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Saturday, October 3, 2009

In praise of manly men

The alarm went off at 4am. The Farmer sprung out of bed and dressed in the dark, trying not to wake me. The first member of his party had already arrived, tripping the sensor light outside. Within minutes I could smell coffee, and hear the quiet murmurings of the hunters in my kitchen.
It was the opening day of the season. But it really started at the Fisher Farm a week ago. The Farmer’s hunting party, a white-collar bunch comprising a retired scientist, a veterinarian, a fighter pilot, a metallurgist and a public servant, had already gathered a week prior to set up blinds, repair decoys and shoot skeet. And feast. They always feast on the previous season’s freezer holdings to make room for the new bounty. And occasionally they smoke cigars.
The hunters in our circle of friends follow the rules, which were designed to balance the natural order of things. They don’t bait, or ambush or chase their prey in a pickup truck. That is not hunting. And people who “hunt” that way are not manly men.
I am accustomed to being surrounded by women. I have no brothers; I grew up with a sister. I raised three daughters. I am not accustomed to an overwhelming amount of testosterone. But I am quickly getting used to it.
The Farmer gets very excited about hunting season. Hunting was part of his upbringing – his 83 year old father still hunts with him. They go without sleep, sit in the rain waiting for hours for the flock, and come home happy even if they didn’t shoot anything.
The Farmer has perfected his recipe for goose bourguignon, goose goulash, and duck a l’orange. We eat what he shoots. Our freezer is full of the meat we have raised and the meat he has hunted. I am proud.
When I was growing up, a gathering of manly men consisted of a bunch of teachers on a Friday night, beers in their hands and cigarettes in their mouths. They inside-joked and spoke their mysterious language and I loved them. My father was their leader, with his crisp dress pants and hearty laugh.
As a young mum, the definition of a manly man was someone who would take the baby from my exhausted arms, feed her, change her, put her to bed and then clean the kitchen for me.
One of the things that made me fall for my husband, way back on our first date, was the way that he went on and on about his children. He still gets misty when telling a story about something they did when they were his little golden-haired angels. That endearing quality, along with his hunky good looks and solid gold character, sealed the deal.
My manly man loves to cook. As a result, I rarely gain access to the kitchen at the Fisher Farm. During the week we are all rushed, so we nibble on leftovers and freezer food and anything we can get onto our plates in a hurry. On the weekend, the Farmer reigns supreme over the cuisine as he creates demi-glaces, roasted vegetable melees and grilled meats. But this week, he had to leave on a business trip. So I was handed the apron and the spatula.
I cooked one meat lover’s lasagne with regular pasta and one health-conscious, vegetarian lasagne with multi-grain pasta. My sister brought her chicken pasta casserole, which she found on the Pioneer Woman website. Mom brought a Caesar salad and two loaves of garlic bread. And we ate. Well. Don’t tell the Farmer. I don’t want him to stop cooking for me.
My manly man doesn’t spend hours in the gym, building a suit of armour from muscle.
His muscles were built from hard, honest work. And his character is solid gold. The Farmer does what he loves, and doesn’t make apologies for his somewhat old-fashioned way of looking at life. He cares if his family is hungry, or tired, or cold, and he does his best to make us comfortable. He tries to do the right thing every day and, in his own words, he sleeps well at night.
Here’s to manly men. Cheers!

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