Category Archives: Food

A response to the death of an elk

Recently, a fellow parenting friend posted on Facebook about how he and his one year old daughter had just witnessed the death of an elk. Although the killing effected him and has since also affected me as I’ve spent the last almost week pondering this exchange between he and some of his friends about the situation. I also wanted to position an oppositional viewpoint as I grew up in a household of non-hunters yet I now find myself planning and working towards become a bow hunter so I can bring honest free range organic meat for my family’s dinner table. I’ve wanted to respond for sometime now, but just wasn’t exactly sure how to best put my words, so here goes:

Granted anytime an animal dies there is sadness, this issue is extremely complicated and more thought may need to be given to this topic. Instead of avoiding it, this is a perfect opportunity to have open dialog about what this all means and how each of us processes death for food.

First off, no one on this Facebook thread actually knew the hunter and know exactly what they went through to get to that exact point that they witnessed There is circumstantial evidence based on one’s own observations. The hours of scouting, tracking, and woodsmanship that may have gone into this hunt had happened long before the trigger was pulled.  Or maybe not. We just don’t know. Additionally. it could also appear that to take a shot into a herd of 30 elk, and dropping what possibly sounds like the herd bull elk in its tracks could also potentially be that of an expert marksman. To not harm any other animals in the herd and to thread that bullet to drop the elk that fast, does not seem clumsy to me. We also don’t know how many times this hunter had been out in the woods hunting this elk, this could have possibly been after many trips to the woods in a relatively short hunting season.

Secondly, for a person to chime in about the use of knives is ridiculous. There are hunts in Hawaii where people track wild hogs with dogs and then once they corner the animal they jump in with a large bowie knife and slit the throat of the hog. So in fact, it’s done. To me that doesn’t seem like a very humane way to take the life of another animal. It should be a quick kill. I’d actually be willing to bet that what this person was really wanting to discuss was the idea of “fair chase.”

Fair Chase Defined:
Fair chase is defined by most as a situation where the hunted is not put in a disadvantaged position and has a real chance to escape.
In the wild, this means you don’t shoot a moose when he is swimming across a lake, you don’t walk up to a caribou mired in the mud and shoot him and if you find two helpless locked-up bucks you do every thing you can to get them apart and let them escape unharmed.
Some extend the definition “fair chase” to not hunting over bait, food plots, watering holes or any other artificial means of concentrating wild animals. Others believe hunting islands, blind canyons or using natural terrain blockades isn’t fair chase either. Short of obeying state and federal fair chase game laws, the concept can get pretty gray pretty fast. Basically it is up to the individual hunter or club or organization to draw the fair chase line in the sand.
Wild animals in nature are always aware of their surroundings and the possibility of predators. Their flight-or-fight is always on alert. That is the reality of their environment. The human notion that if a one runs into a lion in Africa or a bear in the Pacific NW, it’s going to be able to feel remorse for attacking you is ludicrous. Ultimately, we too are animals, but with the ability of reason & rationalization. Both sides of the hunter vs hunted have a chance to win. The hunted animal can flee or attack and the hunter chooses when is the perfect opportunity to take a clean ethical quick kill shot. It’s not a free-for-all in the woods.
My last point would be to all those who commented on the original post, as I’d like to see how many of them would admit that they are actually omnivores and eat meat too, even if on occasion? It would seem that they prefer to get their meat from either their grocery store butcher or from their local farmer and let them do the dirty work of killing their food versus taking their own responsibility for what they choose to eat. I do know that the original poster is a vegetarian and I totally respect that. Yes, there is less blood on a vegetarian’s hands than those of a meat eater. It should be known that animals die so other’s can eat, even if you choose to eat veggies. They just might be smaller animals like field mice, rabbits, moles, etc. They can get chewed up in a tractor or a combine as a farmer is clearing a field (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1). In his book, The Mindful Carnivore, author Tovar Cerulli mentions:
“In my latter days as a vegan, I was shocked to learn how many whitetails are killed by farmers. Considering that deer were being shot to bring us tofu, how vegetarian were our stir-fries? Considering that they were even being shot to bring us greens and strawberries from the organic farm just down the road, how vegetarian were any of our meals?” (http://www.tovarcerulli.com/2011/03/deer-part-of-every-stew-every-salad-every-stir-fry/)

This too is a fact of nature, so as you see it’s not that there are a shortage of complete morons in this world there are those who consider and accept the ramifications of their actions for sourcing their own food and realize it is more complicated issue than just a quip on Facebook.

