American Buffalo

By STEVEN RINELLA

Instead of Coke, hot dogs, or apple pie, Steven Rinella contends that the authentic all-American food is buffalo. In his investigation of our continent?s largest land animal, he explores its contradictory representation of ?freedom and captivity, extinction and salvation.? He both tracks the 40,000-year history of American bison and offers an extraordinary firsthand account. In 2005, Rinella was granted one of 24 Alaskan hunting permits for the Copper River buffalo herd. Author of The Scavenger?s Guide to Haute Cuisine, he has written extensively about his experiences as a gamesman, but the magnitude of this hunt leads him on a quest far greater than his half-ton prey. His enthusiasm and conversational tone bring to life a subject that has largely fallen off the radar of popular imagination. Ted Turner owns more buffalo than live in the wild, and much of the romance of pursuing them disappeared with the advent of ?hunting? buffalo in captivity. By interweaving his tale with the animal?s history, Rinella has crafted an astonishing and intelligent narrative. Though his exhaustive research (and pursuit) may strike some as exhausting, it succeeds in framing one man?s hunt in a broader, relevant context. There?s no doubt that Rinella can be funny — and sometimes crass — but after he finally kills a buffalo, it?s his musings on guilt as ?the curse of the human predator? that leave a permanent trace.

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