Find your happy place, they say, and so I am cutting up venison in the living room while watching the Packers. This is an annual tradition requiring a folding card table, a forgiving carpet pattern and an understanding spouse. It also speaks to a certain relaxed approach to existence in general and food processing in particular. Life in rural Wisconsin is glorious.
Despite the touchdown celebrations and demonstrative exhibitions of despair, somehow I still have all my fingers. I have suffered two minor lacerations to each hand, but neither as a result of the current multitasking. I incurred the first while skinning a deer in the pole barn, the second while I was washing the first wound in the sink while holding the knife in my mouth by its handle. Reaching for a towel, I somehow ran my previously uninjured hand across the blade of the knife clenched in my choppers. Upon hearing the story, some of my closest relatives asked what I was thinking and I have no answer although I appreciate them assuming that thinking had anything to do with it.
In certain social circles I suppose the idea of butchering wild game in the parlor would wrinkle a nose or two, but just see if I give them any sausage. Furthermore the woodstove is roaring right along just over there, and just as we worked to stack up a winter’s worth of firewood I am working to store up a year’s worth of protein. The fact that I choose to do so while watching Aaron Rodgers loft laser spirals across a high-def flat screen does not dilute my pioneer spirit.
The game is not going well. I trust the Packers are trying their best, although it’s been a less than soaring season. There is always hope when you have a quarterback named Rodgers or Favre, so even when things aren’t stellar I reflect on the eras of Dickey and Dilweg and Tomczak and Randy Wright, and am grateful for the highlights that have come our way since 1992. Above all, the Sunday drama helps pass the time when the thrill of hand-carving artisanal venison chunks has dissipated.
Winning is better than losing, but the state of Green Bay’s conference record or playoff chances has no discernible effect on our family freezer, so no matter the outcome of tonight’s tilt, next Tuesday my buddy Mills will come over and he and my wife and I will grind and mix and shoot the breeze and test the sausage in a cast iron pan in real time. These ceremonies will take place in the kitchen, not the living room. There are limits, and the Packers don’t play on Tuesday. In fact, football may not come up at all. Gotta keep your eye on the ball or the breakfast patties run heavy to nutmeg.
And so I carve and watch as the game winds down, happy to live in the land of Green and Gold, grateful for our locally-sourced back forty bounty, and in the morning as the light of day streams through the windows I will give that carpet a good going-over.