Food has always been one of the most important aspects of life for me. A good meal is worth living for. When you get up in the morning and go out to find a spot that looks right for morels and then spend three-fourths of a day hunting mushrooms, come home and eat those same morels; that is living. When you raise a chicken from a yellow fuzz ball into a bright eyed foraging monster, who then graces your table with succulent, flavorful meat and a soup that transports you back to grandma’s kitchen in the dead of winter; that is living. When you know where everything on your plate but the salt, pepper and olive oil came form, and saw them born, tucked the seeds into the ground and picked them out of the earth; that is living.
I don’t want to eat an animal that I don’t know. I want to pay respect to those creatures that put their trust in our species and who give up their life, free will to give us of themselves. I don’t want to eat an animal that lived continually frustrated by it’s environment unable to find a clean place to rest, grass to eat, ground to scratch or clean air to breath. I don’t want to eat an animal that only knew humanity as something to fear and died still in fear. Alone, confused and with no love, compassion or respect, where no one looked in its eyes before killing it. Having known it from it’s first breath to it’s last; being humbled by the fragility of life. I want to eat a steak or an egg from an animal that knows what it means to be a cow or a chicken. Who had a life that was interesting and fulfilling. The best life it can have during it’s short time here.
I have had people say, ” it’s not worth the work”. When I hear that I know they have never had the connection to their food that I have been able to have. You don’t see it at as “work” you see it as a way of life. Yes, its physical labor, pain, stress, frustration, exhaustion, blood, tears, tedious tasks that must be done and details that cannot be overlooked. But, it is also satisfaction, joy, aw, that smile that comes from a thing done right that is good. It’s the taste of a meal earned by your own effort and the effort of those you love. It’s looking at that egg and knowing what hen laid it and when. It’s that tomato plant who greats you every morning who’s smell means summer to you. It’s a salad that was just assembled from your garden. That you pick earwigs and weeds out of. It needs no dressing. Salt, pepper, oil and vinegar are almost too much. Until you have eaten a salad that looks like a garden bed and tastes like you are eating the essence of green life; you don’t know what greens are.
The many people that eat their boxed, wrapped, priced food probably find it hard to imagine a life where food is something that doesn’t come from a store. I truly can say I pity them. I can also say I want to feed every single one of them dinner. Even the most religious eater of processed foods laden with addicting substances can have their eyes opened by a meal prepared with care, attention and after a walk through the garden, collection eggs and looking into the eyes of a creature who’s sibling, child or cousin you are about to eat.
At this moment in life I have had to choose to experience that world of fake unconnected food. I still have plenty of the real stuff but in order for me to accomplish my goals I will have to eat more than a few meals composed of priced food. The experience has only made me value real food all the more now that I have lived the alternative.
You, the person reading this who wants to learn how to be in charge of your food. You have been robbed of many generations of your family’s food culture. I can never, nor can anyone, give you that back but you can make a new one that is just as vital and vibrant. It starts with one decision in the kitchen; make your own spaghetti sauce, biscuits or pancakes. One decision in your yard; take out lawn and make a garden, cover your patio or balcony with pots. One tearful first butchering, one triumphant first forage. Don’t expect it to be easy or fast or simple. You should have had the benefit of learning from childhood how to do all these things. Consider it a triumph, a true accomplishment, to be learning it all… from scratch.