Oh! Deer Me! We Have a Guest. What’s for Supper?

by Don Curto 

I had my first venison meal in 1925 when I was two years old and I clearly remember my father, Charles Curto, an all-Italian-background guy from Calumet saying to a visiting friend who had prepared the meal from a buck shot in the Copper Country:

          “You don’t really eat this kind of stuff up there, do you, Henry? We shot deer when I was a kid but only to use the hide for gloves we made for extra Christmas spending money. We called them kid gloves and got 50-cents more per pair.   Get it!”

          (I don’t really care whether you believe that or not. It has been my experience that when you get past two years old you tend to get very suspicious of older people.)

Myself I am quite a bit too cowardly to shoot those good looking animals. Of course I eat the product if someone else does the dirty work. Deer hunting requires great skill, careful advanced preparation and thorough knowledge of the very real danger that a deer herd can present to us trusting humans. An example of danger to us:  sometimes when a deer herd (the man who herds deer) is released from probation early he reverts to his old ways and presents a danger to us. I can’t quite remember just what that danger is but I seem to recall something to do with herds trampling sleeping campers. Why a herd, usually quiet outdoor workers would want to trample (Dict. Def: “jump up and down, on.”) a sleeping person we don’t know.  I have heard that the hunters’ intricate plans to lure deer to a certain spot for daily feasts of apples and carrots and then, when the head of government regulation says it is okay hunters are allowed to put their gun right next to the ear of the deer and blast him.

The whole thing is sort of crazy.  Hunter’s rules demand that as soon as the deer is shot and killed he must be”dressed”. One “dresses up” to change to more formal wear and one dresses down when a superior officer reprimands a person who is junior.  Like: boy did he ever get a good dressing down, hey?

          But, with the poor deer we “dress” him by removing not just his clothes, but all of his fur and skin. Who wants that kind of dressing; better an oyster dressing packed into a roasted turkey?

          This is all quite difficult to follow I think.  Actually, the whole deer discussion is truly nuts.  This reminds me of “chestnuts over an open fire”.  The song is pretty romantic and the nuts taste wonderful.  However, be warned that open fires are forbidden so get a can of salted cashew nuts instead.  I am descended from a long line of Florentine chefs, known as the Non Sequiter family. Here, chef after chef never follows the one ahead of him, but dashes off with his own creation, most of which should have been left alone.  But,

Before all this went nuts (chestnuts, cashews, get it?) I had wanted to bring some kind of sense to all of this meandering. (“Meander” is the route you follow when you trail a deer that can’t walk a straight line)

My father’s grandfather left Italy for the U.S. after his restaurant in Rome became world famous.  It was on the southwest corner of Mise en Place just down the street from the Coliseum. He had heard that there was great demand for a truly good venison meat loaf.   He knew that no one could meet the quality of his meat loaf.

Don Curto’s

Venison Meat Loaf Recipe

2 lb freshly killed, freshly ground venison

Four thick slices bacon , chopped very fine

1 large fresh egg

1 cup condensed milk

1 pkg dried onion soup mix

1 1/2 tbls Lawry’s Season salt

Put everything in a large bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly mixed; doesn’t worry about the seeming preponderance of liquid, it will blend in if you mix carefully and thoroughly.

          Carefully pack bread loaf pan, place on sheet pan to catch anything that might overflow. Bake in 350 oven for about one hour to one and a half hours.

Pour fat off after 40 minutes cooking time.

          Let cool slightly; slice. You can prepare a gravy to go over if desired.

What can you write about the school shootings at Newtown, Ct. that conveys the terribleness of them? Stephanie, one of the owners of Art is Books in Calumet wondered the same thing and then she remembered the poem by Norman Rosten about another war, Spain’s civil war and Picasso’s famous  painting, Guernica..

The poem goes this way


By Norman Rosten

 In Guernica the dead children

Were laid out in order upon the sidewalk.

In their white starched dresses

In their pitiful white dresses.

On their foreheads and breasts

Are the little holes where death came in

As thunder, as they were playing

Their important summer games.

Do not weep for them, madre.

They are gone forever, the little ones,

Straight to heaven to the saints,

and God will fill the bullet holes with candy.

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