Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Wild Abundance' Cookbook Pairs Chefs and Duck Hunters

Posted By on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM

wildabundance-jacket_front2.jpg
Nashville food lover and philanthropist Thomas Williams tipped me off to a fascinating cookbook project that has made its way from Memphis to Nashville and is now stocked in some rather nontraditional outlets in town. Wild Abundance, subtitled Ritual, Revelry & Recipes of the South's Finest Hunting Clubs, is the brainchild of editor Susan Schadt, the president and CEO of ArtsMemphis, and is a benefit for that organization.

The idea behind the book is to showcase some of the interesting duck hunting clubs along the Mississippi Flyway and to take some of the South's greatest chefs to meet and work with the cooks who practice their craft in the hunting camps and lodges.

Among the featured visiting chefs are several James Beard award winners and up-and-comers, including John Besh, Karen Carrier, John Currence, Derek Emerson, Kelly English, Martha Foose, Alex Grisanti, Donald Link and Lee Richardson. You might recognize that three of the chefs (Richardson from Little Rock's Capital Hotel, English of Memphis' Restaurant Iris and Currence from the City Grocery Restaurant in Oxford, Miss.) cooked at the "Taking Nashville to Higher Ground" flood benefit dinner that Thomas Williams put together in July. He also tipped me off that he's planning another big event in 2011 to showcase more great Southern chefs and benefit Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

The book is full of fascinating photos of these hunting clubs and the scions of the South who gather to shoot ducks and the breeze together. Having visited some less opulent hunting lodges myself, I was surprised that a female author and photographer would be welcomed so graciously into the traditional men's club environment. Not only does Schadt tell the stories well, but she actually discovered a women-only club called The Swamp Witches of Ward Lake.

The interaction between the camp cooks and the chefs du cuisine leads to some great stories, including when John Besh burns the sauce. Twice. The included recipes concentrate on wild game cooking and high-end versions of traditional hearty side dishes. I am personally now trying to hunt some ducks (in the supermarket) to try out Chef Donald Link's duck confit recipe.

There are even pictures of Ole Miss and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who happened to be a guest at the Fighting Bayou Hunt Club when Schadt made her visit with Chef Derek Emerson. Apparently, all the members of the Manning family are frequent visitors to the Fighting Bayou — during the years they don't make the playoffs.

The book has been written up in Garden & Gun magazine and was the recent subject of a piece at The Huffington Post. You can buy it for the recipes or a personal glimpse at master chefs thrust into a casual environment or to see behind the curtain at the ultimate good ol' boys club. For whatever reason you choose, it's an entertaining read that would make a great present for any sportsman on your gift list.

Wild Abundance is available locally at The Oxford Shop, Harpeth Gallery, Bradford's Furniture, Olivia Olive Oil in Cool Springs and online at wildabundancecookbook.com.

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