March 19, 2014 9:50:53 AM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Nobody had to be asked twice to line up for the buffet at Trotter Convention Center March 11. Tables laden with food and a room filled with tantalizing aromas did the job. The first annual Lowndes County Wildlife Tasting Supper was a solid success.
The idea for the event originated with Reid Nevins, agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. He used to coordinate one in Clay County and thought it was high time for one in Lowndes County, too. He was soon joined in the organizing effort by Josh Tilley with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and David Hester of the Lowndes County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The idea was to invite anyone interested in cooking their favorite game dish, and to bring it all together for one family-friendly and informative night, complete with door prizes. The fellows doing the organizing didn't know how much food to expect at this inaugural tasting, and for a while, were concerned there might not be enough to go around. But area wildlife chefs came through.
"We had all kinds of different steaks, lots of venison -- venison tamales, summer sausage, barbecue venison meatloaf, venison fajitas -- and squirrel with sherry sauce, fish, wild hog, wild quail ... " Nevins listed. "They could bring wild game of any kind."
Awards were offered in five categories: Antlered, Chili/Stew, Feathered, Land Critter and Water Critter. Winners, respectively, were Kate Nevins, Meaghan Tilley, Bubba Britt, Tabitha Mast and Dr. Bill Ford.
There were plenty of dishes to choose from, said Josh Tilley. "I don't think anybody went away hungry that night," he chuckled.
Living from the land
Many of those attending were experienced hunters with their families. Kate Nevins is accustomed to cooking (and processing) whatever her husband, Reid, brings back from the woods. She's an occasional hunter herself. The Nevins incorporate a lot of deer and other game in their diet, in addition to vegetables they grow themselves.
"If you go in our freezer, we have venison, rabbit, wild turkey ... " she said. She enjoys tweaking recipes to suit her family's taste, which leans toward spicy. She used a light hand with the jalapenos, however, in the venison steak wraps she prepared for the tasting supper. The wraps won a first place nod in the Antlered category from judges.
"It's really a good dish for people just venturing into the world of wild game," said Kate, who has introduced quite a few folks to the cuisine. She finds some have an aversion because they've previously been served something that tasted "gamey," because it wasn't prepared properly. Her advice: "Find somebody you trust and try simple things." Her chili made with ground venison instead of ground beef is an example. "They love it; they can't tell the difference, or they say it's better."
Meal with a message
While the supper made for a good feast and family outing, it also served as a community outreach by the host agencies. Their goal was to increase awareness of conservation in Lowndes County and spread the word about programs available to help landowners implement good conservation practices.
Josh Tilley's grandparents taught him about taking care of what we have. "If we don't do things to save our natural resources, like wildlife habitat, water, soil and air quality, it's so easy to lose that," the soil conservationist said. "And we can't gain it back."
The debut dinner attracted about 130 people, and a lot of enthusiasm is already brewing for next year. Host agencies are appreciative of all who brought a dish and, in particular, the Lowndes County Soil and Water Conservation District and chairman Steve Swedenburg for furnishing the venue.
The tasting might follow in the tracks of a similar one in Corinth that began many years ago, explained Reid Nevins. "When they started out, about 30 people showed up, next year 60, and now they're up to maybe 600 or 700. You name it, they have it -- bear, alligator, stuff you've never even heard of."
Lowndes County's first supper was "a good event; we had a lot of fun," he continued. "I hope this is maybe the first step in something that can really take off."
Editor's note: Learn more about Lowndes County conservation efforts from the Lowndes County Soil & Water Conservation District, 662-328-5921; Natural Resources Conservation Service, 662-328-5921; or the MSU Extension Service Lowndes County office, 662-328-2111.
VENISON STEAK WRAPS
2 pounds tenderized venison steak
1 12-ounce package cream cheese
Small jar of jalapenos
1 pound hickory smoked bacon
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dales or Worcestershire sauce
(Source: Kate Nevins)
GRILLED DOVES WITH A TWIST
3 large fillets of amberjack or other mild fish
6-8 ounces Teriyaki Baste & Glaze
8 ounces light honey
1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds
(Source: Kate Nevins)
(Source: L.F. Cox)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.