An old acquaintance of mine recently moved to Texas. That may not sound like breaking news, but my friend, Georgia Pellegrini, just happens to be an awesome chef and a crack shot who hosts some badass hunting and cooking retreats, so her presence in the Lone Star state...well, as Martha Stewart might say, "It's a good thing." Admittedly, I'm biased in my fandom of Georgia, but maybe you will be too after hearing a bit more of her story.
When I first met Georgia, she was carrying a textbook, not a rifle. It was early 2002 and we were both seniors in college. She planned to go into finance and I thought I was on my way to medical school. Ten years later, we both work in the food industry. Go figure.
Appearances can definitely be deceiving. I'll be the first to admit that I would have never envisioned Georgia coolly picking off pigeons or leading groups of other hunters in pursuit of wild boar. Born and raised in New York City, Georgia radiates a formidable intelligence and classic beauty that suggest Wall Street more than wilderness. Georgia herself admits that with the exception of occasionally fishing for trout for breakfast on her grandfather's farm, her experiences catching her own food during the first two decades of her life were limited.
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That all changed, ironically, when she went to work in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. Life as an analyst proved dissatisfying and in the wake the financial crisis, Georgia forced herself to question what really made her happy. The short answer: food. This is not to say Georgia's gustatory interests are at all simple or unsophisticated. After earning her degree at the French Culinary Institute in New York, she went on to work in several of the city's most prestigious restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern. She was happier than she was on the trading floor, but what lingered was a desire to really get at the source of fine ingredients. Food Heroes, Georgia's first book, chronicles her exploration of the world of obscure artisan food products, and most important, the people who passionately carry on the traditions behind them.
Georgia, however, wasn't content to simply watch others forage, and eventually started picking up a gun herself on hunting expeditions. Her experiences hunting wild boar, javelina, squirrel and other regional game meat treasures became the subject for her second book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time. The success of this book prompted her to launch a series of themed hunting expeditions targeted to women. During these "Girl Hunter" weekends, held in various locations across the United States, participants hunt alongside Georgia as well as learn tips about how to prepare and cook their catch. And while there's plenty of time spent trekking through muddy fields and damp woods, there's also gourmet, locally sourced cuisine, wine tastings, horseback-riding, fishing, and other forms of relaxation and revelry. All this fun takes places in the midst of stunning natural beauty (and some not-too-shabby accommodations).
What is perhaps most exciting is that the previously exclusively female Girl Hunter getaways have proved so popular that Georgia is planning her first-ever couples weekend in Texas Hill Country this October so the menfolk can come, too.
If I work up enough pluck, I'm gonna go and maybe I'll even persuade my husband or a pal to join me. The thought of shooting a rifle for the first time makes me a bit nervous, but who knows, maybe I have some Annie Oakley inside me.