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How game cookery can lead to better understanding of country sports

Intrigue often leads to understanding, says Will Pocklington, who finds that game cookery is just the way to get the conversation started

We were a few mouthfuls into the meal and the questions started again. “So, only the other day this was trotting around a woodland in Lincolnshire?”, “How close do you get to them?”, “How many are there?”, “How did they get there?”. I’d boned a muntjac haunch, marinated it overnight and cooked it over hot coals for a group of friends who don’t shoot or stalk.

There was no agenda, I’d simply been asked to supply the protein for a stag do in Wales, and I’d shot a young buck the previous week. But it reminded me that game cookery is the perfect way to get the conversation started and encourage people to keep an open mind when it comes to country sports. Work back from the end product and the stages that precede it become more, well, palatable. Intrigue so often leads to understanding.

In fact, that weekend, a couple of years back now, inspired the wedding present for the bride and groom a few months later. Both enjoy fine food; they sit firmly in the care-about-where-your-food-comes-from camp; but the game hamper I put together for them started a dialogue that has been so rewarding for the three of us.

Four pheasants, a roe doe, half a dozen redlegs, the same number of pigeons and a brace of woodcock went into that hamper — all shot, dressed, butchered, vac-packed and labelled on the same estate. And still, more than a year later, every few weeks a picture message of my good friends’ latest experimental game cookery dish will pop up on my phone. Curries, steaks, goulash, wellington, fajitas… they’ve savoured every last cut — no doubt they’ll soon be ready for a top-up. 

There’s something special about eating meat from game you have shot and cooked yourself, even more so when sharing it with friends


Completing the cycle

Sharing the end product of our pastimes with others completes the whole cycle, if you ask me. Deep thinkers might point to the habits of hunter-gatherers of old, and they’d have a point. Eating something we have ourselves shot, prepared and taken responsibility for is an age-old process. And when compared with the alternative — the meat aisle of the nearest supermarket — those who might not wish to venture out with a gun or rifle themselves seem to appreciate that process, too.

As we begin to embrace the longer days of summer, I for one will be reaching for the firepit, the contents of my freezer and the phone to invite friends to join me. Is there a better way to provide others with a taste of what our passions are all about?