By Gabby Zaldumbide and Paul McCarney
Teddy Roosevelt is known for many things: creating our public lands system, removing Indigenous peoples from their homelands, and refusing to kill a black bear after killing thousands of other animals across the world, thereby giving us our first movement towards recording what we would later come to know as the concept of “fair chase.”
What Teddy is least known for may just be his 1903 venison chili recipe.
Only recently discovered, Teddy’s venison chili recipe was carefully penned in one of his hunting journals. “If it’s brown, it’s going down the hatch,” he wrote about the list of ingredients. Teddy was known for his grit and fortitude, so it should be no surprise that this ethos extended to his formidable palate. This is where Teddy and Hunt to Eat have something in common: we believe that one should use all of the parts of the animals that you harvest, including the hide, bones, and poop.
Most hunters are accustomed to using scat signs as a way to scout and track deer. Scat lore abounds, with some hunters swearing they can tell the difference between a 12-point buck and a doe just by the size, shape, and glisten of its poop. Deer have a very efficient digestive system, absorbing most of the available nutrients from its food; however, as Teddy and other hunters knew, meals in the wild are anything but assured. Therefore, Teddy was a strong advocate of consuming all edible portions of an animal, including the nutrients left available in its poop.
Poop is what makes Teddy’s recipe so special. Roosevelt goes above and beyond the average sportsperson by deciding to consume every part of his harvests. Adding the semi-digested grasses and forbs woven in animal droppings into your chili will enhance its depth and flavor, whether you’ve got deer, elk, or rabbit scat on hand. Moreover, the partial digestive processes it has already passed through will make the fiber and other nutrients more readily available. In his recipe, Teddy adds in the scat in place of beans and was above the kind of squeamishness that might prevent many of us from putting the droppings straight into the pot, but you could also add the poop to your grind pile and include it in the ground venison in your chili.
- 1 lb ground venison
- ¼ lb poop (venison works best but rabbit would also work well)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 pepper, diced
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups stock
- 1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the ground venison to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the venison is browned, stirring occasionally.
Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cocoa powder, and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
Add the broth, diced tomatoes in their juice, and tomato sauce. Stir well.
Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pot from the heat. Add in the poop and mix well, leaving a little bit left to use as a garnish. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top each bowl with a few leftover chunks of poop, a dollop of sour cream, and grated cheddar cheese. Enjoy!