I did something I probably shouldn’t have done today. I knew it was National Bison Day and my plan was to make some bison burgers when I got home from work with ground bison meat. That sounds exotic, although finding bison meat isn’t as hard as you think it is. Over the past years, bison has become identified as a healthier red meat and is promoted as having less fat and less calories than your run of the mill beef from a cow. Because of that, it finds its way onto the shelves at your grocery store. I had hoped to find some at the Farmer’s Market at the Vineyard and I gave a quick look around, but I didn’t see anything and I didn’t have the free time to do a table by table hunt. Instead I waited until the end of the day and stopped at Clements on my way home. I was pretty sure they carried it and I knew right where to look. To my delight, they did – neat little cubes of packaged ground bison. I went home and cooked them up just as I would a regular burger and then I served them for dinner. However, I didn’t tell Lola they were made from bison until she was halfway through her burger. I feel bad about that.
There’s actually some history to National Bison Day. It started back in 2012 as an annual commemoration of the ecological, cultural, historical and economic contribution of the American bison to the United States. Thanks to early Americans who liked to hunt (slaughter) bison, they were on the brink of extinction in the 19th century. However, they have recovered and the population is now considered as having “Near Threatened” status (which is still concerning). For the record, a bison is technically not a buffalo although people call them buffalos. Buffalos are only found in Africa and Asia (think water buffaloes). Early settlers thought the bison looked like the water buffalo, so they called them that and it kind of stuck. I also recently found out that real buffalo mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of a buffalo. That has no relevance here, but nonetheless an interesting fact. Regardless, today was a day where we should be honoring the bison for its cultural and ecological contributions to the history of North American and its native people. No better way to do that then by grilling some up and serving it on a bun.
If you were to ask people what bison tastes like they’d probably guess gamey. But it’s not really. In fact, it didn’t taste that much different than the meat of a cow. Perhaps it was a tinge sweeter and more tender. I liked it and that kind of surprised me. I was expecting a bad taste. Lola jumped right into her burger and was happily munching along. I cautiously asked her if she liked it, and she did, but she could tell I wasn’t telling her something. The truth had to come out so I said it was National Bison Day and that she was eating a bison burger. She wasn’t upset, but it almost changed her opinion on it. She was enjoying it all but with this new info, she wasn’t sure if she liked it. It’s funny how that happens. I’m sure she would have been onboard right from the get go had I just told her, but discovering this info halfway through was jarring. It may have changed the experience. In the end though, Lola liked it. It really made for a nice burger and something we would consider having again.
I know eating Bison is not the ideal way to appreciate what these magnificent beasts have meant to our continent and to the native culture. If you read about their history, you’ll discover a horrible story about slaughter and the destruction of a whole breed in the name of progress. Thankfully, conservationists have built up the population and they are back (of course they are now being commercially farmed for low fat meat, but that’s a different story). I’m not sure what all that means but I am glad that there are bison roaming our land right now and that the next generation, unless they eat them all, will see them too. I also learned that you shouldn’t hide what types of food you are serving from those you love. It was a risky move mostly because Lola was traveling the next day (she had a 6 am flight out of Boston), so I served her a meat that she never eaten before hours before she was about to be buckled in for take off. That could have created a situation. She liked it though and there were no issues otherwise. From now on though, I’ll be honest about what’s on the table.
Next up: National Doughnut Day
Info from Wikipedia