How to skin a Badger11/04/2008
My name is Fergus Drennan or Fergus the Forager as I like to be called – not the roadkill chef (I blame that particular moniker on Paul Kingsnorth) and..well, I’m just an average bloke really.
Nevertheless, I am perhaps a little more sensitive to certain cultural and environmental pressures than some and feel compelled to respond creatively. Of course, most Ecologist readers do this in any case, using all the particular skills they possess. My skills lie in cooking (some would disagree), nature appreciation, insatiable curiosity and looking beyond the limitations of certain cultural taboos. My aim is to let those skills inform my eating habits as much as possible as I seek to battle the culture of waste and cult of speed, not forgetting to mention, of course, the environmental degradation that follows in swift pursuit. It may be that I’m doomed to failure, that I’ve failed before having even begun, that gross hypocrisy and contradiction will mar my every step. But step into a past-peak-oil future we must. To that end I did a thought experiment. What if cheap food runs out; what if all conventional food runs out; what would I do? I would have to switch to the transition food of a transition diet: foraged and wild food. Could I live that way for a year? Maybe. Would it help inform others – small sustainable eco-communities, as to the wealth of wild foods they could use to supplement their diets and the processing problems and other pitfalls they would need to overcome? Probably. Would it be fun, stupid, playful, absurd? No doubt. Should I stop the thought experiment and do it for real? YES, WHY NOT!
Today is the the 11th day of my year-long 100% wild/foraged food eating experiment. So far so good – actually that’s not quite true as I’ll explain in a bit, nevertheless, assuming I eat three meals a day, I can already cross thirty-three off the list which means there are now only another one thousand and sixty two to go. So, no problem there then!
Apart from my comments above, there are many reasons for carrying out this experiment. There are the obvious environmental ones of course. We’ve all seen the astonishingly disgraceful figures detailing the tonnes of perfectly good food we throw away every year; we all know about the polluting effects of excessive food miles and the resulting packaging that is destroying our landscape, be that as ubiquitous plastic bag remnants in trees, oceans full of the albatross-suffocating-and-starving stuff, and landfill stinking with the out-of-sight-out-of-mind debris of our rampant consumerism. Eating wild food seems to bypass many of these problems whilst, inevitable, giving rise to inherent problems of its own. And, in that respect, I’m definitely not suggesting that if the current millions populating the British Isles returned to subsistence living and we all foraged for our supper we would achieve a return to some lost Eden of plenty, a place where we all lie basking in the sun with sheep and lions (as The Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower magazine would have it), with humanity and nature in perfect harmony, at one, as manna gently falls on a heavenly summer breeze: Far from it, far far from it! The dire results would make foliage stripping locusts of us all. Nevertheless, through incorporating a certain amount of wild food into the diet there is much to be learned…..
Waste has always bothered me in all it’s various guises: wasted words – mindless babel when silence would be more appropriate and powerful, wasted time, wasted skills, wasted talent, wasted opportunities, wasted food and wasted clothes amongst other things. Why buy new clothes when charity shops are brimming full with good things? Why go to some crappy sweat-shop-sourcing cheap clothes chain when you could make your own?! It is to that end that an unexpected project has inspired my interest, perhaps even more than my wild food diet. Right now, thanks to being pointed in the right direction by archaeologist Karen Hardy at the university of York, I’m reading through a PhD thesis entitled Skin Processing Technology In Eurasian Reindeer Cultures by Torunn Klokkerness. This is with a view to creating a whole Davey Crockett set of roadkill skin clothes: boots, trousers, jacket and hat (maybe with a feather in it!). To that end I already have a badger, fox and rabbit skin soaking in a bucket of my own urine as part of the initial tanning process. If all fails at least it’ll make a good soup! Interestingly, the procedure has made me appreciate urine as a valuable resource, something definitely not to be wasted. I’ve found my self trying to hold it in so as to be able to reach home and my piss awaiting bucket!!
This is how you skin a Badger.
1)fresh road slaughtered badger
2) Cut down the underside with a very sharp knife or razor blade. Just to cut the skin, not the flesh
3) Start to peel the skin back
4) Continue cafefully peeling back away from the flesh
5) Pull out arms and legs
6) Skin side – still needs scraping
7) fur side
Now, just on the off chance that any vegans are reading this and are feeling outraged (as I, in fact, am) at the thought of roadkill or, more to the point, are outraged by my behaviour, let me tell you something. The last time I visited Karen Hardy at the University of York it was to discuss the possibility of me not brushing my teeth for the year’s duration of my wild food diet. One of her specializations is the analysis and identification of starch grains in Mesolithic dental plaque from recovered teeth. Apart from giving us a greater understanding as to our ancestor’s diet, dental plaque research has other interesting applications. It seems that analysis of various foods sold as vegan has revealed that, actually, animal products are present. Because throughout July I have decided to eat an exclusively vegan diet, analysis of my dental plaque may help to refine research. This means more scamming bastards who put meat products in vegan food are likely to be exposed! Actually, I think to a large extent it is unintentional – due to cost cutting, perhaps, or inadequate sourcing of materials.
Now, let’s get back to the wild food.
April Fool’s Day
A glass of sea buckthorn and apple juice
Chestnut and apple porridge served with (disgusting) Alexander root milk – big mistake!
A mug of feverfew tea
Wild Spring Salad
(alexanders leaf and flower buds, fennel leaf, Hoary Cress, Smooth Sow Thistle
Hairy Bittercress, Dandelion Leaves, Garlic Mustard, Honesty Leaf and Flowers
Common Mallow, Red Valerian, White deadnettle Flowers)
(30g acorn flour, 10g wild garlic leaf powder after making leaf curd, i.e with protein removed,
6g dried yellow le mushrooms, very large handful of seabeet, very small handful of cleavers
a pinch of Herne Bay’s finest sea salt)
Wild garlic, nettles, burdock root, alexanders root, evening primrose root, cleavers, charlock
hawthorn leaf, blackberry leaf, garlic mustard etc etc etc spring and seawater soup
Japanese Knotweed stewed in wild apple juice
A piece of wild cherry cheese
Feverfew tea throughout the day