Cascadian Sea Salt

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Over the course of the last few years or so I’ve really been focusing on finding local food to support my family and in so doing supporting the local farming community. Through this exploratory process I’ve also wanted to find out not only what I could buy locally, but more specifically what I could grow and produce on my own. I find this search very empowering as not only am I in search of a more sustainable way to live, but I also find it very liberating to work towards a goal of self reliance.

I’ve made sea salt in the past but I used a gallon and it was very time and energy consuming. This time around I only used a 1L Naglene bottle and filled it when I was off shore in the Puget Sound. Now, I’m sure there are concerns about what might be in the water, but just like any food in today’s day and age there is an inherent long term risk. Even with the USDUH saying this food is ok doesn’t mean there are not recalls anyway. I’d rather know where my food is coming from and take what precautions I can and take my own responsibility.

If you’d like to proceed with making your own sea salt, here are the steps that I do (takes about an hour for 1L)

1. Gather sea water
2. Filter the water as you pour the sea water into a large stock pot (you want large as you want to boil it and the more surface area you have the quicker this goes). I use a colander with a paper towel or you could use a paper coffee filter.
3. Vigorously boil seawater, uncovered, for at least 20 min. I do 30 minutes. Your goal is to have the water evaporate and leave behind the salt crystals.
4. Pour the reduced sea water into a pyrex lasagna pan (you should already have some salt crystals appearing). You may even need to scrape the stock pot to get all the crystals.
5. Bake the sludge filled seawater in the pyrex for another 30 min at 350ºF
6. Once these steps are all done your pyrex should have all salt crystals, now just scrape into a container and you’re ready to use the sea salt.

You now have 100 mile sea salt!

Field Notes: Meat on the Table

The on-going debate about our food has the consumer struggling to make decisions about what to eat. It’s a challenge as the Big Food industry is cheaper and during these tough economic times where every penny counts, it’s hard to pay for more expensive food. It’s true in my household, the downside to all of that, which is where I personally struggle, is how it affects health. Not just in me alone, but more in a we as a society. We may be paying for cheaper food, but we are paying more for health care, medications and the like. That’s not a red or blue issue, that’s just what it is. Either way we are paying more for cheap food.

This battle against the giant is on-going and it’s all over the news, but I think many choose not to look at it, instead we find ourselves buying the crap food at the grocery store because it’s what we can afford. I feel guilty when I buy that pork shoulder for $2/lb, but that $8 shoulder can yield at least 3 meals for my family. I know that damn pig is hopped up on drugs, yet I find myself in a paradox of what I can do. I struggle.

This week’s field notes is about food and mostly meat. These are the stories that I found interesting to this topic.

Big Food fighting GMO labeling
http://grist.org/food/big-food-puts-its-back-into-fighting-gmo-labeling-in-california/

Antibiotics In Meat
http://www.motherearthnews.com/sustainable-farming/antibiotics-in-meat-zwfz1207zhun.aspx

All you need to know to eat good, grass-fed meat
http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/grass-fed-meat-zm0z12jjzkon.aspx

New Cuts of Meat Slash Prices, too
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/foodwine/2018724361_groc26cheapcuts.html

Venison vs Beef
http://www.livestrong.com/article/326549-nutritional-values-of-venison-vs-beef/

Field Notes

There’s been  a lot of reporting in the news lately about our food in both in not-so-good light and in some promising rays . Over the course of the last week I’ve selected a few to pass along and share with the great collective. This is going to be a new catergory I plan to incorporate called Field Notes, where I can pass along what I believe are useful links and/or news stories to share for the common good. It could be monthly or it could be weekly, so come on back and check in on the Waxing Mind.

