It’s just easier to spend money with a credit card. That slide, beep, and sign here (or don’t) distract us from the outsourced transaction. They protect us from the math of our money. Someone else is forking over our cash, so it doesn’t hurt in that moment. But, hand over a stack of bills and feel the burn. More than once, I’ve reached for my wallet for an oh-so-important Cabela’s impulse-buy and, when I saw the cash escaping, I turned around and left the store. It’s hard to waste bills. There’s nothing standing between them and you but the recollection of all it took to earn them.
Food is similar. It also has math.
The other day, I threw out about half a spoiled roast. “Boy,” my grandmother’s voice came from the freezer or somewhere. And, I was a little ashamed that I’d let myself get so disconnected from the simple arithmetic of food. The math of meat is this: Someone has to kill an animal, clean it, and cook it. Vegetables, fruit, and other foodstuffs require a similar investment of time and resources. The more of that we outsource, the less connection we have to our food; and when our only investment in our food comes through a detached slide, beep, sign here, we haven’t really invested at all. Waste comes easy.
Now, we can’t all feed ourselves by farming, gardening, hunting, fishing, and so on. And, of course, some folks dislike gardening as much as others disdain hunting. Fair enough. But we can all try to find our own preferred way of reconnecting with the food we eat.
After the spoiled roast debacle, I decided to do just that by hunting invasive feral hogs with a couple of friends, one of whom had never before hunted. We drove four hours; hunted for four more; shot, skinned, and quartered three feral hogs (thereby turning them into meat); drove four hours back home; cured the pigs for three days; wrapped them in freezer paper and froze them. I saved one shoulder that I brined and prepared for the grill and then spent 14 mindful hours cooking it in a smoker.
It seems like a hell of an investment for a piece of meat. It is. And, it was a blast. I spent good times with good friends. I learned some things. And, most importantly, I was reminded of the hard work that goes into every piece of meat, every vegetable, every shrimp we eat. Someone is doing the hard work for us. They’re feeding us. Every once in a while, we should feed ourselves.
In the end, the hogs filled the better part of three freezers. Cooking entertained us for a day. The delicious meat fed us for several more. The bones are in the freezer too, awaiting their chance to make crockpot beans. And, one thing’s for sure: There will be no wasting it.
So, here’s a call to farms, arms, and fishing poles: Think about how can you simplify the math of food at home. Take part in the food chain. And, I’ll bet you waste less food as a result. If nothing else, it’ll make your grandma proud.
Here are some ideas and resources to get you started:
If your family has land, you have it made. Get out there and plant, fish, hunt, forage. Even if you just have a yard or a windowsill, plant a tomato?
Hunting ranches such as JB Hunting Ranch (near Houston, Texas) offer couple of different hunting opportunities: trophy hunts and, what are informally and unflinchingly known as “meat hunts” – that is after all what hunting is really about, meat. At the end of the day, the meat you get from the latter hunt costs about the same per pound as it would from the grocery. The guys at JB Hunting Ranch are good-natured professionals who will make sure you have a good, safe, successful experience and a really good time. They have hunts for whitetail deer, axis deer, feral hogs, and other game.
Hunting ranches can be found across Texas and around the country. Search the Internet for “Hunting Ranch” in your area or look on Craig’s List for other opportunities near you. Even if you don’t want to shoot, talk to them about how you can watch and learn on a ride-along.
Whether you hunting, fishing, or foraging, our system of public lands has affordable opportunities for you. The Bureau of Land Management alone manages more than 260 million acres of public lands. Here are some specific example resources. Look for others in your area.
- Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)
- National Forests
- State Parks & Forests
- Federal Refuges
- Military Areas
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Interested in finding or starting a community garden?
- The American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada.
Rather get involved in a food Co-Op? Check out these three Co-Op locators.
Whether you’re hauling hay, cleaning fencerow, harvesting produce, or planting trees, a day on the farm will earn your supper. Stop by the farmers market and ask if you can volunteer for them for a while. They may just put you to work.
- Otherwise, check out Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
Hopefully, these will help you get out there. Let us know how it goes and we’ll post your stories here.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, follow the water.