Night of the HUNTER 

Guitar hero turned primal chef Ted Nugent is ready to rock Tunica.

It was horrible. HORRIBLE. At least, I remember it that way. I was young. Too young and too impressionable to see anything like it. To be honest, it put me right off rock-and-roll music for some time. What happened is this: My friend said, "Look up," and I did just as a wild-haired man wearing nothing but a loincloth swung out over the vast arena audience and onto the stage, where he picked up a guitar and began to wail, "She's so sweet when she yanks on my meat. Down on the street, you know she can't be beat. What the hell." It was the Wang Dang Sweet Poontang tour, after all, and what did I expect from Ted Nugent? "Amazing Grace"? This is the same man who made the explicit declaration "When in doubt, I whip it out. I got me a rock-and-roll band. It's a free-for-all."

But who could have guessed at this particular juncture that this long-haired, self-proclaimed madman from Detroit Rock City, so freely (and raunchily) exercising his First Amendment rights, would lean politically just to the right of Attila the Hun? Who could have begun to imagine that decades down the road he would be the proud author of a cookbook? Who could have imagined that the leading celebrity blurb on the dust jacket of said cookbook would be from archconservative and gun nut Charlton Heston, declaring without reservation, "Ted Nugent is, beyond argument, one of the good guys"? That President George W. Bush, a close ally of the pious Christian right, would say to him, "We're glad you're here. You're a good man"? Well, certainly anyone who paid close attention to the extreme phallocentricity and "if you can't join 'em, lick 'em" attitude of his music might have guessed the politics but not the cookbook. Nobody could have ever foreseen that. Then again, Kill It & Grill It ain't exactly Betty Crocker.

"Vegetarians are cool," Nugent notes in his book. "All I eat are vegetarians -- except for the occasional mountain lion steak." He says that munching on a store-bought chicken, more feces than meat, will never give him and his Labrador, Gonzo, "a full predator spiritual high." And having reduced the realm of spirituality to blood lust and predation, he adds, "We don't just cook. We dance naked at the primordial campfire of life."

Nugent likes words like "primordial," and he rambles on and on like a death-hungry Kerouac stoned out of his mind on pure testosterone. Oddly enough, he manages to imbue his overcooked prose with the spirit of a true conservationist. Before the end of page one, he says of the hunter lifestyle, "Hands-on cause and effect provides valuable lessons in environmental responsibility. You can't deny a gutpile."

Nugent's recipes are, much like his music, basic, bombastic, and, in many cases, irresistible, even to people who should know better. Who, short of a diehard vegan, can't get their salivary glands in an uproar at the thought of wild-boar chops cooked with raisins and apples? Baked quail wrapped in pork and grape leaves, smothered in fresh seedless grapes, anyone? If Kill It & Grill It had more recipes like these and less macho psychobabble from Ted, it could be a fantastic guide to preparing wild game. But who really needs a faded rock star to tell them to dredge their meat in flour and fry it in butter, which is about as innovative as many of the book's recipes get? Who needs to hear Nuge narcissistically going on about "scaring whitefolk with [his] oversouled R&B guitarspeak"? Besides, can a man really be such a gun-toting primal-man superhunter if any of his personal recipes calls for a can of cream of mushroom soup? Maybe if you snare your own can.

Say what you will about the man, his music, and his politics, but you can't deny that he walks his talk and stands up for what he believes in. On his Web site, Nuge even claims that only by living the life of a predator can a person really learn to play a hard-rocking guitar. "Kill critter, add fire, ingest sacred protein fuel for the soul. There's your damn recipe for ultra guitarnoize, kidz," he writes. "Now I know you think I have confused the outline for introductory guitar lessons with my favorite recipe for good BBQ, but don't jump to presumptuous conclusions, my cityfied comrades. For if you truly dream of celebrating and projecting the soul of man and this mind dazzling experience of God's gift of life to its fullest through your creative juiceflow as flamed forth from your own electric guitar, then by no means underestimate the healing powers of nature."

The Nuge will be demonstrating his meat-given guitar virtuosity at Horseshoe Casino on Friday, July 26th. Who knows? Maybe he'll even give a cooking demonstration between sets.

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