Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.
(If that saying sounds familiar, perhaps you are a student of transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson? No? Well, Sam Elliott said it better — he says everything better — at the end of the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski.”)
I don’t know what kind of year you’re having, but if, like me, you are ready to turn the metaphorical tables, Austin restaurant the Russian House is hosting “Bear Week” next week.
Yes, you can eat the bear. Bear soup for $25. Bear pelmeni (a sort of Russian meat dumplings) for $35. A bear meat cutlet for $40. Or — and if you’re going to eat the bear, you might as well go for broke — all three and more for $80.
I sent a Facebook message to the Russian House asking what kind of bear they were serving. I presumed koala bear was right out and polar and panda were also pretty unlikely.
They replied that because the meat comes from a supplier in California, it’s likely black bear. The black bear is the most common bear — not at all endangered — and are predominantly vegetarian, though they will also scavenge and hunt meat as necessary.
So what does black bear taste like? An article in “Outdoor Canada” (and I’d trust the Canadians on this issue) calls it “similar to venison, only sweeter.” However, it also points out that “a skinned black bear has an uncanny resemblance to a human being, which can be disturbing to the unaccustomed.”
This Men’s Health article says that black bear meat is delicious, though “bear, it seems, is an acquired taste, like bourbon or heavy metal.”
And, for the more cultured, this NPR article, examines why bear meat has not — from flavor Russian roulette to teddy bears — become a more common sight in restaurants and in homes.
For those who want their wild fauna with a little more American atmosphere than, say, the Russian House, Wild Bubba’s Wild Game Grill in Elroy has served bear meat in the past. They currently don’t have any, but do have kangaroo, buffalo, camel and more on the menu.