Foodie Googlie

Custom Search

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kaimoana Part 1: The Hunters

We take a break from my usual schedule (What? I have schedule? Lies, I say, all lies!) to get y'all up-to-date with my holiday photos.

From a purely foody perspective, of course. I have my standards, too.

Firstly, however, a brief discussion, which I would love to hear a few more opinions on (go nuts in the comments). I'll point out here that just as I'm not a farmer but hold views on farming, I'm also not a fisher or a hunter, but I have views on both of those past-times.

For a long time, I thought that the idea of stalking and shooting animals or hanging on the end of a rod-and-reel to bring in a meal was not only cruel and inhumane, it was also a phenomenal waste of energy in a world where you can just go to the shop to buy meat. I still doubt that I would have it in me to pull the trigger for the sake of a meal unless it was a last resort to save myself and my family from starvation, but on the other hand, knowing what I know now about the rearing and processing of much of our meat (particularly pork and chicken), I am much more accepting of the fact and philosophy of hunting now than I used to be. While I believe there is a face of hunting which is represented by those who stalk and bring down animals for their value as trophies rather than as food, which is a practice I find abhorrent and always will, the hunters that I know are all well-adjusted and environmentally-aware individuals.

When there is more at stake when you go to collect your winter's supply of meat than how close you can find a park to the front of the supermarket, you learn a respect for both the animal being hunted and the world that has raised it. If the meat that has been brought down in a hunt is not wasted, and if a family can be fed without recourse to pen-raised bacon and battery chicken, then there has to be some value in that.

As I said, I'm not a hunter, so my perspective is purely a contemplative, philosophical one. I like the taste of game meat, which is so much more intense than most farm-reared beef and lamb.

When we were in Canada I was lucky enough to try moose which Uncle C had shot, and I really enjoyed it. He treated us to the photos of the hunt too, so there was a certain grisly, primal reality to the meal, facing the unavoidable truth that here was an animal that had been killed, skinned, gutted, and butchered, before being frozen and eventually making it onto the table for us to eat. That's a reality that the eating public are encouraged to forget about when they buy their bulk family packs of beef mince and BBQ steaks from the supermarket.

On the topic of fishing then, let me produce Exhibit A:
Somewhere in the far reaches of the Coromandel Peninsula there lies a beautiful bay, where the bellbirds greet the morning and the population of Kereru and Kiwi are both in an upward climb.

In a place like this, the idea of sitting on a rock in the failing sun and feeling for the tug of a fish on a line doesn't seem so inane, it seems like a bleeding good idea. I still didn't go fishing, mind you, but I had two brothers-in-law to do so instead.

One of them must have thought about this quandary in some depth, because it was no longer enough for Uncle B to wait at the end of a fishing line for the fish to come to him. Uncle B decided that it was time to level the playing field and give the fish (and the sea) as much of a chance of having a go at him as he was going to have at them. Either that, or he just decided he could handle the cold of the Pacific, and was sick of not being able to see what he was doing.

Unfortunately, within a day or two of arriving, the fancy rubber bungies for his speargun snapped, so he was forced to improvise.
Meet the Iron Eel, MK 1. One sharpened nail tied onto a stripped Nikau stalk, with a bent barb at the back. Look out, fish, we're going Robinson Crusoe on yer... fins.
Nature won that round. Iron Eel, Meet Rock.
Thus, the Iron Eel MK 2. Yes, that's a steak knife attached with copper line to a piece of hardwood harvested from the bush the same day. And yes, that's a beautiful clear Coromandel sky in the background.
Sadly, the MK 2 never had a chance to fly (or swim?) because replacement bungies arrived for the speargun.
Uncle B also had a rather macabre device known as a Hawaiian Sling (or something), which was surprisingly effective.
The fish might not have won that particular round, but Uncle B sure did spend a few cold hours under the waves trying to bring home dinner. It didn't help that, when planning out our menu for the week, we decided to end our stay on a night of fish and chips for dinner, which meant that Uncle B was burdened with the responsibility of bringing in enough fish to feed fifteen people (we had freezers, which made life easier. But that's still a lot of time in the water).
Suffice to say that he managed it, as well as a couple that Uncle C brought in on his fishing line, and on the day we had just enough to feed everyone, with a couple of fillets to go back and have for seconds. Uncle C and LBS crumbed the fillets the old-fashioned way.
I was in charge of cooking them on the BBQ. After Uncle B spent all that time freezing his b*tt off bringing it in, you can imagine how nervous I was. That's not a meal you want to mess up.

So where does that leave me as far as fishing goes? Well, like hunting, I think it's time well spent if it's done for the right reasons, especially if I'm not the one doing it, and I get to enjoy the bounty of the hunt. I'd love to hear how other people feel about this topic too.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Gatherers, and Part 3: Te Kai, where I get the challenge (not being a fisherman, after all) of cooking chips, using no more than a campfire. Ah, the challenges of life.

(Translation: Kaimoana is the Maori word for Seafood; literally, Food of the Sea)


lbs said...

You are funny. I had to laugh out loud when I read this post. I'm sure Uncle's B & C had as much fun making the Iron Eel as you had writing about them, and I had reading your unique perspective!

lbs said...

Uncle C says next time you come to the Great White North, he'll take you hunting, just so you get to experience it first hand....

Le laquet said...

Great post with lovely (of the sky and cooking/cooked fish) pictures. I am firmly in the camp that if you know where that which you are eating comes from you value it more and don't take it for granted like the plastic wrapped minced beef or prepared chicken fillets you get in the supermarket - and ok sometimes the getting of food is messy BUT ... it doesn't half taste good if it's been sustainably and correctly/properly reared or lived in the wild **climbs down off soap box**