The world of sports offers a long list of heroes and icons, but few names grow even larger over time. The Name Babe Ruth is one of those, and for good reason. He may have been the most dominating baseball player of his time, and all time, and he is considered to be one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture. He was a living legend and his fame and persona completely transcended the game. I wish I had met him, or at least been able to watch him swing.
What is not as well-known is that “the Babe” loved to hunt and fish. It appears that baseball was indeed the perfect sport for a man of his appetites. For when his hands were empty of bats and gloves, they most often held a fishing rod, or his favorite shotgun. Babe loved his duck blinds, and the pursuit of feathered game. He liked to eat too, and he liked to cook what he acquired in the field. His favorite recipe could be a main camp meal, or a side dish to accompany his hunter’s reward. He called it “Wild Rice for Game“.
Or so notes, “Famous Sportsmen’s Recipes For Fish, Game, Fowl and Fixin’s“, compiled by Jessie Marie Debooth. It’s a lovely and unpretentious little volume, a copy of which I have had in my personal collection for some years.
“The sportsmen of America have written this book, by contributing their favorite recipes for game, for fish, for birds. The recipes reflect the quality of mind and spirit that makes the true sportsman”.
Miss DeBooth goes on to dedicate the work “to the sportsmen and true conservationists of america, the conservationists of our natural resources of wild life, and the true protectors of the rightful heritage of future generations of americans, admiringly I dedicate this book of their favorite recipes, as cooked by them in their favorite outdoors”. I am certain that Mr. Ruth would agree.
His selection calls for 2 cups of wild rice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 3 cups of water. “Put this into a double boiler after washing thoroughly, making sure that the water covers the top of the rice. Do not at any time stir the rice – always shake it. Allow to boil for twenty minutes, then drain off the water and continue to cook over a low flame for fifteen minutes, then add: 3 finely chopped onions, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon sage, 1 teaspoon thyme. This recipe will make enough to serve six people”.
Ray Holland loved his waterfowl too, and our recipe book lists his hobby simply as “Duck Shooting”. He grew up on waters teeming with waterfowl, and he shot his first duck with a muzzleloader shotgun in 1893 at the age of nine. For those in the know this is the equivalent of saying that Michael Jordan used to enjoy shooting a few flat-footed free throws in a pick up basketball game, and we all know how that turned out.
Mr. Holland was editor of Field and Stream magazine during its heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s, and an author of sporting classics like “Shotgunning in the Lowlands”. An ardent conservationist, his tireless efforts to protect this precious migratory resource is one of the reasons we still have ducks to hunt today.
His recipe for “Roast Wild Duck” is as follows: “Cut up together celery root, turnip, onion, parsley, carrot. Fry with a few slices of bacon in roasting pan until whole begins to brown. Upon this place the duck, thoroughly washed and salted, either larded with or covered by a strip of bacon. Baste, while roasting, with red wine. When done, pour cream over whole and allow it to become brown. Remove duck, mix in flour, allow to brown. Strain and serve sauce over sliced duck and dumplings”.
Zane Grey is mentioned here, as Zane Grey, author. His angling exploits are now regarded as somewhere beyond legendary, and really not possible today. He wasn’t a bad writer either.
His contribution is “Broiled Oregon Steelhead“. He says, “It is rather difficult to choose my favorite recipe, but in thinking it over, I know of nothing more delectable than a fresh caught steelhead from a swift running Oregon river. This must be cut in pieces to fit an iron broiler, thoroughly salted and peppered and rubbed lightly with bacon fat and then broiled over a bed of hot coals protected on three sides by some built-up rocks on which the broiler can rest. I cannot give a definite time as this would depend upon the thickness of the fish. Anyway, cook until done”!
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. liked to roll his duck in clay and built a fire on top. “The time necessary, of course, depends on the size and heat of the fire, but in general, don’t be too eager and give the bird sufficient time”. Excellent words of advice I would say, but I wonder where he found the time, being the son of a rough-rider and a President and all, as well as a world adventurer in his own right.
The recipe list continues. We have “Javanese Rijstaffel (Rice Table) from Frank Buck, Explorer and Wild Animal Collector. And, “Swiss Steak“, with elk, moose, or caribou (elk preferred) from Elmer Keith, Hunter, Writer, and Firearms expert. Jack O’Connor, perhaps the most famous gun and outdoor writer of all time, talks of baked quail and bread crumb dressing. Or perhaps you would like to try a recipe for “Dry Panned Steak“, by Eugene V. Connett, publisher of the finest sporting titles of all at his cherished Derrydale Press.
And I simply must one day try “Slumgullion” by C. Blackburn Miller, “Shoepack Pie” by Robert H. Rayburn, or “Horton’s Mulligan Stew“, by the Honorable Karl Mundt, Congressman and former Vice-President of the Izaak Walton League.
When I have tried all of these, I shall make “Skunk Meat For the Camper“, by Paul A. Meyers. He muses, “Contrary to ordinary belief, skunk meat is very palatable and tasty. Skin and clean the skunk, but be sure to remove the odoriferous glands. Parboil meat in a strong solution of salt water for 15 minutes. Drain this water and add fresh, season to taste, and allow to steam gently for one hour”. Can’t wait!
On the other hand, I think I will roast up a duck first, maybe laid under some coals of a camp fire beneath a starry night. Wild Rice will bubble in a nearby pot. I’ll finish my dinner with some of the raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries of Ozark Ripley’s “Outdoor Pudding”, and maybe add a finger or two of fine scotch in a metal cup to wash it all down. I will sip the scotch slowly, and ponder what it may have been like to play baseball with Babe Ruth. We could have shared a hunting story or two, and perhaps a plate of food.
All excerpts from “Famous Sportsmen’s Recipes For Fish, Game, Fowl and Fixin’s“. Compiled by Jesse Marie DeBooth. Privately Published, 1940, 96 pages.
—Jesse Marie DeBooth was herself a celebrity cook. Called “Home Economist #1”, and “The woman with seven million friends”, she was a syndicated newspaper columnist and noted cookbook author. She conducted incredibly popular traveling cooking schools in the 1920’s through the 1950’s.
—-This work is out of print and fairly scarce. We generally have a copy or two for sale. Quote available upon request.
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