The guy beside me held a razor sharp knife.
His hands were covered in blood and he was smiling broadly.
I smiled back and agreed with his last statement spoken to the assembled crowd.
”Look at all this beautiful meat, if you wanted to buy this at the supermarket, you would pay a fortune… if you could get it at all.”
I was interviewing Jason Haetana, a fine hunter and good friend of mine as we carried out our “Hunter to Punter” wild food demo at the Wellington Local Wild Food Challenge in New Zealand. Skinning, butchering, cooking and serving a large Red Stag. The deer had been hunted carefully and shot precisely to preserve all the cuts of meat, with complete nose to tail focus on utilizing the whole precious animal, not just the prime cuts with antler trophies.
The spectators gathered around us were a huge mix of people from all walks of life, with a great mob of kids right up front to get as close to what was happening as possible.
A typical interactive scene at a Local Wild Food Challenge – just how I love it!
Once broken down into recognizable cuts, the beautiful dark red and white fatted venison was handed over to a local chef, who along with a young helper from the elementary school, prepared two delicious dishes from both the prime and ‘secondary’ cuts of venison.
Better Understanding of Wild Resources
Local Wild Food Challenges community focused, culinary adventure competitions in which you must hunt, forage, fish, grow and gather wild ingredients. Bringing people together and drawing attention to how we look at what we eat and understanding wild food resources.
Simple to enter and accessible to all ages, entries may be hot or cold, liquid or frozen, marinated, distilled, fermented, smoked… anything you choose.
As a cook and outdoorsman, I have always enjoyed that connection and been in awe of those people I have met around the world, who have retained or learnt the important skills of foraging, gathering, hunting, fishing and growing food.
These locals all have an important common characteristic, they never take too much of any one resource, be it meat, fish or abundant plants. Instead, taking care to leave enough for the next visitor to that place.
I decided to create a platform for these people to celebrate wild food and natural resources, but to also be celebrated by their communities for their skills and creativity.
Local Wild Food Challenge Was Born
Response was immediate, positive and incredibly inspiring.
Stories of friends and families spending time together out in their surrounding environments, gathering ingredients for their entries were wonderful to hear.
The effort, to harvest an animal from the wild, even a small rabbit, let alone a large wild pig has a huge impact on the perception of what it means to eat that protein.
Not least what the particular animal was grazing on, what kind of shape the local environment is in, and what it takes emotionally to take an animals’ life to enhance your own diet.
We face a time in many parts of the world where the disconnect between consumers of meat, and the animals and environment from where they live, is stark.
A food demo like the one Jason and I performed is an example of how education on matters such as meat from the wild, as opposed to ‘feed lot’ raised, store bought meat, can and should be fun.
This thought process and very positive discussion crosses over to many aspects of the food we consume every day.
Fishing experiences, growing and bartering of vegetables and hunting for meat to get involved in the Local Wild Food Challenge, gets communities excited about understanding food from nature instead of the supermarket.
It gives people the opportunity to have a far greater physical – therefore healthier – relationship with their local natural environment. This in turn motivates a more proactive environmental stewardship within these communities.
I wasn’t expecting such a broad conversation to emerge from these very up beat and casual events, but I’m so glad it has.
Food is a Universal Language – Growing the LWFC
Since the first Local Wild Food Challenges, held in my home town of Eastbourne, New Zealand, where it wasn’t uncommon for a slab of yellowtail served with a meat cleaver and a dish of soy sauce or a wild pig hotpot to land on the judges table, we now see some incredibly sophisticated entries being presented with a huge array of ingredients.
Professionals and amateurs work together, exchanging ideas, information and stories on wild food experiences.
We hold events in many diverse communities, with a mind-boggling array of wild ingredients being harvested and entered.
Imagine five events in New Zealand, one each in the US, France, Finland and now Italy. The talent, hospitality and motivation of these locals is amazing – and humbling.
Everywhere I hold a challenge, I am treated to the most intimate of local food gathering and cooking knowledge. The best hunting, fishing and foraging spots, often closely guarded secrets, are shared (in confidence of course).
These people are from vastly different cultures and back rounds and yet share the most binding of common threads – respect for their wild resources and the belief that everyday wild and natural foods are absolutely essential in todays world.
We welcome everyone.
For 2016/2017 Calendar of events and travel destinations visit localwildfoodchallenge.com
Our next LWFC event is in Verduno, Italy.
This is near Bra, the home of Slow Food International.
Join us on May 22nd
Travel Packages available.
See localwildfoodchallengeverduno.com for details.
Contact: Robert Morrison 00 1 508 308 9332