The best time of year

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By Johnny Sain

Daylight has been shrinking since the summer solstice, but the sun’s angles get more dramatic as we near the autumnal equinox. Mid August is when I notice the change. Shadows lengthen, and the night claims more minutes every day as we head into the dark season.

But contrary to the melancholy expression of this sunflower, the coming season is a time of harvest and celebration. The garden gives up its last offerings and we take to the fields and forests on the hunt for wild meat.

The frothy fun of summer is fading fast, but I welcome the transition. The tag end of the season of light through the birth of winter is, in my opinion, the best time of year.

Here’s to late summer flowers, campfires on cool evenings, last tomatoes and squirrels in the hickory trees.

A sense of place on your plate

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By Johnny Sain

Fire and meat. Is there a pairing more quintessentially human than fire and meat?

The hunks of whitetail tenderloin in front of me just came off the grill. Seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and just a dash of crushed red pepper they were every bit as mouth-watering delicious as they looked. Seasoning, coal fire and a soaked piece of hickory working in concert underneath the hood of my old grill crafted a masterpiece of flavor that my –and your — prehistoric ancestors would  call overkill. But it tasted like perfection to me.

Nobody really knows how and when we started cooking, but somewhere back in our murky past meat found its way to fire after the kill, and it was good. Taste was the reason back then, and a good reason at that. The sense of taste tells an animal what to eat. If something tastes good a creature will eat more of it. This was before junk food threw our perceptions out of whack by going overboard on the tastes we crave. So it only makes sense that taste was the original goal for cooking, and our taste buds were right. Cooked meat is better for us. Cooking unravels proteins and loosens muscle fiber in meat, which makes for easier chewing and digestion. My taste buds tell me that grilled venison is far superior to venison prepared any other way.  We eat deer meat prepared by different methods, but tenderloin is almost always