Tuesday, May 20, 2008

You Have Died of Dysentery

Growing up, one of my favorite games was The Oregon Trail. Really, I think it was one of everyone's favorites. There were no graphics to speak of, as it was played on the then ubiquitous Apple IIe. There were no prostitutes, nor princesses to rescue. No street fighters, no tomb raiders, no paladins nor mages. Hell, it was technically educational. And yet, against all odds, we loved it.

One of the best parts of the game was getting to go hunting. Often you would only "find" a rabbit, but if you were lucky, you'd nab a bison, providing you and your wagon with plenty of delicious meat. Of course, what the game never mentions is that bison were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Ooops.

Luckily, the bison are making a comeback. And weirdly, their populations are growing, in a large part, because of an increased demand for bison meat. It may seem counter-intuitive, but demand for bison meat encourages ranch owners to raise bison. Higher demand for bison meat means more ranchers raising more bison. Thus one of the best ways to preserve bison, is to ... eat bison meat.

Of course none of that was going through my mind on Sunday when my friends and I saw a vendor at the farmer's market selling grass-fed bison. Mostly I was thinking, "Wow! Now I can be just like a pioneer!" So we bought some, along with some strawberries, apricots, artichokes, and cheese.

Dinner was a sumptuous affair, and probably way better than any pioneer meal could possibly have been. Goat cheese brie with bread. Artichokes with butter and lemon. Vodka strawberry lemonade. Grilled apricots. But the piece de resistance? The bison burgers.

I am not the biggest meat eater. I was a vegetarian for four years, and I still don't eat much meat. I still generally prefer the taste of vegetables.

But this? Was the best damn burger I have ever, ever eaten. Seriously, I never knew meat could taste so amazing.

So let's see. Helping to preserve a once-endangered species? Check! Eating grass-fed meat low in cholesterol and high in omega-3? Check! Local? Check! Delicious? Check! Pretending to be a pioneer? Check!

I mean really, what's not to love? Now if you'll excuse me, I have a river to ford.

16 comments:

Burbanmom said...

OH MY GOD I LOVE OREGON TRAIL TOO!! My parents send me to nerd camp back in the early 80's and we played it on our TRS-80's!

Holy crap I'm old.

PS... you can play it on Facebook, you know!

Kaitlin said...

But if you got too good at hunting and shot too much food, the game wouldn't let you take it all back to the wagon. So, you would just leave it out on the prairie to rot. Hmmm...

In retrospect, the game should have deducted points for being wasteful.

Student Doctor Green said...

Oregon Train is quite possibly the best 80s computer game ever created. It was so hard to get there as the farmer. I can remember getting so pissed when I'd get supplies stolen. It's too bad they won't bring back a more sophisticated version.

Jennifer said...

I played that game SO MUCH! Loved it. The sense of satisfaction when you finally made it to Oregon!

I've never had bison... not likly to as a vegetarian for 20 years. But I'll mention it to my husband, who is not!

arduous said...

YOU CAN PLAY IT ON FACEBOOK?!?!? Holy crap, I think we've found our new time-waster.

Kaitlin, I forgot about that but you're right. They should have deducted points for being wasteful.

SDG, I think there is a more sophisticated version? I think it is still being sold. I just don't think it's played much. Sad really.

Jennifer, yup, it was very satisfying. I remember being so furious with the game when I ended up dying of whatever the hell.

Donna said...

I had a love/hate relationship with that game. I loved being Laura Ingalls, but I'd get so upset when members of my party died that I finally quit playing. Probably just as well since I was an adult by then...

CAE said...

I've never heard of this game but it sounds like fun! Is it similar to SimCity and Civilisation etc?

Bison is pretty damn tasty. I've also tried caribou, but it was actually a pretty nasty burger. I've also had some excellent venison in Scotland.

My husband spent some time living in a tiny town in the very Northern tip of BC, where his Dad used to hunt for their meat. He has eaten moose, bear and lynx. He said the moose and bear were excellent but he would definitely never eat lynx again. The story about his Dad felling a moose with a single shot from a rabbit gun is still a local legend...

Lori in Webster Groves said...

Wow, the discussion of Oregon Trail really takes me back. We played this game in elementary school - third and fourth grade as I recall - and I LOVED it! I think we worked with the paper version rather than computers, though.

We have recently discovered a bison rancher who appears regularly at our local farmer's markets, and just found out that he's participating in our CCSA. Very exciting! The rancher posts bison-specific information on his website - as bison has a lower fat content than beef, it doesn't always work well to do a direct substitution.

At any rate, I love the fact that we live here on the plains (Missouri) and we get to eat traditional plains fare.

arduous said...

Donna, hah, I felt that way too, until I had played the game a bajillion times. Then I'd mix it up and sometimes I would decide I hated a member of my wagon and would be secretly pleased when they died. I don't know why.

Cae, yeah it's more of an American educational game. I don't suppose you studied the Oregon trail in 5th grade in the UK... It is sort of like the Sims if the Sims were pioneers traveling across the continent.

Lori, paper game? We also did a real life simulation of the game. Like, where we were pioneers and our wagon consisted of other classmates and we had to write short stories in our journal about our travails. I really really hated fighting when I was a kid. I mean REALLY hated fighting. So other kids had stories about fighting Indians and such, and my stories were always about how we were going to fight, we were going to fight, and oh! miraculously the Indians just went away. How weird!

eco 'burban mom said...

Oh, the Apple IIe, my first computer love affair. Until I got my Commodore 64 anyway! And, when my parents sent me away to computer camp (when I wanted cheerleading camp...) we played that game instead of doing our "lessons"! Ah, fond memories!

Anonymous said...

Arduous my favorite,

Um, a fjord is a finger of ocean (tidal) extending into the land. See Norway.

To cross a river without a bridge or boat is to FORD the river.

Don't ask how I know this stuff, suffice it to say that my skills are all linguistic and useless on the trail.

Unless the Indians speak sanskrit.....

arduous said...

Eco Burb, I remember the Commodore! I think that's what I had at home. It was pretty awesome.

Anon, oh my God, you're right. I had a feeling that was wrong, but I couldn't figure out why. I am so dumb. I'll fix it. :)

Student Doctor Green said...

A more sophisticated version?

*SHAKING WITH DELIGHT*

I know what I want for my 25th b-day!!!!!! YEAH!

arduous said...

Dude, try out the free version on Facebook Burbs mentioned. It's pretty good.

Buy Steroids Online said...

Good words for remembering the game of my childhood!

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