What are the connections between the abundance of Atlantic cod, and the fate of seals and polar bears facing the effects of climate change in the Arctic? Cod shaped human migration, can the cuisine of Newfoundland do it again?
Is the true role of Pacific salmon to carry deep ocean nutrients inland to feed forests, eagles and people along the way? The smell of the smokehouses surrounding Bristol Bay always waft inland.
Does fire only destroy, or does it forge and resurrect landscapes and threatened wildlife? From morels to moose, forest fires in the Canadian boreal forest bring us back to the table.
Does the western movement of whitetail deer carry with them the tyranny of the invader? Are they, along with feral boar, changing the North American landscape on a scale we have not yet come to comprehend? A whole hog roast at a tail-gate party at Texas A&M can rally the crowds and perhaps create a new tradition in the lone star state?
How are purple sea urchins the link between grey whales, sea otters and the future of critical kelp forests in coastal North America? Are Northern Californians ready to eat the gonads?
Are oysters, mussels and clams the potential saviour of polluted saltwater environments? A little mignonette may provide some clues to the cleaning of Chesapeake Bay.
The stories are often generations old but they provide a guiding light forward. We interact with these stories through food.
“You Eat the What?”
Sea Urchin, Tofino BC
Just off-shore, in the intertidal zone, live some of the strangest creatures that have made it into the pantheon of the food elite. Uni – sea urchin are still collected at low-tide using dip nets but the most effective technique is to use scuba gear to compete directly with the local sea otters. Along with uni we find the janitor of the Pacific, the Dungeness crab. Chad is joined by a young tribe of free diving foragers and learns from hard core marine biologist, Anne Solomon, why purple sea urchins are the link between grey whales, sea otters and the future of critical kelp forests in coastal North America. Chad collects this bounty and heads to the sushi bar with Executive Chef Jackson Yu from San Francisco's Omakase Sushi Bar to see just who has more of a knack for prepping gonads.
“A New Red Menace”
Humboldt Squid, Central California
Off the coast of California, devilish 6 ft long Humboldt squid were amassing in stunning numbers as recently as nine years ago, but have since dropped off drastically due to the increasing warming of the waters they inhabit. Carnivorous and cannibalistic, these are some deadly invertebrates - but they sure are delicious. With the help of XX, Chad tries to figure out where the squid have gone...did they travel North? He explores the true effects of climate change on oceanic food sources, heading to open water to try to determine who’s really at the top of the food chain. Big water and the snapping beaks of angry squid make for some sketchy moments (squid aren’t the only carnivores out there…) but once we get to the table, with the help of XX no one has ever seen calamari quite like this.
”The Speed Goat”
Pronghorn - Livingston, Montana
Pronghorn are the fastest land animals in North America and have better eyesight than the bald eagle. Their reputation as table-fare is equally impressive. Chad journeys to the western plains of Montana to visit Livingston, a town with as many art galleries as dive bars. He tries to gain knowledge from the townsfolk but, in the end, the advice of Jim Harrison helps us find the speed goat and brings a pronghorn roast to the table. (And, once again, even after a visit to the Marlboro Ranch, Chad admits he is a long way from being a cowboy…)
Almonds and Orchards, Uniontown, Alabama
We look to the heavens for physical and spiritual exploration. But what if all we need to know is already at our feet? Does dirt hold the key to feeding us all, and feeding us well? Chad is joined by Zach Bush MD, a well known Physician who believes human disease is closely connected to soil health. They travel to the big farm mecca of Alabama to meet Kyle Pratt and his family, a group of enlightened farmers to have built and maintained soil health through the use of no-till, bio-intensive, human-intensive growing methods. Will Horowitz, explorer and Chef at Ducks Eatery in New York helps us understand whats really at jeopardy when we don’t consider soil. Chad, Zach and Will feed an evening market crowd a vegan harvest meal that would make any gut biome sing.
“That’ll Do Pig”
Feral Hogs, Texas
In Texas, there are two religions – football and barbeque. Chad takes John Stenman, Food Journalist, to the Lone Star State in search of some of the ugliest, most destructive, yet tastiest animals in the south. Chad scours the land and to attempt a traditional Texas college football game tail-gate barbeque using wild hogs. Sure we can attract the crowds but can we show them that Russian boars are good enough to justify space in the smoker?
