Despite what they claim, not many guys would actually kill for a woman. Steven Rinella will. He’s a hunter, a fisherman, a Montana-bred man of the wild. He cooks. He writes. He makes hearts beat a little faster. And for his debut book, The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, he sets out to recreate 45 dishes from Auguste Escoffier's 1903 classic, Le Guide Culinare—with a twist. Traveling from Alaska to Florida, the 31-year old Rinella captured all his own ingredients (stingrays, pigeons, snapping turtles), while somehow managing to hold on to a vegetarian girlfriend.
Why do you think people equate food and sex? For instance, you call Le Guide Culinaire the Kama Sutra of food.
Well, the Kama Sutra is a comprehensive exploration of all the different things two bodies could do. Escoffier brought that thoroughness to the culinary arts. Generally, I think people equate sex and food because they're both finite. A lot of effort and thought goes into something very fleeting. There's also this sense when you eat something that you shouldn't: "It was so good, but I shouldn't have done it." That feeling surrounds the sexual realm for people. And food is a physical creation; it's organic and it's captivating on all these different levels—taste, smell, feel. So in that way, it's also like sex. Escoffier had all of these ideas about aphrodisiacs, food that was visceral, decadent, and rich. Truffles, for one. And different organ meats. Can you imagine? "I'm going to get so-and-so really hot tonight. I'm going to fill her up with a heart, some big mushrooms, and oysters."
Do you crave any dishes you made for your book?
This summer, I couldn't stop eating bone marrow. It was just me and my brother. We had a big bag of bones. Femurs. We'd cut them into little two-inch disks, line a cookie sheet, and bake them. We'd just sit around eating the marrow with little mini caviar spoons. And then we were like, "We gotta stop. This stuff'll kill you." Cholesterol. I would have never thought to do that if it wasn't for this book.
You write about your girlfriend: "Because I almost instantly fell in love and couldn’t stand to be without her, I knew that the only logical course of action was to convert her to a meat eater." Did it work?
No. I was this close, though. We had this deal. I was like, "How 'bout once every week you eat a meat meal just to get used to it?" And then it was once every two weeks, then it was once every month, and now it's just never ever. It pains me. When you shoot an elk, you have 200 pounds of organic, free-range meat. If it's there and I'm willing to cook it for you, why wouldn't you eat it? For a while, I'd try to figure out some way in which to take half of a dish and turn it into a meat dish. I'd have vegetarian lettuce-wraps and almost-the-same elk lettuce-wraps. But I always felt limited. I like food with bones and stuff sticking out of it. So now I cook two dinners. The other night I made all-vegetarian sushi and a big buffalo pot roast with demi glace and candied carrots. I really wish I had a girlfriend who would eat whatever I made.
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