Page 6, 8th January 1999

8th January 1999
Page 6
Page 6, 8th January 1999 — Bear essentials for a trip to the wilderness

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Organisations: Cheese Police, White House
Locations: Los Angeles


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Bear essentials for a trip to the wilderness

Catholic Tastes


IHAVE BEEN annoying myself no end trying to remember where it is that they eat fox for Christmas dinner. I know I read about it somewhere because it's not the sort of thing you make up. I expect the practice is known as vulpophagy, but I can find no reference to it anywhere. I don't want the recipe because I'm sure fox would taste foul — or should that be fowl? When they can't get into the hen house they eat mice and earthworms or, when practicable, the contents of urban dustbins, but no one will believe me. I don't fancy bear either and I also happen to know that people have contracted trichinosis from eating bear's paws, which were considered a delicacy at some time in some place. Russia perhaps.

It is more in the natural order of things for bears to eat people. This ursine tendency is on my mind because we are planning to visit a site not far from Yosemite where wild life proliferates. .1 believe there may be cougars and I'm sure there must be coyotes, but I'm so nervous about them. Bears can get up a terrific speed from a standing start, have appaling halitosis and are impervious to reason: once one has got you he can't be persuaded to put you down. One of the earliest martyrs shared my reservations about bears: he said he could contemplate, if not with equanimity, at least with resignation, the prospect of being mauled by lions or wild cows but he drew the line at bears. I can't remember his name or those of his companions but I feel for them. How fortunate we are that the Roman Empire declined and fell.

We had a moderately Lucullan dinner for Christmas: turkey and most of the trimmings but no bread sauce because the bread in Los Angeles does not resemble what we mean by the term. It is soft and sweet and if you poured boiling milk on it would instantly translate into a particularly repellent form of paperhanger's paste. It was gratifying, if anomalous, to step on to the balcony and pluck a lemon to put in the bird and the vegetables came up to expectations, but the stuffing was funny. We bought it in a packet emblazoned with misleading tributes to its qualities and threw most of it away. Same with the store-bought sweet potato pie which someone brought because it was traditional. This word is responsible for much miserable waste in all cultures. I know only one person who likes marzipan and I wonder how many truly like Christmas pudding. We brought chocolates with us because most American chocolate is bafflingly awful and so is the cheese. It is impossible to understand why a country with so many millions of cows can't come up with a decent cheese. If there is one I haven't yet encountered it and if the President hadn't got so much else to worry him I'd address this question to the White House. I suppose it must be to do with the regulations governing hygiene and Europe is going the same way with proliferation armies of Cheese Police. I can't even make a proper sandwich to take with us to the wilderness.

Nor will I take the remains of the turkey since its fragrance might lure the bears out of hibernation. I'll be doing no camping until I've assured myself that Teddy and Pooh and Paddington are safely deep in slumber or have moved to the other side of the mountain. I can't imagine how bears got a reputation for cuddliness. Is is just because they hug you to death before they eat you? Should you chance to see one before he sees you, proceed as following. "Use about an 8-pound roast off the rump of a young bear. Cover with cold water, add 3 or 4 mediumsized onions (sliced), and let soak about 4 hours. Remove from water and wipe dry. Cut 1 small clove garlic into small pieces and, using a sharp knife to make holes, force garlic deep into meat. Get garlic as near bones as possible. Season with salt and pepper. Brown in hot bacon drippings. Bake in open pan for 3 hours 350°F, turning the meat several times while cooking."

This is a very worrying recipe. Young bears might well still be attended by their mamas and mother bears are notoriously irritable when anything threatens their offspring. Choose, rather, an old friendless bear and double the cooking time.

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