In the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. Especially, the location of my food.
There were two books that really got my thinking about this – which I highly recommend – Steak by Mark Schatzker and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. (Please note I have no affiliation with these authors, I just like their books. This is not a marketing thing.)
However, you can read as many books about food as you want, but you still need to form your own philosophies.
Since I moved to this small town from THE BIG STINKY CITY I have been able to enjoy truly local food. There are a lot of farms in this area. There is an organic farm 10 minutes away that has excellent vegetables and lamb, and they even sell their own whole ground flour.
There is another farm, a meat farm, that is not organic but the animals are pastured, not grain-fed, and antibiotic-free. 7 minute drive from my house. We got our last Thanksgiving turkey there and it was divine.
In the summer and fall, we have two local farmer’s markets to choose from and a plethora of local farm stores.
This summer, we plan on growing our own garden. But we are newbs, so we’ll probably still have to supplement from the farmer’s market.
Which is fine by me. I love the farmer’s market. Everything is perfectly ripe and in large bushels and handed over to me by the very same dirt-encrusted hands that yanked it from the ground, earlier that morning. I can ask the farmer directly what kind of fertilizer or pest deterrent he uses. I can commiserate with her about her salad greens crop that was wiped out by the severe storm a few days ago.
I am trying to become more connected to my food. I want to know it intimately.
I have no problem eating meat, or with the knowledge that that meat used to be part of an animal I might have thought was cute. Humans are omnivores and have been for millennia. But the industrialization of the food system in North America puts the individual at such a distance from the source of their food. I think it is a sign of respect and gratitude to the animal that is feeding you to find out where it came from, and whether it lived a miserable existence on a feedlot being force-fed corn – or happily on a pasture, eating the grasses that nature intended it to. Humans have domesticated certain animals to provide food and I am okay with that. As Temple Grandin says, “We raise them for us,” referring to beef cattle, “that means we owe them some respect.”
I won’t get too much into it here, I am certainly not an expert and this blog is not about pushing my beliefs. I haven’t even fully formed my own opinions quite yet. Just read the Omnivore’s Dilemma if you want to know more, and perhaps In Defence of Food, also by Michael Pollan.
So, you’re probably wondering where the food part of this post comes in. Well, recently, we discovered another farm in the area, the Erin Valley Elk Farm. Naturally we decided to pay a visit. We spied a sign on the side of the road and followed the directions – it was the dead of winter and we enjoyed a lovely drive down the country roads to the farm.
Outside the small farm store was an enormous husky-malamute dog which greeted us enthusiastically. I swear this thing must have had 20 pounds of fur on it.
After perusing the selection in the farm store, we picked out a shoulder roast. I asked the person working there if we could go see the elk that were peering over the fence at us curiously, and she said “Sure, they really like people”.
I was amazed at how beautiful these creatures were. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an elk before.
After taking a few pictures, I had a few moments of grateful thoughts towards them, as I usually do when I meet an animal that is to be food at some point. These animals did not look distressed, fearful or sickly. Have you ever seen pictures of a feedlot? It is heartbreaking. This was not heartbreaking. This was lovely.
I decided to do a sort of native-Canadian themed dish with the elk – simply oven roasted, with a savoury blueberry sauce, roast squash, and a Miq’mak frybread called “Four Cents“. My mother’s family descends from the Miq’maks of Newfoundland, so I thought this would be an appropriate homage to my heritage.
Believe me, I am not perfect when it comes to buying only locally available food. Those blueberries were certainly not from Ontario. But I guess the point is to try, and to take steps to become more conscious of the origins of the food I’m eating, so that I can make the decision about whether I should eat it.
So, I present to you – Ontario elk shoulder roast with blueberry sauce. It was really really tasty, and we used the leftovers to make a hearty elk stew the following evening. Here’s the recipe!
Oh, and here is the recipe for Four Cents Frybread.