Last month I was invited on a unique camping trip, this trip into Fundy National Park would be with a group of boys (12 to 17 yr. old) that have been forced into adulthood by the circumstances they face in their daily lives such as broken homes, addictions, violence, food insecurity, homelessness and troubles with the law. The goal of the trip was to bring these guys into woods, equip them to camp, hike, swim, toss rocks, and cook up their own food on an open fire. This was an opportunity to be free from the daily challenges of their lives live in a wild place where boys are free to be boys!
They Swam, hiked a total of 25km, tossed rocks and made arrow heads for spears!
Many of these guys had never camped and rarely left their neighbourhoods, life circumstances have often robbed them of the freedom of being a youth – It was so cool to see them free to explore, tough-guy teens playing like river otters in the falls of Fundy Park!
Where does the food adventure part kick in? The food skills workshops we did where centered around making high energy food cooked on the fire and the preparation of the food that they would bring on their daily hikes.
A highlight was preparing meat for the week into jerky and smocking it on a bush smoker (tarp and a teepee to hang meat in)
- Build a fire until it had good coals
- Collect fetch green leaves from trees of shrubs (best are Yellow Birch, willow, fruit trees)
- Build a tripod or teepee and wrap in a tarp or piece of plastic ensuring there is room to put hot embers in the center.
- Slice meat up as thin as possible
- Place meat in a zip-lock bag along with plenty of salt and your favorite spices. (or a type of barbecue sauce that you like)
- Shake and massage the meat for 15 minutes (or let sit for an hour or two)
- Place seasoned meat into smoker
- Place coals on the floor and pile green leaves on top (ensure think smoke is generated inside)
- Close up the smoker and add coals and leaves as needed until meat has smoked for 3 -4 hours
This recipe produces jerky that will store for a good year!
We spoke a lot about wild foods and made different types of wild tea. The Favorite was Chaga tea!
Here are the guys climbing a tree to pick Chaga
What struck me about this trip was the level of enthusiasm the guys expressed and the amount of team work around preparing wild foods and team spirit that it created. Food was the focal point of our day; tough alpha male teens, volatile situations, personality clashes etc. were sorted out and put aside around the fire and at the table. Above all, once these guys were in the woods making their own food, free to explore and push their limits they were actually being 12-17 yr. olds and filled with self-confidence.
Written by Aaron Shantz – Community Coordinator Southeast New Brunswick