Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Call of the Mild

Apparently I'm on a bit of an life-as-experiment kick in books recently. A few weeks ago it was home schooling and now it's hunting your own food. Specifically Lily McCaulou's Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner.

Call of the Mild started off predictably enough: New York City girl has an adventure by moving out to the country. While there she falls in love with both her future husband as well as hunting and fishing. She decides to take on the personal challenge of hunting her own food. Much of the beginning part of the book wasn't especially challenging to me: I have fond memories of summer camp with fun times at the rifle range, and my Dad the fisherman gave me a healthy appreciation for that "sport" (sorry Dad). Not only that, but I suppose I've been around enough deer hunters to know the inherent hypocrisy of being outraged at people who hunt and kill animals for food, all while you're eating a Big Mac without giving it a second thought.

To my pleasant surprise though, I found that McCaulou's story got more and more sophisticated as I read into it. Where my last book held my attention mainly using humor, this one pulled me in with real heart and depth. I've always thought hunting was for the most part a Good Thing, but after reading this book I'm quite a bit more appreciative about it. Don't get me wrong, I'm fairly certain I don't have the stomach to field dress a squirrel, much less an Elk, but I can respect those who do.

The most surprising connection I made from the book was to that of the ritual animal sacrifice we read so much about in the Torah. Part of me has always had a nagging sensation that sacrificing animals was a sort of naive and barbaric ritual. Was the equation really that simple to my ancestors? Trade a cow or bird for a bit of good will? But McCaulou has given me a fresh perspective on this. The experience she has in killing and eating animals is at a much higher level of awareness and appreciation than say your typical consumer who walks in and grabs a package of meat from the shelves. Perhaps the biblical ritual of slaughtering and eating an animal had the same sort of connection for my people? After all, the animals slaughtered were most likely going to be consumed anyway, they certainly weren't be raised as pets. The intentional aspect of it all, be it hunting or ritual sacrifice, seems like it may have formed a connection with nature and G-d that's truly unique. Perhaps we're the barbaric ones for being able to consume life without giving it much thought at all?

Even if my theory is complete junk, the book I can assure is not. I found it touching, educational and one that I'm ever so glad I read.

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