If you think about them enough, wolves will haunt your dreams. They certainly haunted mine last night…
I push open the door and walk into the saloon, my white cowboy hat pulled low on my forehead. The waitress calls across the crowed bar, “Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” I shout back. “I’ll have a llama steak.” Suddenly, the room falls silent as only a bar in wolf country can get. A loan dart sails through the air and misses the dartboard, lodging in the wall with a loud twang. A grizzled man in a black cowboy hat grips the bar with a big hairy hand and braces his back against the wall. He turns toward me, staring at me with one fake eye. “Partner,” he says, “Can’t you be just a little more sensitive?” We got a llama, Muffy, and I sure don’t want to lose him. It’s no fun to see your critters torn apart.” “Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. But it’s not like people don’t eat llamas, especially in South America. They make good jerky.”
Another guy turns to me. “I raise sheep for a living,” he says. “But I got pets, too, dogs and horses. Everybody has a pet that they like. If they want to keep exotic pets like llamas, well, OK.”
Muffy’s owner straightens in his chair. “That’s livestock, pal. The Montana Department of Livestock lists llamas as livestock, just like your little pet horse. And as for the “llamas are exotic” story, I’m gonna have to rearrange some of your facts. Llama skeletons from the Pleistocene have been found in North America. Horse bones, too. So what this means is that, like your pet horse, llamas were on this continent way back when.”
“Sorry, pardner” the sheep guy says. “Your llamas are livestock.” “No problem,” says llama guy. “I’m just a little sensitive these days, all them wolves... Biologists say wolves are skittish of humans. I ain’t no wolf biologist, but I know them wolves are smart, and they make decisions based on what they think they can get away with. We can’t even toss a crumpled-up beer can in their general direction without going to jail, and I’d bet my good eye that they know by now that we humans ain’t gonna do nothin’ except jump up and down and scream. Them wolves won’t stay skittish for long.”
So the sheep guy says, “I hear you, partner. I’m into the non-lethal control tactics myself. But maybe you’d be interested in this business I’m getting into, called “Predator-Friendly”(PF) animal products. If you promise not to use lethal control tactics while defending your livestock, you can slap the PF label on your product, and charge a higher price for it. The wife even got in on the deal. She’s knitting the wool from my PF sheep into hats and sweaters, slapping on the PF label, and selling them to fancy boutiques in big cities. Heck, she’s even got a Web site! Them urban wolf lovers can’t get enough of this PF stuff.”
“I’ve heard them llamas make some nice wool,” says the sheep guy. “You might want to look into it, see if you can make a buck. Heck, maybe there’s a even market for your meat.”
And then I woke up. But all morning the questions followed me around like happy butterflies. Why not market predator-friendly sheep and llama wool, or even value-added products made from PF wool? How about predator-friendly Ninemile cheese? A ranch in Belgrade—Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool Company—is doing PF marketing, with good results. Why not here?
Time Sensitive Hot Tip
Due to the current shortage of llama meat in the United States, I will not give out my famous recipe for llama stew. But I will discuss one of the stew’s principal ingredients: shallots.
Those of you who have ever tried growing shallots probably did so because they are so darn flavorful and buttery when you cook them that they practically eliminate the need for garlic and onions. Well, some of you may have noticed at the Good Food Store that Roaring Lion Organics in the Bitterroot easily has the biggest, most flavorful shallots in town. Rod Daniel from Roaring Lion explains: “We start our shallots from seeds in February, in flats. Then we transplant them in May. That’s the way to get the biggest shallots.”
“Great,” you say. “Thanks, Chef Boy Ari, for telling us in May what we should have known in February.” Ahem. Still, the good folks at Roaring Lion Organics will be selling a limited quantity of shallot seedlings at the Bitterroot Valley Community Farmer’s Market in Hamilton (next to the museum) on May 5, between 9 and 12:30 p.m. If you want to be growing shallots like a rock star, then show up early for your share—and watch out for flying elbows.
By the way, for fertilizing those shallots, you can’t do much better than llama poop.
E-mail Chef Boy Ari at: firstname.lastname@example.org.