CHANGING THE WAY WE LOOK AT FOOD
This article was originally published in Eat Local Magazine Issue #1 | Winter 2018 | Subscribe Here
WORDS DANIEL JACK | PHOTOS HEATHER MUSE
I am a Carnivore. I love to eat meat and I live by a high protein diet. I will admit that up to this point in my life I have perhaps not given enough thought as to where exactly this meat comes from. I mean – I’m not naïve enough to think that my next steak is nicely growing on a steak tree already pre-wrapped and resting on a Styrofoam ‘plate’ eagerly awaiting the meat fairy to pick it and deliver it to the local meat store – I simply haven’t thought too much about it.
Heather Muse and I recently had the pleasure of going on a mini-adventure with Kevin Kossowan, filmmaker and creator of the film series From The Wild. Our mission was to see him out in the wild and capture some photos of Kevin taking an animal from field to plate. We wanted to experience it all, from taking the life of the animal, to properly cleaning and preparing its meat, to cooking and enjoying the fruits of our labour.
After a quick drive out to the country side, we donned our best hunting garb and settled in to await our trophy buck. Unfortunately, the only thing that got shot was Kevin. Heather shot him a whole bunch of times – with her camera. Kevin also introduced us to a likely well-used phrase as we sat motionless for over an hour, “Hunting is stupid, why do we do this?” We had a good laugh, although I certainly would not call it a waste of time as we sat listening to the haunting sounds of the coyotes near-by with soft fluffy snowflakes falling all around us. It also gave us a chance to learn more about Kevin.
Short intro, Kevin is a filmmaker. Done. Long answer is much more complex and interesting than that. Kevin spent 14 years in the finance and business-related world before realizing that he could not do it anymore. Not because he lacked the ability, but because it was stifling the inner Kevin. Five years ago, he began to dabble in film and started his exploration of food. “Early in my career, I spent my time pointing my camera at all the things that nobody else wanted to show… that process of going from a live animal to a plate of food.”
It was a process that led him to where he is now, producing From The Wild (currently in its sixth season) in which he explores culinary terroir – cuisine connected to place and time. He works with his many food industry friends to hunt, gather, cook, and eat out in the wild, filming it all. The series is real and raw, tracing food to its roots and exploring the reality of eating from the wild. Kevin shows us where our food can, and perhaps should come from. It is visually stunning, and tremendously educational. Kevin does all the filming and editing for From The Wild and even creates and scores all the music. His many talents as a hunter, gatherer, forager, gardener, musician and ‘one-man-band’ with an explosively creative mind are all put on display. The series earned him a prestigious James Beard Media Award nomination, and continues to connect him with many great people.
But eating exclusively from the wild is not always possible for everyone. That’s why Kevin is also passionate about agriculture, specifically sustainable farming. When he first began his filming career, Kevin filmed local farmers, trying to capture their stories. Through his production company, Story Chaser Productions he has created films for organizations like Cook It Raw, Alberta Culinary Tourism, and Slow Food in Canada. He understands the importance of connecting with the people who grow your food, and has personally built friendships with several farmers who supply his family with delicious, high-quality, organic food.
Kevin’s film career and appreciation for agriculture has brought him across Canada and around the world. His hunting/gathering knowledge and skills have not only gained him a following from his show, but created opportunities like attending and speaking at the Commonwealth Agriculture Conference held in Edmonton this year, with Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and a room full of delegates from around the world in attendance. A very diverse audience! Kevin could spend more time touring the world and going to exotic places to use his talents, and he probably will, but his preference is to keep it local, in particular our diverse province of Alberta. We literally have it all within a day’s drive of our homes. From mountains to plains, from boreal forest to grasslands, from big lakes to desserts. Alberta has everything and Kevin loves that.
Alberta may have it all, but you still need to go out and find it. After our unsuccessful morning hunt, with our tails hung between our legs, we got in the car to head back to the big city. Unfortunately, by this time the charming fluffy snowflakes had turned into a cold November rain and after narrowly avoiding a parked car as we tried not to skid on the skating rink roads, we made it safely back to Kevin’s place.
Kevin lives on what appears to be your typical moderate-sized city lot, but is not typical at all. He has transformed his entire yard into a mini farm. He grows fruit like pears, sour cherries, apples, saskatoons, black currants, and raspberries. His vegetable garden produces parsnips, rutabaga, asparagus, kale, leeks, and more than a few varieties of onions, beets, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and much more. And I couldn’t name half of the herbs he has planted here and there. He grows it all.
Fortunately for us, his yard also has a garage that happened to have a white-tailed deer hanging from the rafters. Kevin and a friend had been slightly more successful than us while out hunting the same area the previous day. Meat was back on the menu for lunch.
I have caught, killed, cleaned, and eaten fish many times in my life, but I have never had red meat knowing and seeing exactly where it had come from. That was about to change. Without hesitation Kevin delicately carved out a tenderloin. Within minutes he had the meat transformed from a bloody mess into a perfect delicious lunch that could be served at a 5-star restaurant. When Kevin told us he would cook outside I had expected a massive barbeque, perhaps even the latest and greatest. Kevin does do a lot of outdoor cooking after all! Not Kevin, his choice of cookery is an open flame in a counter-level fire pit that he built himself out of recycled bricks, another example of his ingenuity and creativity. So much better than a barbeque – I love the smell of an open fire.
I lost track of all the ingredients that Kevin used to create our lunch. As he cooked, he told us where each component came from: lard from this place, salt from the ocean, herbs from his garden, dried mushroom powder from mushrooms he had previously foraged, etc. The end result was nothing short of amazing.
An interesting word that crept up in my conversation with Kevin is the term journey. Kevin spoke openly about his journey with food and how it has brought him to where he is at today. When I hear journey I don’t immediately think of food. I think of other things like going on a holiday or trip. I reflect on the amazing journey of becoming parents and raising kids. I think of career goals and the overall journey of life. Others may think of their journey with body art and the process of inking themselves. For others surviving the next day or week due to struggles with mental illness may be a journey in itself. My first thought of the word was my dad’s recent diagnosis and journey with cancer treatment (he is in recovery mode and doing okay, thank God), there is likely not a person reading this that hasn’t been affected by that particular journey. The word journey has a vast variety of different meanings or emotions to everyone. All right, forgive my Danielism on this point – back to the story…
We only live on this earth for a limited time, but life can take us to many unique places. My own journey with food has only just begun, but when I meet people like Kevin it inspires me to want to do more. I live on an acreage with a huge variety of native plants just waiting to be discovered and eaten. I may even expand my hunter horizons and go out and buy me a gun. Spending a day with Kevin was fun – it was humbling to realize how much I don’t know, but inspiring to see how simple it can be. Like Kevin says, “It’s just taking stuff from around your yard and throwing it in a pan.” Sometimes that ‘stuff’ includes a white-tailed deer. Kevin, thanks for the inspiring day. Hopefully we can do it again soon and shoot more than just you.
To learn more about Kevin and to watch his film series, visit his website www.kevinkossowan.com