Across the Bridge - June/July 2018
- by Rheta Grimsley Johnson
Wild boars have always been good to me.
It was an Atlanta newspaper assignment to cover a wild boar hunt in Louisiana that led me to buy a houseboat on the Atchafalaya, which led me to spend 14 years of my life exploring the most exotic and regionally distinctive part of these United States, which led to my book Poor Man’s Provence, which, as Hank would say, has bought me a lot of bacon.
That original story – wild boar hunt as bachelor party – wasn’t much, but at least I got the idea of how flat-out ugly a 200-pound pig with tusks can be. Didn’t make my mouth water.
Now my prolific writer friend Anne Butler of Butler-Greenwood Plantation in St. Francisville, La., has her name on the cover of yet another book: Big Badass Boar Cookbook.
Across the Bridge
Recently her home was the setting for a Hallmark Channel movie, one of those romance stories that has scenery so beautiful you don’t mind the show is missing good acting and a plot.
This time out my author friend is wearing her good citizen hat, helping to tackle what’s become a real problem in the woods of Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana and, yes, her own lush but manicured backyard.
The Big Badass Boar Cookbook, co-authored by Amanda McKinney, reports that wild pigs are more destructive than nutria and may be “the most prolific large mammal on the face of the earth.” Feral hogs average six piglets per litter and can have several litters per year.
“When prepared properly so that high temperatures destroy any internal bacteria, they are safe, tasty and cheap.”
Being a responsible sort, Anne includes in her book a list of diseases that humans and hunting dogs can get while cleaning, butchering, handling or eating wild pigs. It sounds a little like the inevitable side effects list whispered quickly at the end of television ads for pharmaceuticals.
Swine brucellosis, leptospirosis, trichinosis, toxoplasmosis tularemia and swine influenza are reasons, for instance, that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries no longer provides any recipes for cooking your wild boar kill.
This cookbook, however, gets past the warnings about safe butchery and cooking to share both high- and low-church recipes. Famous Chef John Folse is included. So is John “JD” Desselle with his “Wild Hog Street Tacos” and Kerry Bordelon with “Real Hog Headcheese.”
I haven’t been offered any of the 180,000 pigs killed in Louisiana per year, or from anywhere else, so I probably won’t be using the recipes, though I love game and love to eat and try to keep an open mind when it comes to food. I’d sure try a hog if I knew the source – and the cook. The taco especially sounded good.
The cookbook mentions nutria and how Louisiana chefs also concocted recipes for those rats. It took pseudo-sophisticated New Yorkers to belly up, however, and then only after menu writers got creative and used the French for nutria -- ragondin -- and made the rat sound better than it tasted.
I never tried it; I owe nutria nothing.
Once, in Leland, Miss., city hall tried to solve a beaver problem in the town’s picturesque Deer Creek by introducing alligators. You can guess how that story ended.
I call it The Kudzu Syndrome. The story often ends badly when something is plopped into an environment not its own. Anne’s book says Spanish explorers brought us the wild boars. My alma mater Auburn, or at least its extension service, gets the blame for kudzu. Louisiana fur farmers for nutria.
The moral of this story? Look before you leap. Cook before you eat. One man’s beast is another man’s pate. A wild boar in the pot is worth two in the bush.
Stop me before I hurt myself.