I met him in a grocery store in my hometown. It was a Saturday afternoon. I’d been back in the country for barely 3 days, back in that town after 4 years away. He and 3 friends were making a quick stop on their way from a rugby match near Vancouver back home to Seattle. I would later find out that he’d been single again for a mere 48 hours.
I’ll credit our paths crossing that day to some form of divine intervention – our stories and timing aligned in a way that is nothing short of miraculous. How we managed to bump into each other that September day remains a happy mystery. As for why we ended up together, well, that’s always been pretty clear.
Only a few conversations in, I realized how wonderfully different this man was from anyone I’d ever known. He was strong and confident, but always learning. He was a fisherman and a hunter, an outdoorsman with a biology degree. He made beer, wine and cheese, and knew how to can and preserve food. He grew things. And he cooked! Really, really well! In no time at all I found it hard to imagine my life without him.
Fast forward almost 5 years and here we are. So much of our lives revolve around food: growing, raising, gathering, catching, hunting, preparing and preserving, all with the end goal of being fully active participants in our food system. It sounds sort of dry, but we don’t do all this just to survive, or save money. Or be some snobby hippie with cleaner food than you. We do all this because we love it. It is our art form, our creative offering to the universe.
In trying to tell our story, words often fall short. We’ve found that showing what we do and how we do, is the best way to convey why we do. At first, the picture below will simply look like a so so photo of a one-pot-meal. But oh how shallow our first glances can be! This picture shows much, much more than our meal.
Let’s start at the base. The stock is made from the bones and leftover bits of the ducks we hunted last season. Every bird we come home with gets plucked and packed whole – unlike many duck hunters, we do not simply pull out the breast meat and waste the rest of the animal. Most of these ducks end up smoked and roasted over a wood fire. And yes, it is as delicious as it sounds. After we’ve eaten all we can, the carcass goes back into the freezer until we have enough for a batch of stock. We end up with a fantastic base for meals like this one, and the satisfaction of knowing we’ve utilized every bit of the birds we’ve taken.
The rest of this meal was grown out on the farm. The shallots, garlic, beets, turnips, carrots, and cabbage leaves were pulled from the ground not long before. The meat is lamb neck, from a ram raised last year. Neck is not a cut you often see, quite possibly because the butcher knows better and saves it for himself. This particular piece was smoked with maple wood for a few hours, then braised in this pot for another hour, at least.
This meal was extremely satisfying, not only because it was delicious, but because we could look down on our plate and trace the ingredients back to the labor of our hands and the dedication of our hearts. This meal is a small glimpse into the big picture of our lives together, and the life we strive for. This meal is the essence of what makes us, “us”.