'Girl Hunter': Georgia Pellegrini shoots, cooks and eats

The cover image of Georgia Pellegrini's "Girl Hunter" is fashioned after those old master portraits, the purpose of which is not so much to show what someone looks like, but to display who they are. The tools of one's trade, or the landscape which supplies the subject with his or her title, are given prominence in an improbable pose, in order to demonstrate in a visual shorthand exactly what skills he or (rarely) she has.

So it is that we find Ms. Pellegrini standing knee-deep in undergrowth against a backdrop of trees and clouds. She is clad in a girly pink plaid shirt and a heavy butcher's apron. She is holding in one hand a heavy cast iron skillet, and in the other a large hunting rifle. Although she stares directly out at the viewer, her expression is utterly blank.

"Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time"
By Georgia Pellegrini
Da Capo Press ($24).

Among the skills displayed here -- she's a chef who can handle a gun -- perhaps the most subtle is this ability to appear to bear these two tools of her trade, which must weigh a ton (I know the skillet does), effortlessly. Inside one can only imagine her thinking get the shot off quick before my arm falls off! -- a sentiment that can apply both to standing stock still for a photo and waiting breathlessly to fire upon a tasty elk.

Of course, in the paintings, the trick is not simply in getting all the important elements in the picture, but in the surface detail. Here, it has been enhanced considerably with Photoshop rather than paints and varnish, to give her a supernatural glow. The selective application of surface blur (porcelain skin!) and color balance (hello blue eyes!) has not just been reserved for the book's cover, however. Inside, it's all a little polished to present the author as today's Superwoman -- a smart sex kitten who can field dress a buck and serve it for dinner without breaking a sweat.

The idea that pretty women could know their way around a gun has gained popularity lately, though women have always had a foothold in the traditionally male pursuit of hunting. Ms. Pellegrini works hard to be one of the boys, having always found herself in their clubs -- whether it be on the farm or on Wall Street or in professional kitchens as a chef. In her writing, she revels in the accoutrements of manhood -- taking careful note of the masculine banter her companions make, and especially (subconscious or not), their smoking habits. The only thing populating this book more than dead animals are cigars. Make of that what you will.

"Girl Hunter" is both memoir and recipe book -- each chapter is prefaced by an account of her experiences learning to hunt, followed by dishes that can be made from the game. The recipes range from the small and elegant (Stuffed Quail) to the whole hog (Whole Hog). It's a book that those with access to freshly killed game might make use of, though I doubt it. It seems much more likely to suit the needs of a city-dweller with a top-notch butcher.

Ms. Pellegrini's publicity machine works hard on her behalf, too -- cute gun-toting girls make for good media, as her slick website shows (georgiapellegrini.com). The book's subtitle, though, "Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time," seems a little off-target. Ms. Pellegrini's personal adventures do not a revolution make; what she's really re-inventing out there in the field, and at the laptop, isn't so much our dining tables, as herself.

Micki Myers ( mickimyers.com ) is a writer and poet living in Squirrel Hill. She is at work on a book about Robert Scott, the explorer of the Antarctic, and writes online about terrible cookbooks at "Yuckylicious" ( yuckylicious.blogspot.com ). First Published February 5, 2012 5:00 AM


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