Ray Mears: slow technology and wild lunches

If there’s one man who knows how to get his hands, quite literally, on a lunch it is Ray Mears. Arctic chard, monitor lizards, bison, witchetty grubs: the TV survivalist expert has tracked, trapped, skinned, picked and eaten a glutton’s list of wild foods using the tools and methods of indigenous tribespeople across the world.

In a throwback to the old-fashioned public lectures given by explorers, Ray visited Derby recently. And in the hope of getting a few tips for my own lunchtime forays, I headed over there to hear what he had to say. There were many interesting and amusing anecdotes about his times in the wilderness but one thread stood out for me.

Wild hunting and food gathering is incredibly slow and deliberate. It utilises an enormous amount of inherited local knowledge and the use of appropriate tools—what we would call technologies. As an example of this, Ray described how it takes 14 hours to prepare ice holes and a net in order to catch an Arctic chard (a type of fish).

Sadly, Ray made it clear that in his twenty-year career he could already see many examples of how these skills were being lost, largely because of how the modern world is rapidly encroaching on the last of the truly wild areas.

In essence we are ‘forgetting’ how to get our lunch. Puts a different complexion on popping out to the shop for a sandwich, doesn’t it?

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