Why August is the best month to be a “freegan”

No doubt about it, August is the best month to practice freeganism. Sure, any time of year you can help yourself to the odd morsel of unlucky roadside raccoon (extra points if you bag-and-barbecue the one that clawed its way through our neighbor’s swimming pool). But even better than already-dead varmints are yummy blackberries.

Not even hard-drinking bears who eschew solid food can resist blackberries. The way they burst forth every August with their ravishing aroma…free for the taking for anyone willing to piss off a few spiders—ahhhhhh!

My cheap-ass mother swears things taste better when they’re free, and she might be right about blackberries, if not raccoons.

The berries are calling out to be taken. Today the kids put up with a whole 15 minutes of picking before crying boredom, which gave us (as it happened) half a liquor-store shopping bag of the wondrous little fruits. What shall we do with them, my fellow inebriates?

Citrus Blackberry Collins

We need citrus vodka and blackberry liqueur for this concoction. Odds my parents will do it? 4,143:1 against

Blackberry Crush

Once again, this calls for vodka. Odds? 853:1 against

Blackberry Cocktail

Photo: Jim Franco
Styling: Scott Martin

This calls for gin, which we have, although my mum is causing it to disappear. Even if there is any left by the time we get mixing, the recipe’s weirder ingredients (cucumber with mint) may freak my unadventurous parents out. Odds? 548:1 against

Blackberry Caipirinha

A long time ago a liquor representative emailed a tantalizing invitation to taste Cachaca, one of this recipe’s main ingredients. By all means, send it, I said, but alas, it’s not simple to send booze to Canada, and the hooch never materialized. Odds? Sigh.

◊ ◊ ◊

Screw it. My mum can make muffins or whatever the hell she wants to throw those blackberries into, and I’ll have a gin & tonic (before she takes it all).

THE GARDEN PATH SHIRAZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2006)—Good without animals

My Fellow Inebriates,

Transman reminded me today that the Canada geese are back. You can tell by all the green goose poo on the sidewalks along 64 Avenue and 201 Street, one of our habitual routes around Langley. The geese congregate by the liquor store, honking and shitting their assurance that spring is here.

Where the goose poo is in our hood

I had wild animals on the brain because of yesterday’s post about roadkill cuisine. It was a post that prompted a follower or two to discontinue reading Liquorstore Bear, perhaps because it espoused a roadkill diet (“freeganism”), perhaps because of a cynical link to Pascal’s wager, or maybe because somebody couldn’t handle the truth about the would-be payload on Noah’s Ark (We’re taking on water, Japheth! Jettison the dinos!).

I’m as much of a stats whore as anybody else with a WordPress blog, so I did wonder who’d left me (I couldn’t figure it out), and what the exact proverbial straw had been for them. They’d stayed with me through bestiality, animal porn, unorthodox comments on pregnant drinking, plus all kinds of misguided astrological advice. I pictured the reader muttering, “I just wanted to know what wine goes with chicken, damn it.”

As you know, I’m not a food guy, but I still appreciate the question. Chicken cordon bleu? Chardonnay. Pad Thai? Sauvignon blanc. Prime rib? Shiraz or cab. Wine/food pairing notions have achieved pretty good societal penetration; everybody’s got a loose idea of what goes with what. But roadkill poses a challenge. And if you’re still with me, I hope it’s because you won’t mind this handy guide:

Meat

Wine

Badger

Merlot

Beaver

Zinfandel

Frog

Pinot Blanc

Groundhog

Pinot Noir

Kangaroo

Shiraz

Cat

Gewurztraminer

Badger meat
huntergathercook.typepad.com

Social convention, and nothing but, separates such animals from the ones you find in Save-On Foods. That and the fact that they’re gamey, riddled with ticks and often carrying TB. But don’t let that stop you—just cook ‘em really well.

Of course you know, my fellow inebriates, all this comes with lashings of hypocrisy. I don’t eat meat myself, and I feel anxious on behalf of my fellow animals on the lower part of the food chain. (I couldn’t very well recommend a wine pairing with bear, for example.) The geese worry me especially with their frantic honking and sudden movements. What’s to prevent anyone from pulling over the car on 201 Street, putting on the emergency lights for a minute, and hacking a goose’s head off with a machete?

Such a person would need only make a 180° turn to find the liquor store. They could stow the spurting goose in the trunk and shop for a complementary wine—Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or even Barolo.

This isn’t something I picture either of my parents doing. They are totally boring people. But they do frequent that liquor store, where there is a very good consultant, who recommended THE GARDEN PATH SHIRAZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2006). Made with fruit from Australia’s well regarded Langhorne Creek vineyard, this oak-aged blend exudes ripe currant, berries, and floral notes—leggy and purple in the glass. Medium- to full-bodied, THE GARDEN PATH is lush on the palate, fruit-forward but delicately balanced: a lovely, controlled fruit symphony that rewards the drinker with a satisfying finish.

Such a wine deserves to be enjoyed for its own merits, and THE GARDEN PATH offers such an intriguing array of taste harmonies that the best thing to do would be to decant it, then focus on every sip. But if, just before you unscrewed the bottle, the scent of barbecued squirrel happened to waft from your neighbor’s yard, you might want to put the bottle under your arm and invite yourself to dinner. (You might.)

