama will do the trick — a mature llama, with a bag strapped to its ass so we don’t create a wet cleanup disaster in Aisle 6. It’s amazing how much poop a llama deposits in a very short period of time, with little or no warning. Once the train leaves the station with these critters, there’s no stopping it.
HER: Did you know they’re training dogs to smell certain cancers? I read about a German shepherd named Bosco who can sniff out several kinds of cancer: uterine, lung, prostate, cervical, colon.
Bosco lives with a couple in Raleigh, North Carolina, when he’s not at work at the hospital. When the dog is at the hospital, even the most experienced specialists are amazed at what he discovers — disease their high-tech gadgets miss. Imagine having a pet like that. Isn’t that something?
ME: Well, if we had that kind of dog at our age, we could never throw a party, or have any friends over, that’s for sure. We couldn’t keep the dog off people if everyone in the crowd is sixty-plus.
Imagine enjoying a glass of excellent wine and nibbling savory canapes while you discuss the authenticity of Pre-Socratic Greek fragments with amiable guests, and a large dog comes up, shoves his nose in someone’s crotch and alerts on cancer. That’s the proverbial turd in the punch bowl, for sure. Party over.
“Hi, Dolores, thanks for coming. Here, have a cocktail and some elk tenderloin tartare. Yep, that’s our dog, Empedocles: part Azerbaijan Mastiff, part Great Pyrenees. He’s a beauty, ain’t he? Big, but beautiful, and one hell of a friendly guy.
“So, I’ve been wondering…what’s your take on Hibbard’s translation of the Heraclitean aphorisms? I think…uh…what? The dog?
“Under your skirt?
“For how long?
“Couldn’t keep him off?
“Did he make a high-pitched sound, slobber uncontrollably, frantically shake his muzzle?
“Oh, gee, no. Gee whiz. I …
“Really? You did? Wow, you don’t say: the first time in twenty years? Two of them? Really? Twenty years since you’ve…? Well, good for you. Consider it a bonus when all’s said and done, Dolores, it’ll help buffer the bad news.
“You need to hustle it up and finish your drink and tartare. Time’s a-wastin’, what with your condition. The quicker we get you to an oncologist, the better. I suggest you add a dab of that French mustard to the tartare — just a teensy bit goes great with raw elk, egg yolk, and capers. As soon as you’re finished, you need to tidy up, what with the dog rummaging around down there, then I’ll give you a lift to the hospital.
“Did I mention it’s great to see you?”
“Oh, yeah, the dog will be in the car.
“Can he ride in back, with you?
“Sure he can. It’ll be our little secret.”
I wake at 3 a.m. contemplating the prospect of elk tenderloin tartare.
To manage a portion, I need to slice off a hunk of the rarely used muscle when Jon delivers it, and set the hunk aside in the fridge, well protected from the disaster dehydration can provoke. The tartare can precede the tenderloin feast as an appetizer or, if that’s a bit too much elk at one sitting, it can be prepared and consumed the next day. Any longer of a wait and tartare is out of the question.
As I start to drift off I enter that magical, creative state one experiences just before sleep and immediately upon awakening. Thoughts tumble in a riot, exciting unexpected connections.
Thought, the first: tartare is not the answer.
Thought, the second: Carpaccio! That’s the ticket!
Thoughts the third, and more, re. the process:
• Do some prep.
Take a three-inch hunk of tenderloin from the fridge, wrap it in plastic and stick in the freezer an hour prior to liftoff.
Thinly slice a shallot and plop the slices in a bath of red wine vinegar, let sit at room temp.
• Ten minutes before liftoff:
Open a container of Ortiz anchovies, take out several fillets, rinse, and drain on paper towel.
Rinse and dry a bunch of capers.
Use a veg peeler to produce some big shavings of parm.
Take the meat from the freezer and slice quarter-inch-thick rounds. Put each round between pieces of plastic wrap and pound it out thin. Arrange the pieces of flesh, slightly overlapped, around the edge of a large plate.
Salt, pepper. A drizzle of top-drawer olive oil.
Drained shallots, capers, anchovies in the middle. If in a snooty mood, place these on a bed of arugula.
Scatter parm shavings over all. Perhaps a bit more oil.
Thought re. options when carpaccio is the goal, but there is no elk backstrap at hand.
- Best bet, a carpaccio of narwhal.
The tusk is removed and shipped off to the boner factory in Guangzhou where it is dried and reduced to a powder that is then sold in lovely, enameled snuff boxes to be kept on the bedroom side table next to a month’s supply of “who gives a shit about patents” ED tablets.
It’s rumored that more than 300 million of the boxes have been sold to date, with a backlog of another 200 million orders looming. Suffice it to say, there aren’t anywhere near the number of narwhals left in the wild to satisfy the demand. The labs in Wuhan will have to transition from the production of deadly viruses to developing imitation narwhal tusk. With the tight control of information by the central government, no one will be the wiser. And, anyway, when all’s said and done, it’s the boner that matters, isn’t it?
With the tusk gone, and the incredible amount of flab cut away from the carcass and sent off to back-alley cosmetics producers in Myanmar, there is plenty of narwhal flesh available to the carpaccio enthusiast. (Tip: no need for anchovies, since this stuff is plenty fishy, given the narwhal diet.)
Where to procure narwhal?
Move to Seattle and take the time necessary to build a close personal relationship with one of the goofs who toss salmon around at the Pike Place Fish Market. Once the link is established, get the new, best friend trashed on high-potency edibles and ply him for information. Pike Place fish tossers have connections in the narwhal black market extending all the way to the Inuits at the head of the supply chain. The beasts are pricy, but worth it. The Inuits will keep the skin, consuming it to obtain the enormous amount of Vitamin C it contains.
Depending on the season, shady operatives have a few of those Guangzhou powder boxes available for purchase as well. Acquire one or two; it never hurts to hedge your bet.
Delectable carpaccio and a three-hour hard-on? Does it get better than this?
Plan a narwhal carpaccio party with attention paid to creating a formidable guest list (there’s a lot of meat available), and concentrate on the timing, since once the marine mammal wonder is dispatched, the flesh must eaten within a day or so. M monoceras does not freeze well.
Sidebar thought: Research the cheapest flights to Seattle.
Next to final thought regarding the impending termination of an elk: The day following the backstrap extravaganza, I’ll prepare and enjoy elk carpaccio.
Final thought: Something for Kathy to eat, to keep her from undergoing a recreational appendectomy.
Carve a block of extra firm tofu into an uncannily accurate facsimile of an elk kidney, and serve it atop a slick of heavily salted, blood-like passata.
I fall to sleep, ready for October 2021.