Against the Grain

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October 1, 2011 by saltdogsducttape

When talking to hunters, most of them will say that spending time in the woods and participating in nature are primary reasons that they hunt.  I could say that this is true for me as well.  I grew up backpacking in Florida and throughout the Rocky Mountain west.  Thanks to my dad, nature was a central theme of my childhood.

For me hunting is about reconnecting to food and in a way one of the basic elements of humanity.  With the advent of agricultural societies we removed much of the uncertainty from our daily lives.  As a species we are evolved to deal with scarcity.  Many health scientists are starting to believe that the American obesity epidemic is a result of the supply of excess food.  Because we evolved to be unsure of where our next meal comes from, we consume as much as we can at a time.  This works fine when you don’t actually know where you next meal will come from, but when the fridge is stocked full it doesn’t work too well.

One of my favorite books, and the book that sparked my interest in hunting is “Against the Grain” by Richard Manning.  Central to Manning’s argument is that when you take away uncertainty from our daily life, you take away part of what it is to be human.

It would be impossible to say that there have been no positives gained from agriculture.  Instead what I would argue is that there have been many negatives that accompany commercial agriculture.  Manning points out that in agricultural societies, instead of leading a varied seasonal lifestyle that hunter gathers did, agrarians spent most days doing repetitive tasks that focused more on refining raw materials (wheat and corn) instead of preparing food.  This led to chronic injuries and because people were now stationary, communicable diseases became more prevalent.

We’ve come to a point in human history where in on sense, there is no going back.  Agriculture in its commodity form seems to be here to stay.  I can’t say that I have never gotten a benefit from agrarian life.  It would be hard to imagine modern medicine being the same if we had to hunt and forage everyday.  This doesn’t mean that we have to accept our food system as what it is.  Augmenting commodity agriculture with seasonal and hunted food gives us back a small part of what we sacrificed for the certainty that agriculture provides.

Like other hunters, I endeavor to spend more time in the woods and to participate in nature.  After reading “Against the Gain,” I feel like I’m getting more from hunting that food.  It’s a way to connect not only with nature but also with ourselves as well.  I understand that not everyone can go out and hunt (I’m one of the lucky ones), and even if everyone could, not everyone would want to.  That doesn’t mean that everyone has to accept what is on their grocery store shelves.  Find a farmer, shake their hand, cook seasonally and eat against the grain.


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