YALUMBA “THE CIGAR” CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2009)—Probably good with bunny

My Fellow Inebriates,

The greenspace near our townhouse is teeming with baby bunnies. On the way to school the kids look out for these distant relatives of the Easter Bunny, hoping to catch a glimpse through the blackberry bushes.

If you pay attention, you can see the occasional cottontail bouncing along, but almost as often you can see them eviscerated by the path. With apologies to my friend Violet, bunnies are some of the dumbest animals that ever lived—they just don’t know how to avoid cats and coyotes. Nor do they look both ways when they cross the road, which means my parents sometimes have to stage a diversion on the way to school so the kids don’t get an eyeful of leporine gore. “Check out those dandelions!” my mum said, for example, while passing a fur-and-blood pancake on 66 Avenue being sampled by a dog whose oblivious owner apparently didn’t mind her animal venturing into traffic.

Sorry, Violet

If bunnies were a little smarter, the Easter Bunny wouldn’t have to do everything each year. He could delegate, the way Santa does, sitting on his ass all year exploiting the elves until his big night. But bunnies are not so bright.

Which is why I haven’t bothered to bug the Easter Bunny for anything. I mean, does the Easter Bunny even have a postal code? I can hit Santa up at H0H 0H0, but where the hell do I send my Easter list? And does the Easter Bunny even care whether I’ve been good or bad? Does the Easter Bunny keep track? Because I get the sense that bunnies are about as smart as a sack of doorknobs.

For instance, when my mum suggested to the kids that they write the Easter Bunny a letter, Miss P said, “Nah, he doesn’t know how to read; he’s a bunny.” It made perfect sense to her that, despite the daunting logistics of delivering eggs to the world’s children, despite the cleverness and stealth required to get them inside houses protected by Alarm Force, and despite his enormous commitment to inducing a global diabetic coma, the Easter Bunny cannot read.

This is precisely the sort of epistemological compartmentalization at which our Fraser Valley demographic excels, which is to say that if we ever let Miss P get into the wrong hands we may find her embracing Noah’s Ark while remarking that the biomass of all known insects on the planet—two of each—would exceed the capacity of the Titanic, and happily allowing the two ideas to coexist.

But who wants to mess with magic? The Easter Bunny is undoubtedly a magical creature—a creature whose activities cannot be specifically disproven. So I thought I’d make a list for him, just in case he’s literate enough to Google his name and read it:

You have to hedge your bets, right?

Or not.

But were we right to shield the kids from the sight of roadkill? They’ve seen lots of dead birds and insects before. Miss V once used a magnifying glass to bash the shit out of a snail at pre-K while the teacher wasn’t looking. They eat animals from time to time… just not car-flattened ones. But there’s something so cute about bunnies…my mum didn’t want them to see a dead one.

For those who don’t mind the sight of a dead bunny—especially one that’s been dealt a glancing blow off the car hood and isn’t flat—why not scoop that dead little critter up? Take it home and make a stew. Wild animals have a favorable nutritional profile: high protein and low fat. And roadkill is free, which means you don’t have to yank out your debit card at Walmart; you just need a good recipe book and an open mind.

Ahhh, you solid food eaters, you have it made if you live in a neighborhood full of stupid bunnies who can’t get to the other side of the road.

Not being a solids fan myself, I’ll leave that to you all. But I have a wine pairing suggestion: YALUMBA MENZIES “THE CIGAR” CABERNET SAUVIGNON (2009). Coonawarra residents refer to the uniquely shaped  strip of terra rossa soil that is home to some of Australia’s most famous vineyards as “the Cigar.” The Menzies Vineyard, founded in 1987, is part of this region and enjoys rich, red soil, limestone, pure artesian water, and a long, cool ripening season.

You may think I’m going to trash THE CIGAR as an offensive accompaniment to possum stew, but I only mention it in connection with roadkill because of the wild kangaroos that pose a driving hazard in Australia, accounting for 71% of animal-related insurance claims (eight times as many as dogs and 14 times as many as wombats). Kangaroos, who are obviously as cognizant of traffic safety as rabbits, pose a serious nuisance—enough to warrant “roo bars” on vehicles driving in the bush. They are well known for wandering onto the road and into a high-protein, low-fat stew.

The reason for "roo bars" on vehicles

While you may have qualms about scraping a rabbit off 66 Avenue and cooking it up, a kangaroo is a much more worthy feast, although, in the hot Australian climate and with all sorts of competing predators, you probably want to harvest the roo from the road while it’s going toward the light and not too long after.

You need wine with depth and earthiness to stand up to wild game, the euphemism you’d probably use if serving roadkill to dinner guests. THE CIGAR, with its distinctive forest-floor earthiness, bursting blackcurrant and tobacco notes, would pair very well with game. It is delightfully balanced with plenty of complexity, good tannins, and a long finish.

Truthfully, I’d advise drinking THE CIGAR by itself, undistracted by other flavors. But—if the Easter Bunny has a mishap this year and ends up on your neighbor’s barbecue, this would be a good wine to show up with.