DEVON, England: The Chinese authorities may have had restaurants remove dog from menus in Beijing, but when it is London’s turn to host the games in 2012, it will be game meat on the menu that fuels the athletes.
Though an urban society, the English have a deep affection for the countryside and taste for its wildlife.
They like nothing better than devouring a quail or two, barbequing a pheasant or stewing a rabbit on a cold rainy summer’s day.
This is exactly how I have been spending my time. Cooking game meat on England’s south coast, dressed in my fleece and trudging to the corner shop in the morning to pick up a newspaper in my Wellington boots.
The South-West is England’s breadbasket. Rolling green hills, checkered with fields and hedge rows. It is home to organic foods and the farm door shop. Barns transformed into markets of produce, homemade jams and cakes, buckets of blackberries and raspberries, wheels of cheese and cream cakes.
It is out of season at the moment so I had to make do with frozen game, which of course has the advantage that you don’t have to skin, gut or pluck the birds.
The menu this week has included rabbit in white wine, marinated venison and pheasants in calvados.
I was surprised at how cheap a pheasant was. Just a couple of English pounds and nothing here costs £2.
Though considering that stockbrokers and bankers pay thousands of pounds to bang away at pheasants during the shooting season, it is not surprising that the farm door is almost giving away frozen birds, as there has to be an oversupply.
And surprisingly, no one in the family has broken a tooth yet on a shotgun pellet lurking under a wing.
Game meat though is the only meat to chow down on when watching the games. You can splash in any random alcohol not consumed the night before. Jars of spices that have sat in the cupboard for years are now shaken to death and all types of bulb vegetables are chopped and stirred in.
My all time favorite though is the barbeque. A slow cook, where the meat is dripping from the bone. Wrapped in aluminum foil and covered with the barbeque lid, a few ducks will happily roast throughout the day for six or seven hours. The only mistake is to check their progress.
Too many cooks play with the barbeque. Fooling with the fire, squirting lighter fuel, flames leaping over steaks and chop, charring them beyond recognition. A low heat every time is the secret and when you can smell your garlic baste fill the garden with a mouth-watering scent, your meat is cooked.
My cousin, Sarah Carrigan, defended her Olympic Gold Medal on Saturday in Beijing. She won the women’s road race in Athens in 2004 and I watched from here, the family holiday cabin in Devon. The finish was after my deadline, but a girl from the country, I am sure she would enjoy game meat.
Traditionally game meat, especially pheasants and venison, are associated with the aristocracy and the furry rabbit would be more a common dish. Though today, it is the ultimate organic meal.
People eat what they shoot. Game meat doesn’t come wrapped in cellophane; it doesn’t pass through a factory. You know the farm it comes from and you could probably track down the bullet for that matter.
Game meat in Britain, like dogs in China, is meat from the land. So it is a bit of a sop to the politically correct police, to take our canine friends off Beijing menus.
There would be outrage across Britain if pheasant, partridge and quail were removed from London’s brassieres in 2012. Or even rabbit for that matter. Though I could image CNN doing a fuzzy bunny story from London, demanding that bugs be saved from the pot.
Despite no dogs on menus, pollution and Tibet, the Olympics of the Chinese Communist Party, like the Olympics always for me are two weeks of compulsory viewing. When else would you be interested in archery, badminton or rowing.
I care about the individual medley, the pistol shooting and of course the women’s road race. Sarah Carrigan, did she win? Even if she didn’t, isn’t it all about the spirit of competition? The Olympic dream and two weeks of good cooking.