A couple of weekends past, I had the pleasure of roasting a whole hog in this sweltering Central Texas heat with Chef Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due. We were invited by the amazing organization, Foodways Texas, and they organized the event for the IACP International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). It was hosted by the wonderful Boggy Creek Farm in East Austin. You will not find another couple more dedicated to local farming and food than Larry and Carol Ann of Boggy Creek! Luckily, there’s a massive oak tree at the back of the home, which was where Jesse and I set up the pit and got down to business of roasting a pig in 100 degree weather! We arrived at noon to set up and get the fire started. Once the pig was on, it was all a matter of hurry up and wait. We accomplished a lot of this with cold beers and great conversation with Larry Butler and other passers by at the end of Boggy Creek’s Saturday Farmers Market. It’s always a treat getting to spend time with old farming legends like Larry Butler and hearing his perspective on things. As the time passed, more and more folks stopped by from the IACP to tour the farm and see the chickens.
One of these lovely people we had the pleasure of meeting was Fredrick Ekstrom, a “culinary explorer” from Sweden who was doing some touring around Texas and learning a little about this great state. He stumbled upon Jesse and I sweating our rear ends off trying to control a roaring fire! We discussed our local food system and how the Texas grown, feral hog was trapped and sent to Harvest House in Johnson City for processing in a USDA certified slaughterhouse. This is the process feral hogs must go through is they are to be cooked and sold back to the general public, the same as if it were a domestic pig. (You can watch his “interview” here) Regardless, Fredrick was definitely into the hog roast but was for sure interested in learning a thing or two about hunting and fishing in Texas. We swapped stories about past trips, one where he proceeded to tell Jesse and I about this bird called the “Tjader” in Swedish, and how “you must shoot the thing quickly, or else run when you see it the wild!” This immediately had my attention as I have never in my life heard of such a bird. Upon looking at pictures of this prehistoric looking animal, I could understand the sentiment. My interest peaked, of course, and I questioned Fredrick about the different types of birds that they hunt in Far North Sweden during these deep woods excursions. Unfortunately, translation of the Swedish words to English words was difficult, so my mind was left to wonder about much of it. Nevertheless, Fredrick was able to solidify my need to go on such an adventure when he began his tale of a bird hunt by horseback through chest deep snow that lasts for 7 days, during which you stay in a different satellite camp every night! Unbelievable! I can only wish that this adventure will be a blog in the future!
Once Fredrick departed, we manned the grill for a few more hours and talked with several other east side friends and farmers who showed up to sit under the massive shade trees of Boggy Creek, partake in a cold beverage and watch the pig cook. We were fast approaching the 6:00 pm mark, which signaled the start of the dinner. As this drew near, more and more participants started showing up either alone or in one of the busses that IACP participants had access to. Upon arriving, they flocked to the grill to marvel at the whole hog roasting on the grill. The dinner bell rang, and we began serving everyone as they lined up with empty plates. After we had served everything but the carcass, Jesse and I had time to visit with some of the other chefs and participants floating around the dinner. I was completely caught off guard as I started to talk with a couple of participants who seemed to know a little bit more about hunting and fishing than the average Joe. After talking for a few minutes I soon realized after introducing myself just who it was I was talking with: Hank Shaw and Holly Heyser, two of the most prolific writers and bloggers in the outdoor world of hunting and gathering! It was an honor to finally meet the two of them as I have followed both of their blogs for some time now.
It was just a pleasure being around like-minded hunters and fisherman who have the same ethics and values behind the hunt. I feel like I’m finally finding “my people” in the hunting and fishing industry, leaving behind the world of trophy hunting and high fences in the my tracks. It is my hope that in the meantime, I’m creating enough momentum to start a real educational movement behind the “harvest” and the “meal,” rather than canned hunts and wall art. While those have a place in the world for some, for me, it’s about the use of the whole animal and the gathering of friends and family around a dinner table, each person having a connection with the meal. It’s such a grand feeling when all of senses are firing as your food cooks in front of you: Hear it sizzle over the open flames; See the smoke billowing around it and the changing colors as it cooks; Smell the delicious aromas all around you; and finally taste the fruits of your labor as you sit down and enjoy the spoils. I believe it important to promote new ideas for the “old ways” of doing things, lest those old traditions be lost forever, and I implore you to do the same.