“Think You're Smarter than a Turkey?”
Wild Turkey, Kentucky
Benjamin Franklin lobbied vigorously for the turkey to be the national bird of the United States. With this (and a love for bourbon) in mind, Chad heads to Kentucky to find the grand table bird. Quickly humbled by the uncanny ability of these birds to avoid detection, Chad is taught the ways of the turkey call by the local youth turkey calling champion and puts his newfound skill to good use. The thanksgiving table is set with a stunning wild bird and all-round agreement that maybe the turkey would have been a good choice for the American bird after-all.
“From Russia, to Paris – with Love.”
Snow Geese, Lower Mainland, BC
Each year, tens of thousands of snow geese make their way from Wrangel Island, Russia to California. Within sight of downtown Vancouver, Chad hunkers down in the Fraser River marshes to await the morning goose rush-hour. After the rain, fog and the smell of gunpowder in the morning, Chad joins the brooding gloom of the city for the creation of a French sportsman-inspired snow goose cassoulet at the French home-style bistro, Le Faux Bourgeois.
“Strong Like Bison, Dumb Like Coke Machine”
Wood Bison, Northern Alberta
Take the strength and weight of a rhino and combine it with the toughness of a muskox and throw it into some of the worst winter weather in Canada and you get wood bison. They embody the rich, rugged West and Chad has to muster all his resolve to find, dispatch and deliver a bison in some truly dire conditions. Battling frozen gear, wolves and the general inflexibility of heavy winter clothes, bison are found. The adage that the work begins after the shot is never more true than in these remote, harsh conditions. Finally, Chad makes it to a downtown feast where, as per tradition, the riches of the bison are shared until all 600 pounds of meat is spoken for.
“Strap on the Tweeds”
Upland Birds - Pheasant, Chukkar Partridge, North Dakota
Modern fabrics and ‘camo’ have altered the sportsman’s closet to the point that your grandfather would think you were preparing for a trip to the space station instead of going hunting. Chad packs up the tweeds, shooting breeches and the over-under shotgun and heads to the wing-shooting Mecca of North Dakota. He gets outsmarted by the gun dogs, most of the birds and comes to admit that maybe, just maybe, style doesn’t always beat out substance and skill. Back at the table, pheasant and partridge are transformed into a meal fit for a tweedy English lord.
“Urban Terror or Fine Terrine?”
Canada Goose - Saskatchewan
Often derided in the city for fouling the parks, beating up small dogs and scaring unsuspecting tourists, Canada goose are an unexpected delicacy when sourced and treated properly. In our case, ‘sourced and treated properly’ means sitting in a beautiful prairie field at sunrise, shooting true and turning huge, grain-fed Saskatchewan geese into rich terrines, wild foie gras, and a Christmas feast that will not soon be forgotten.
“Elmer Fudd Finally Wins”
Rabbit, The Sanoma Valley’s Vintner’s Banee
Yes, they are cute. All of them. And each one is tastier than the next. Rabbits, the cannon fodder of the animal kingdom, are commonly eaten by everything but the urbanite. The Banee is the pre-season food and wine celebration of the Sanoma vintners. Every winery in the area attends a feast of bacchanalian proportions and speaks ill of the rafts of rabbits that tear into their plants every year. Chad heads to one of the great seasonal celebrations and finds a solution to their ‘rabbit problem’ and puts a rabbit in every wine braised pot.
“High Plains Drifter”
Mule Deer - The Gang Ranch, Fraser River Chilcotin Plateaus
High plains mule deer are the largest deer in North America and the Gang Ranch is one of the largest working cattle ranches in the world. Combine a remote location, curious grizzlies and wolves, long distance scouting and nasty weather breathing down your neck and you find either Gang Ranch cowboys or truly dedicated deer hunters. Chad and his friends venture on horseback into the vast and dramatic Chilcotin Fraser River Plateaus for an old-school, tough as nails adventure. Once a buck is found, the choice has to be made – is it worth it? Meanwhile, the dinner party in the city waits with expectation - did they return successful, or just saddle sore and beaten by the wilderness? It’s usually a bit of both.