Real Foodists: The Quest for Real Food by Justin Townsend

This is the first in a series of recipes and editorials from Weston's inner circle of 'real foodists'

Justin Townsend established the blog, Harvesting Nature, to educate and entertain those who have a passion for the outdoors and for those who wish to become more involved in the outdoors. His team's goal is to inspire people to get off the couch, get into the beautiful natural world around them, seek adventure, and take their life into their own hands by sourcing their own food from the wilderness.

Find Your Wilderness…

What is real food? 

Food in its simplest form is an item that is consumed to provide energy and nutrition. Many food items fall into this category. Although, some of the items are not real food. To me, real food is something you can hold in your hands and trust that you don’t have to inspect the ingredients label in an attempt to understand the composition. It is not prepackaged or from the frozen food isle only to be microwaved and unlovingly tossed on the plate for dinner.

Real food is much more complex. It is grown, caught, hunted, and harvested directly from nature, like a piece of fresh corn, a flopping trout, or a beautiful cut of venison steak. Real food is always prepared by hand, in front of you or in a kitchen by someone who cares enough about you to ensure you are getting true and wholesome ingredients. This food is tangible. You can easily trace its roots without having to check that label, because it doesn’t need a label.

I am not saying that real food is only of single ingredients because you can certainly combine these true ingredients together to produce outstanding meals, where there is phenomenal flavor that cannot be found in other foods. For instance, a cup of rice can be paired with a venison steak and fresh green beans. The simple freshness of this meal will astonish your taste buds. The combinations of real food are endless and even more so; tasteful. Real food is identified by its origins not its end results. This helps us stay connect to where our food comes from. This helps us to think about not only where our food came from but how it made the journey to the fork.

I consider the food in my home to be real food. We grow most of our produce and our meat is sourced by me in the wild or raised by a family member. I choose to hunt as a means to provide my family real food that I can personally assure has not been compromised. You may be thinking, “Man, what a control freak," but that is not the case at all. Think about this: You put food into your body several times each day. It is the one item you cannot live without, excluding water. It will benefit or hinder your body more so than anything else. Don’t you want to know and understand what is going into your family’s body and your own body? From the shot of the rifle to the sizzle of the pan, I know where that meat has been and I feel confident to prepare it for my wife and daughter.

Hunting has gotten a bad reputation for the past few decades with most people perceiving hunters as blood thirsty trophy hunters. I can personally speak for myself and say that this is not the case as I have no interest in trophies. Big animals and huge racks are great but that doesn’t help me put food on the table because you cannot eat antlers.

There are several other reasons which keep me going back into the field each year to hunt. I hunt because of tradition. My family has resided within the wilderness and on the frontier since before the birth of this nation. Each generation has hunted wild game. They have hunted in order to eat and to pass on their traditions to younger generations. You see, it is our duty to pass on this heritage and keep it alive. I also enjoy hunting because it provides me an escape. I can get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life to find solace in the adventure. I can go out into the wild and pursue wild game while also resetting my mental batteries. I always return fresh and rejuvenated, with many great memories and sometimes some food.

Food is the main reason I hunt. I go to the super market and look at the meat case and stare with wonder. I wonder where it all comes from, what life did it lead, and how did it perish. These haunting questions are eliminated with wild game. As I scout and hunt, I see the life of the animal in its natural environment. I can see that it is healthy and not ridden with antibiotics or steroids. When I pull the trigger and the animal falls, I know that the animal died quickly and as painlessly as possible. I can trust it all because it is real.

Once the animal falls, the work is just beginning because I also want to trust the processing. I quarter, debone, clean, and portion every piece of meat myself. This lets nothing come in the way of me and my food. I know that it is still real and wholesome. I chose the action of pulling the trigger and now I must be responsible enough to ensure that nothing is wasted and that the animal is respected. This cycle and personal attention is what keeps it real. This food is not something precooked and found on the frozen food isle, it is life.

For more from Justin & Harvesting Nature, visit HarvestingNature,com

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