Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Wild Abundance": It's a natural

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 11:49 AM

If you're a daily reader of Huffington Post, you saw on the 7th — December 7th — a glowing writeup by Regina Varolli of Wild Abundance. And if that book title tells you something, the subtitle says it all: "Ritual, Revelry & Recipes of the South's Finest Hunting Clubs."

Make that, specifically, the Mid-South's finest hunting clubs — west from Memphis to Arkansas, south to Mississippi, and down to Louisiana: nine clubs in all and a number of them owned and frequented by Memphians.

Among the clubs and owners: the 5,800-acre spread known as Mallard Rest, a duck-hunting retreat owned by businessman, conservationist, and hunter Billy Dunavant. It's a retreat that Oxford, Mississippi, chef John Currence calls "a refuge for duck hunting that anyone would envy." It's also a retreat where Vera Williams mans the kitchen and where she cooks, as Currence writes in Wild Abundance, "the way folks ought to cook": pork chops, chicken and dumplings, and "sport sauce." It's also where Currence cooked up his mother's recipe for duck and mushroom stew. And it's where Dunavant's wife, Tommie, makes the house drink, Sweet Lucy, a mixture of Old Charter and peach brandy.

That's also what Wild Abundance is: a mix of recipes, photographs, and essays that focus on the hunting-club cooks and nine noted chefs (among them, Memphis' Karen Carrier, Kelly English, Alex Grisanti, Chris Robinson, and Kevin Shockency), who were invited to spend time in the club kitchens and write about the experience.

Memphian Lisa Buser was hired as the primary photographer. ArtsMemphis published the book. Julia McDonald and Susan Schadt wrote additional text. Schadt, president and CEO of ArtsMemphis, edited it. And Tommie Dunavant, co-chair of Conservation Through Art and chair of Women in Camo, provided the introduction.

Wild Abundance is a follow-up to and every bit as impressive as ArtsMemphis' First Shooting Light from a couple years ago. But, as Schadt explained in an interview and as Tommie Dunavant writes, it was six years ago that ArtsMemphis partnered with Ducks Unlimited to initiate the Conservation Through Art program. So far, CTA has raised more than $2.5 million to fund its mission, which combines the arts, environmental education, and wildlife conservation. Proceeds from the sale of First Shooting Light and now Wild Abundance go toward CTA's efforts, which Women in Camo, the wives of local hunters and many of them hunters themselves, give their volunteer time to support.

For more on Wild Abundance go here.

To order Wild Abundance or to find bookstores and retailers, to view sample photographs, and to learn of upcoming events, go to

And for that duck hunter on your holiday gift list? That cook? That lover of nature photography? This year, no guesswork, it's a natural: Wild Abundance.

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