In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What's for dinner?

(from The White House Cook Book, 1907, that belonged to Greg's Nana Smith.)

Before hunting season last fall, Mark and Sid and Sid's son came by to ask whether it was okay if they hunted in the old pasture. It's an odd ten acres -- mostly forest, of course -- on the other side of the island. Somehow it belongs to us. It isn't exactly accessible, and once you get there all you can see is an old pasture being rapidly devoured by young spruce trees, even as you watch. One old timer told us it was where the community-owned ox was kept when nobody needed him, back in the day. We don't visit too often.

But Mark and Sid told us that the old pasture was part of the route the deer used to go back and forth from one side of the island to the other. If they could sit up there they would be likely to get a deer. Sure, we told them.

We love watching the deer in every season of the year. We admire their beauty and their nimble ways. I had no idea until I saw it that a deer would actually stand up on his hind legs to reach an apple on a tree. It's a joy to see a small group grazing peacefully near the stone walls or bounding through the bog on a summer evening. It's less of a joy to repair the deer fence around the vegetable garden after they have run through it, but I don't mind. The deer have been here much longer than we have. Their presence makes the island more of a magical place.

But we appreciate the hunters, too, and their long relationship with the island's deer. We observe their time-consuming preparations in October, as they repair the deer blinds and get everything ready. And we admire their successes in November.

Last week messengers carrying a huge box of frozen deer meat pounded on the door. After they left we opened the box and put everything away in the freezer: roasts, chops, and steaks, maybe twenty pounds of island venison. The hunters had been more than generous to us.

Tonight Greg is making venison roast. He'll make slits in the roast and insert garlic slivers. He'll rub on olive oil and pat on herbs from our garden, thyme and oregano that have been drying on the old oar in the breezeway. He's also making baked buttercup squash with walnut maple stuffing. I grew the buttercup squash in the garden last summer, and it's been sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. Cliff and Ardith made the maple syrup, and I harvested the walnuts. We'll have swiss chard, also from last summer's garden, sauteed with garlic and ginger. And, of course, our apple cider.

How we eat now is a world away from how I've eaten all my life before coming to the island. It's a revelation to be so intimately aware of the meal on the table. Today I'm especially grateful to both the island's deer and the hunters, not to mention the cook.