- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

NEW ORLEANS (AP) You can find exotic recipes from roasted raccoon with sweet potato sausage and cornbread stuffing to “Lost in the Marsh Venison Pie” in Chef John Folse’s new cookbook. But before you get to them, get ready for a lesson on the history of hunting going back to caveman days.

“After the Hunt,” which weighs a solid 10 pounds, is a feast in itself, full of rich words and sumptuous pictures. The recipes, such as stuffed muskrat and oven-barbecued beaver, are a bonus, or as they say in Louisiana, lagniappe.

“People have gotten away from hunting, away from harvesting and cooking their food,” Mr. Folse said. “So the first step was to tell the history of hunting, why it was so important to man, why it was so much our heritage.”

Mr. Folse, 61, an authority on Cajun and Creole cuisine and culture, operates Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation, which also offers bed-and-breakfast accommodations. His business empire includes Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, and Chef John Folse Manufacturing, which produces manufactured foods for retail and the food-service industry. “A Taste of Louisiana,” Mr. Folse’s international television series, has been on public television since 1991.

Mr. Folse was born upriver from New Orleans in St. James Parish. One of seven children, he grew up relying on what he called the “swamp-floor pantry” for food.

“Dad made sure each and every one of us had our gun and went out hunting each and every day,” Mr. Folse said. “The worst thing an animal could do was come in a hundred yards of a Folse boy, except me.”

Mr. Folse may not have been the hunter the rest of his family was, but he found much to love in the hunting camps — the wide variety of game and the ways the camp cooks prepared it.

At the camps of his youth he learned the mysteries of duck and andouille gumbo, venison stew with wild mushrooms and dove breast fricassee.

“I was fascinated with the recipes of the old folks,” Mr. Folse said. “My brothers would kill something and I’d think, ‘Boy, I can’t wait to get back home and cook this.’ ”

Not an unusual feeling, according to Burton Guidry, also known as “Crawdaddy,” who is an assistant Louisiana attorney general, a Cajun, a hunter and a cook.

“I have a particular fondness for how his recipes allow for some variety of seasoning and utilization of native Louisiana products,” Mr. Guidry said. “For those of us who are authentic Cajuns, we appreciate the authenticity and accurate research done for every recipe.”

Hunting has fallen out of favor in recent years for intellectual and emotional reasons, Mr. Folse said, and because of lack of exposure to the sport.

“For me there was definitely a creed that you ate what you killed,” Mr. Folse said. “I think that’s more important than ever. The book tells the story of the importance of protecting game and using it the way it’s supposed to be used.”

In the Cajun culture of Mr. Folse’s youth, they ate the kill baked, roasted, fried and in casseroles, with sauce piquante, Creole sauce and barbecue sauce, in gumbos, bisques and chowders. He hopes the new cookbook will encourage others to do so as well.

“I found out that people don’t eat game because they don’t know how to cook it,” he said. “Even hunters weren’t enjoying it, they just ground up the meat and made sausage.”

Some people will be put off by the taste of game, Mr. Folse knows. So the book includes marinades and rubs that tame but still allow the meat to retain its flavor, he said.

“We’re so far removed from that swamp-floor pantry we don’t realize that everything we eat today taste the same,” Mr. Folse said. “We’ve domesticated our palates and brains to think everything that doesn’t taste vanilla is something we’re not interested in.”

Mr. Folse said he hopes the cookbook and its recipes, stories and pictures will lure people back into the great outdoors and to the tastes that were so much a part of American traditions for so long.

“I hope people will again learn about hunting, the camaraderie of the hunting camp, the enjoyment of the outdoors,” Mr. Folse said. “For all those folks that like free-range chicken and turkey, this is a whole new world.”

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