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Buffaloes and Bison and Ludo, Oh My!

Watch LUDO BITES AMERICA every Tuesday at 9P

More savory wit from our featured food blogger Diana Hossfeld, who writes the food blog Diana Takes a Bite.

“There’s buffalo by my house!” I piped up in the middle of Mrs. Johnson’s fifth grade U.S. History lesson about Native Americans. Heads whipped around to stare, Mrs. Johnson swallowed what I immediately identified as a skeptical snort and guffaw, and my confident declaration rapidly disintegrated into a physical declaration of embarrassment. My cheeks burned as I tried to explain how it was conceivably possible for there to be buffalo roaming around near my house in Newport Beach, California. I did not do well in pleading my case.

While my teacher’s arched eyebrows seemed to suggest I had no idea what I was talking about, I wasn’t completely off base. There actually was a buffalo ranch in Newport Beach at one point in time, and the street adjacent to my neighborhood was named for its proximity to that ranch – Bison Avenue. During my childhood there really were bison roaming in the fields near that street – American Bison, which are apparently also known as American Buffalo.

It was infinitely confusing for me to be taught that buffalo were almost completely wiped out during the late 1800s. I struggled to visualize them as an endangered species when my family drove by them every time we went to ACE Hardware or Pavilions, our local grocery store.

“They aren’t all dead!” I’d think, as Mrs. Johnson would prattle on about their slaughter at the hand of the white man. “I saw one yesterday when we were buying Honey Nut Cheerios!” After my first outburst, however, I learned to keep such thoughts to myself, and today, those bison that caused me such confusion have met with their own extinction in Newport Beach. Their former presence is marked only by a bronze statue that looms out from a housing complex.

These days, my only encounters with buffalo, bison or whatever it is I’m supposed to call them, is via menus and the health articles that claim their meat to be a far superior source of protein and iron than beef. “Use it instead of ground beef in a burger!” they suggest. And my thoughts immediately return to that wretched moment in Mrs. Johnson’s class. I can’t help but wonder how she and my classmates would have reacted if I’d declared, “I ate a buffalo for dinner last night!” instead of merely suggesting I’d driven by a herd on my way to school that morning. I’m guessing the reaction would have involved less laughter and more stunned silence. Perhaps a reaction not all that dissimilar to the one that Ludo’s encounter with a bison evokes in next week’s episode of LUDO BITES AMERICA. He gets right to the heart of the matter – literally. And I can finally rest my case.

Hungry for more? Tune in for a cross-country road trip with celebrity Chef Ludo Lefebvre as he reinvents American cuisine. LUDO BITES AMERICA airs Tuesdays at 9p on Sundance Channel.

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