Men aren’t nearly so afraid of cooking as perhaps they were twenty years ago and more, but there’s an awful lot of knife wielding, fire building and grunting going on. It’s almost as if channelling your inner cave man is a good idea, and I can think of no greater insult to the great achievements of civilisation – of the refinements of skill, thought, and art – than to extol the virtues of the cave. Really, the so-called crisis of masculinity that has abounded, especially in the US, since the early ‘90s, is nothing short of a resignation. The romantic notion of a time when men were real men – an image of loincloth-wearing, spear-carrying, knuckle-dragging hominids – is plainly absurd. From the Greeks on down, refinement in food preparation, eating, drinking, and philosophising about it all, has been the remit of the greatest men and the greatest minds. Lighting a grill just doesn’t cut it. And the gnashing of teeth makes you little better than an ape. It’s time to put the manliness back into food.
Inspired in part by my good friend who likes to eat like an Edwardian, and by thoughts of things honestly raised and honestly killed, I ventured to make this game terrine:
Several things immediately strike me as worthy about this. First, nothing in it came from a supermarket. Second, and relatedly, I was given a reason to visit a number of local butchers and grocers, which are still like little community centres if you can find them. My Hungarian butcher was stunned by a request for streaky bacon, which he had not heard before in fifty years dealing with pigs. I still have a lot to learn about the English language outside of England. While he was giving me a tour of his bacon varieties his colleague was busy trying to give financial advice to an old eccentric who only knew the poles of extravagance and destitution, with nothing in between. The butcher offered to put money aside, for the lean times, but whiskey dreams beat out the benevolent butcher banker. Third, the making of such an intricate dish connects one with a wealth of tradition. Fourth, there was so much of it – four pounds of meat went into it, including venison (fillets and livers), duck, ostrich, sausage, and the aforementioned bacon – that it did the rounds at the holiday parties, and brought friends together. Food is the bedrock of friendship – cum panis, company – so isn’t it all the better if we can supply it?
Most importantly, perhaps, this dish was honest. It is was somewhat labour intensive, but it contained absolutely no processed crap. Somehow it embodied provision, and this, perhaps, is what ought to define the manly cook.