Eating wild venison

Try this venison in a slow cooker with some red wine.

Try this venison in a slow cooker with some red wine.

The state’s 2011 deer season is all but finished. Thousands of bucks—and a few does—have been dropped with the shot of an arrow or a bullet, and freezers everywhere are now stocked with lean, gamey red meat that provides those who eat it with one of the last links between modern humanity and the wild world from which we once drew every calorie we ate.

When a slab of Monterey County venison recently fell into my lap, I abandoned my vegetarian values for a day and put the crockpot on the burner. In went olive oil, onion, bay leaves, dried porcini mushrooms and seasoning. I added the meat in slices and medallions. Over a low flame, it cooked slowly and made my apartment smell spectacular—presumably like a cave dwelling of the prehistoric world. I added a bottle of red wine and simmered the meat for five hours. It grew tender, and that evening, fed a family of five, each person a habitual vegetarian who made an exception for the occasion.

In 2010, licensed hunters legally took about 26,000 mule deer in California, a success rate of only 15 percent—and today, as in the past, deer meat is a rare item of nourishment to be cherished. I’m now back on

a plant-based diet, but enjoying wild game once a year may be just enough to remind us of who we are today, who we were before, and that in some ways we’ve hardly changed.