Steven Rinella

For the price of a bullet, you can feed yourself for a year on an entirely organic, healthy, free-range slab of protein raised far from the feedlots, hog farms, slaughterhouses, and e. coli associated with big agribusiness. The only catch—and let’s ignore the hunting permit and airline ticket to Alaska—is that after you shoot the animal, you’ve got to butcher it yourself, lug it out of the wilderness, and avoid the grizzly bears that would be happy to eat your bounty and you as an appetizer. Or so we learn from Steven Rinella and his American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95). Previously the author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, Rinella interpolates his hunt with all manner of buffalo trivia and historical footnotes—filler, but entertaining filler. Buffalo were once the Internet of their day (the 1870s and ’80s), creating a brief, furious economic boom for the entrepreneurial hunters who slaughtered the beasts for their hides, then left millions of carcasses to rot on the prairie. After Teddy Roosevelt and progressive Republicans—not yet a contradiction in terms!—saved the animal from extinction, some bison were shipped by rail to Seattle, then ferried to Alaska, where a small herd lives today, the less famous neighbors to Copper River salmon. Rinella doesn’t pretend to be a historian or naturalist; he’s a carnivorous foodie and magazine writer (for Outside and others) who’s eager to share his woodsmanship and outdoor butchering techniques. But he doesn’t glamorize the hunt or excessively romanticize his prey. If the riflemen hadn’t decimated the buffalo in the 19th century, we meat eaters, farmers, and suburbanites surely would’ve done so in the next. And now that there are so (comparatively) few remaining, hunting may actually increase our sense of environmental stewardship over this once endangered species. (Tickets & info: Words & Wine.) BRIAN MILLER

Thu., March 26, 6:30 p.m., 2009

 
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