Aiming for Real Food

When I was conceptualizing The Scholar and the Savage, I always knew I wanted to avoid making “just another food blog.” With millions of recipe sites and tons of pictorial “food porn,” I wanted to offer something unique – something grounded in my English major background, and something that appealed to my interest in nature.

The soul of the blog is powered by the questions that drive my literary and gastronomic explorations: How can food reconnect us with nature? How do food studies and ecocriticism interact to lead the way? It helps that all food comes from nature and concerns nature in every step of the way.

Michael Pollan calls food “a transaction between species in nature, eaters and eaten” (6), and states that “the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world” (10). Through food, we turn nature into everything we are, and highlight both what we share with and how we differ from the natural “other” world (10).

Food studies, therefore, is in fact an extension of nature studies (and many other studies). As stated in Conversations in Food Studies, “Food studies seeks to examine the complex web of of practices, processes, structures, and institutions in which we humans engage with one another and with nature in defining and transforming part of that nature into food” (viii, emphasis added).

It seems that getting back in touch with nature is the surest way to get as close as possible to food, what it truly is, and where it actually comes from in its most fundamental form. I already starting making positive food changes last year, such as refusing to buy commercial meat, scrutinizing labels, and supporting local farms. But I want more. I want to do as Pollan did, “to eat in full consciousness of everything involved in feeding myself” (9). I know I have to learn how to harvest my own food, whatever it takes.

I wrote about this realization in “Aspiring Hunter,” but now it is becoming a stark reality. Not only did I wind up purchasing my first firearm, I began to practice with it. Going to a shooting range in the dead of winter is an experience like no other. Spatters of bright color from spent shell casings and broken clays punctuate the white landscape. The Thermos steams and the barrel smokes in the below-freezing air. Even through earphones, the shots seem sharp and clear as shattered crystal in the emptiness of January. As I am utterly unfamiliar with guns, I’m getting to know how mine works and how to use it properly and safely. It feels terrifyingly alive, and when I’m shooting, so do I.

I am intimidated but excited; respectful but inspired, for I know that my shotgun is not only a powerful weapon but a crucial tool in my journey. I have the winter to build skill and confidence for hunter education, and learn what is necessary for the transformation from plant and animal to food. Come springtime, I’m hoping to have three things: good weather, my hunting license, and the start of a garden. I’m aiming for real food, for close food, and I look forward to sharing my journey with you.


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