The Travel Channel has a new show called, “The Wild Within“.  In watching two of the episodes, I’ve seen Steven Rinella [above, right] travel down the Missouri River in Montana as Lewis and Clark would have and go to Molokai to hunt food for the traditional community meal.  What I’ve liked about Rinella is his total respect for the animals he hunts and kills for food.  Yes, it’s a TV show and yes, I’m sure he gets paid well for doing what he does.  But in the Lewis and Clark episode, he and his brother were hunting and find a freshly killed antelope with half of its carcass butchered and hauled away.  He tells his brother that it sickens him when people kill an animal and not even respect the life it lived by taking what they want and leaving the rest of the carcass where it was killed.  He finishes that comment by saying if he saw the guy who killed the antelope, he would taken a shot at him himself.  That kind of respect isn’t just him pontificating the circle of life.  You can see the sincerity in his face that even though he hunts for food, he respects the life in which that animal was killed.  In the same episode, he uses the same model of flint rifle as Lewis and Clark would have used to hunt buffalo.  Because it’s not a modern rifle, he has to get much closer to the animals than he would otherwise.  With the help of a ranger, he is able to kill the buffalo with one shot.  As he says, a clean kill.  You never want to mindlessly shoot at an animal and leave it to suffer.  One shot.  Before he skins and butchers the animal, he and ranger perform a kind of ritual to pay their respect to that buffalo.  Rinella then skins and butchers all 800 pounds of meat, giving most of it to the local reservations while he takes a few pounds to his next destination.

This is where our food comes from.  It doesn’t matter that you and I don’t eat antelope or buffalo.  I know that we no longer “hunt” for our meats.  There are chicken farms and cattle ranches.  Slaughter houses are used to kill these animals and saran-wrap them for our benefit.  I’m not advocating that before we eat, we do a ritual in our kitchen to pay our respects to the animals that has been killed for our consumption.  What I am saying is that we ought to understand the process in which a life is taken for our survival.  And in this country, for many of us, it’s not survival as it is entertainment.  Maybe we take for granted the braised beef cheek with celery root puree a little too much.  We are only now embracing parts like beef tongue, bone marrow, and beef cheeks as haute cuisine.   100 years ago, these would be the foods the lower class would eat while the rich would devour themselves on tenderloins and filets.  There’s a point in the Hawaii episode when Rinella goes on to hunt wild boar on Molokai.  He has a local [above, left] lead them with tracking dogs and pit bulls to find these boars.  The track dogs sniff out the boars and when they do, they bark and howl.  Then the pit bulls follow to attack the boars and hold it down long enough for the hunters to come and take one of its legs and stab the boar for the kill.  Rinella says that because he’s a meat eater, it’s morally important for him to reach down in his stomach to do the very thing that will provide meat for his consumption.  And when faced with the boar, he found himself at a crossroad.  Does he look on or does he stab the boar?  After the hunt is over, Rinella is slouched over and the look on his face says it all.  It tells the viewer that killing the animal you are to consume at close range is a very, very difficult thing to do.  It’s not that the boar is an endangered species, but it’s that with your hands, you are taking a life away, even if that life was there for us to consume.  Rinella looked gutted.  He says he will never forget what it’s like to kill this animal with a knife in his hands.  And I believe him.  I couldn’t do it.  If someone were to tell me to kill a pig, I would think of Babe.  If someone were to tell me to kill a cow, I would think of all those Gary Larson cartoons.  It’s a very difficult thing to do and I hope I don’t have to ever be in that position to do it.  It’s the biggest reason why I don’t go hunting.

I realize that I don’t pay that much attention to where my meat comes from.  To me, they come from the grocery store.  But it’s deeper than that.  Because I don’t have to hunt for my food, I take things for granted.  I love what Gordon Ramsay does on his show, “The F Word”.  He makes his kids raise turkeys and pigs for 3-4 months only to have them take the animals to the slaughter house.  He wants them to grow up knowing where the meta they eat come from.  He wants them to respect the life that was taken for them to satisfy their hunger.  He also wants them to know it’s OK to eat that meat.  Those animals are there for us to eat, but to respect the animal to know where it came from.  And for me, it’s a way at least, to not be so wasteful.  Buy what we need.  Cook what we need.  Respect the life that was taken and understand that there’s a lot more going on then just reaching in that refrigerated section at the grocery store.