WEDNESDAY marked a special occasion, and the Iroquois hounds seemed to know it! One of the groups that bought a private hunt with the Iroquois hounds back in May at the Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction scheduled their hunt that day, and so 1o couple of hounds, the full staff, the field secretary, and both Masters met at Dulin’s for an intimate meet. The field consisted of just seven riders, the “syndicate” that had purchased the privilege of spending a day out just for themselves.
They had asked to spend the morning learning as much as they could and seeing the hunt as much through huntsman Lilla Mason’s eyes as they could, and, by all accounts, it gave them a new perspective on hunting. The day began with a stirrup cup with port and sherry on offer.
Although the weather was gray, rain held off. It was a great day for the hounds and the riders, who got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride in the huntsman’s hip pocket, so to speak, and listen in on the staff radio to hear everything that happened. Call it a backstage pass to the hunt, complete with detailed commentary from Lilla.
In planning the hunt, Lilla had asked Eloise Penn–who bid for the private hunt on behalf of the syndicate at the auction–what the group wanted to gain from their private hunting day.
“I told her, ‘I want to be inside your head. I want you to tell me what you’re doing and why,'” explained Eloise. “And she did. It was amazing.”
The field consisted of Eloise, Nancy Clinkinbeard, Cheri Pulliam Clark, Debbie Jackson, Maggie Wright, Mary Moraja, and Catherine Breathnach, whose husband Cormac also was a whipper-in.
“I had no idea the amount of communication that has to go on between Lilla and the whips and the Masters about the hounds,” Eloise said. “I don’t know how Lilla can process all that information and do it so fast! It was overwhelming to me. And she has to make decisions right now. There isn’t time for thinking.
“We, as riders following Lilla, we’re back there having a good time, and we have no idea how much pressure is on her and how much she has to think about. When you’re in her back pocket like we were on Wednesday, it’s entirely different. It was a great educational day for the hounds, especially the puppies, and for us, too.”
Oh, yes, Paper was in attendance! He provided good entertainment early on when he appeared with his toy du jour (an empty plastic bottle this time) but he soon got down to the business of exploring coverts, which are especially thick this year. Seeing him also was a real highlight for Eloise.
“There was Paper, kind of looking up at me, and I said, “Hey, Paper, how are you?'” Eloise said. “And he cocked his head, like he was thinking, ‘Oh, she knows my name! Hi, how are you?’
“It made me feel so good to know a hound’s name. It really does make a difference when you know their names. It makes you appreciate them even more.”
After the hunt, the Hound Welfare Fund provided a tailgate of tomato soup with chili vodka (see recipe below), sandwiches (cherry tomato and brie, ham and Colman’s English mustard, and roast chicken with chive mustard butter), slabs of French vanilla pound cake, apple-cranberry casserole, and potato and tortilla chips with spinach artichoke dip, along with coffee, beer, or bottled water.
We’ve had several requests for the recipe for the soup. We thought for half a minute about trying to pass it off as an old family recipe perfected over generation after generation in the kitchens of ye olde Englande, but, well, actually we just got it out of The Field magazine, a favorite occasional luxury at Beagle House. Here it is, if you’d like to try it yourself (and it is very warming after a cold day out hunting):
FOR THE VODKA, you’ll need four chilis, split. The recipe calls for “scary-hot habaneros,” but our chef used two giant jalapenos.
FOR THE SOUP, you’ll need
- 4 celery sticks
- 4 small carrots
- 2 large onions
- 1 hot chili pepper
- 6 cloves garlic
- 50 grams or 2 ounces butter
- 5 tins premium chopped tomatoes, preferably good Italian ones (or so advises the all-knowing Field, with whom we are afraid of arguing!)
- 1.5 liters or 2.5 pints of chicken or vegetable stock (our chef used chicken)
- Salt and pepper to taste
From here we quote The Field, adding our own chef’s observations occasionally:
About a week before you want to make the soup, start by adding the split chili peppers to the bottle of vodka. It will be quite powerful after only a couple of days if that’s all the time you’ve got, but even better if you hang on for a week. (We had 24 hours, and, besides, we wanted to avoid causing any of the tailgaters to burst into flames, so we just left two in the bottle overnight)
Now go out and buy a hand blender, the most powerful you can find. Finely chop all the vegetables except the tomatoes and sweat them in a big pan with the butter for 10 minutes or so. … Add the stock and the tinned tomatoes, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Whizz the soup up until fully blended (with the hand blender), then pass it through a sieve (we didn’t do this, preferring it to remain a little thicker for the tailgate). Season well and transfer to a warmed thermos. Add as much chili vodka to each mug as is seemly and enjoy.
FYI, this recipe and several others that are equally wonderful-sounding are in the current issue of The Field, available at Joseph-Beth for about half your children’s college fund or several years of board for your horse. But the pictures, in fairness, are GORGEOUS, and the recipes are really, really good. Why not splurge?
By the way, we mentioned that the private hunt was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s not entirely accurate: you can bid for yours at the next Hound Welfare Fund auction on March 20! And remember … those winning bids are fully tax-deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated goes straight the retired hounds. We hope to see you there–and on the hunt field!