The meat industry and the concerns around their ‘farming’ practices are once again a topic of an NPR story. Again, it’s all around us and yet we continue, myself included, to bury our heads and then unwrap that cellophane wrapped cut from our grocery store and we still eat it. I’m making progress in moving forward with hunting and fishing my own meat, but it takes time, so my immediate issue is how to fend for it in the mean time.
Assessing Consumer concerns about the Meat Industry

The mere fact that this is even a story and this is even going on, just is so sad. That these PA minimum wage workers use the past dated food to feed their family. There is no need for a food shortage anymore.
School Cafeteria Workers

My wife and I just hit up our farmer’s market this past weekend and it was the second market this season. While we were there we picked up some kale, not really knowing what to do with it, but we also know that its a superfood packed with nutrients. In the past we’ve just sauted it with olive oil and garlic, but I wanted to try something different and then I saw this tweet. Love it when life works out that way. Now I just need to decided which way to try it.
10 ways to Prepare Kale

Even in the face of bad farming practices that are not sustainable or even that healthy. I remain optimistic about the future of farming, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has been doing work to promote progress in the food industry and currently there is the possibility for some changes that US senate is debating right now in  congress for our Farm Bill, for some additional info check out:
Food Revolution

If you are up for the change, and like me, want to support your local small farmer then I’d encourage you to take action here:
Food Farm Bill

First Foraged Food: Stinging Nettles

About a month ago, I took my first foraged walk with the intentions of finding plant food in the wild. As I strolled quietly with my eyes alert in a large, heavily wooded city park I started noticing vast patches of stinging nettles, they had yet to go to flower. I donned my leather gloves, unfurled my paper bag, grab the shears out of my back pocket and went to work gathering the top 6-8″ of the plant.

As a child playing in the 5 acre woods that enveloped our A-frame home I had numerous run in’s with the common stinging nettle. Often times my exposed legs or arms would come under siege by the stinging hairs of this plant. The itching usually waned into some bumps and welts that eventually passed a few days later. The sting was really nothing more than an annoyance. I only mention this story as it is a reminder of why I’d chosen to eat them. One, I can easily 100%, without a doubt, identify these plants. There are no opportunities for me to miss identify them. Two, in some odd way I think of it as me overcoming their defense mechanism and ultimately winning a battle. Lastly, they are a true superfood loaded with vast nutrients that are good for our bodies and best of all they are free—both in cost and from pesticides.

According to Wikipedia, stinging nettles have a flavor similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and are rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. In its peak season, stinging nettles contain up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. In a Livestrong article:

A 1-cup serving of blanched stinging nettles contains 37 calories and 0.1 g of fat. One cup contains 6.6 g of carbohydrates and 2.4 g of protein. Including stinging nettles in your diet gives you a huge boost in vitamin A. A 1-cup serving contains 1,790 IU of this vitamin, nearly three times the amount you need in a single day. Vitamin D works with calcium to strengthen your teeth and bones, although its main role in the body is to normalize the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your bloodstream. Your body is able to store extra vitamin A, so the additional vitamins you consume are not wasted. Stinging nettles also serve as an excellent source of vitamin K, a vitamin your body requires for blood clotting. Each 1-cup portion contains 369 to 493 percent of the daily recommended intake. Like vitamin D, your body can store vitamin K for later use.

Over this past weekend, I took Hank Shaw’s recipe from his book Hunt, Gather, Cook and his blog to morph into my own. I created the nettle dough, but since I lack a pasta machine, I hand rolled out sheets and then tried to evenly space apart ricotta and spicy Italian sausage filling for ravioli’s. I put the second sheet on top, pressed the edges together, and adhered the dough between the rows to create the pillows. Then utilizing one of my pizza cutters I cut along the edges and in-between the rows to form individual raviolis.  I boiled them up and tossed in some of my homemade, backyard pesto from last season’s garden. All in all this meal’s ingredients were pretty damn local. The salt for the flour was seawater that last summer I had boiled down, the nettles I had foraged from Seattle only 25 miles away, the eggs came from a local farmer, so as for the pasta dough only the actual flour wasn’t sourced locally. I’m challenging myself to find it local though and I think I know of a place up north. The basil in the pesto was from my garden while the pine nuts and olive oil where not. Lastly the garnished tomatoes, we’re organic, but not local.

I’m very proud of this meal and am aware of every ingredient that I put into it and ultimately what I consumed for my body. This mindful meal was, albeit time consuming, was so richly rewarding.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinging_nettle
http://www.livestrong.com/article/350785-stinging-nettles-nutrition/#ixzz1wGgkl5Rr
http://honest-food.net/2012/02/06/nettle-pasta/