Curator: Monte Mathews
OUR RECIPE FOR BISON MEATBALLS
The fact that there are actually buffalo in sufficient numbers, to provide meat anywhere is a true tribute to this animal. Not a true Buffalo, it is more correctly “Bison”. That’s the name The National Bison Association want to encourage. This distinguishes this American native from the Asian Water Buffalo and the African Cape Buffalo to which it is not related. But it’s a tough sell. Buffalo is ingrained in the history of the American West. And well it should be: this great beast was all but wiped out in one of the most ignominious slaughters in history. As the country pushed west of the Mississippi in the 1820s, "the plains were black and appeared in motion"wrote an unknown contemporary writer. These were the great herds of bison whose numbers have been estimated variously between 60 and 100 million animals. Weighing up to 3500 lbs., bison had fed and clothed the Plains Indians for hundreds of years. The killing of a single male bison provided 1250 lbs. of meat. But the buffalo’s role in Native American life hardly stopped at being a foodstuff. The hide was cured and used for clothing, teepees, saddles, harnesses, lassos, and bowstrings. Tendons and sinews became thread. The hair was braided into rope, the stomachs used for cooking pots and water buckets, the bladders for rafts. Horns became spoons and ladles. Even buffalo chips were used. Called “Prairie Coal”, they provided fuel in this largely treeless landscape.
Here at HipSilver, we salute Native American heritage every chance we get. So it is that we offer the work of George Burdeau, a member of the Blackfeet nation, Burdeau has been a prime time television producer/director, writer, and artist for the past forty years. At right, you can see his genius as he celebrates the connection between Native American and the American Bison.
In a matter of a very few years, the buffalo population was decimated in the west. In order to raise cattle on the land, early settlers slaughtered the free-ranging animals. As they built railroads, huge numbers of buffalo were dispensed of their right of way. Once the trains ran, the railroads hired professional gunmen who rode the rails killing any buffalo that wandered onto their tracks. Buffalo Bill Cody came by his name honestly. In one single year, working for the Union Pacific Railroad, he dispatched 4280 of the animals. But there was something even more sinister at work here. The Native Americans were so dependent on the animal that the white men believed that by eliminating it, they would eliminate the Indians themselves.
If the Plains Indians were proof that "you are what you eat", consider these facts: They had no reported incidence of cancer. They had no reported incidence of heart disease. Their average life span was 85 to 90 years of age and when they died, it was generally from lack of dental care. They could no longer eat what had sustained them and that, of course, was buffalo. By 1906, there were 260 buffalo in all of the United States. Fortunately, government protection was finally granted the animals. Today there are well over 100,000 bisen in public and private hands. Every year, 15,000 buffalos are brought to market, yielding some seven and a half million pounds of meat. They’re still concentrated in the West but they’re moving all over the country from New Hampshire to North Carolina.
I am always on the lookout for anything to break the protein monotony of chicken, beef, pork and fish. So when I was casting about for a new meatball recipe, I was pleased to see one from the Bison Council. The group is dedicated to promoting, preserving and stewarding the North American Bison. They’re a powerful force in getting their members “to maintain the highest standards and ideals of animal care and husbandry, sustainability, food safety, purity of ingredients and quality”. And at their root, they are driven by great affection for the “majesty, power and nobility of the North American Bison”. And if these meatballs are any indication, they are doing a spectacular job. HipSilver has shopped around to bring you the best in bison. Wild Idea is the brainchild of Dan O'Brien who says this of his superb Bison offerings.
And since you first eat with your eyes, we found the perfect dinnerware to spotlight your new discovery. It has a rustic hand and comes in an array of colors that is simply gorgeous. Mary Anne Davis made her first set of dinnerware for a client when she was just 17 years old. Now her studio in Spencertown, New York turns out Davistudio Fine Porcelain. We were so taken with everything we saw that we photographed our bison meatballs to give you some idea of the range of what’s on offer—all hand-glazed and of course dishwasher friendly. We love this dinnerware so much, we’d like to make a bold suggestion: if you’ve got a wedding gift to give, do away with the Granny China patterns and consider how young people live today. This wonderful collection is modern, clean and up-to-date with today’s taste for minimalism, color and craft.
Also on the menu, these glorious wooden platters! Cheese never looked better than when served on our artisanal cheeseboards from Joshua Kander. With his wife Kristen at his side, the Berkshires craftsman has an unerring eye for innovation, function and beauty. Every piece is an original, no two are identical so you know yours is a one-of-a-kind heirloom.
If you are as taken in by this story and the history of this noble animal, why not add this whimsical American made weathervane to your property. A handsome copper tone finish adds a hammered textured appearance to it. This weather resistant and durable finish has a nice reflective quality to it that causes the vane to glisten in the direct sunlight and is a beautiful way to observe the direction of the wind.
Now back to our meatballs: I made a few changes to the original recipe. What I discovered was that the meatballs are helped by stewing them in plenty of sauce. Spicy is a relative term: here I added Sriracha because we love spice. If you don’t, just eliminate it. I also made the meatballs in two sizes: one a bite sized appetizer to rival any Swedish Meatball. Talk about a conversation piece! I made a full-sized meatball that can take on any kind of spaghetti. They retain every one of their health benefits over beef with less fat and fewer calories and they deliver a bold taste. I chose to make them a center of the plate item that I served with pasta. It made a really special meal. Almost as special as a bison itself. RECIPE