Abandon the office - be a hunter-gatherer

Matt Rilkoff will travel around Taranaki in an attempt to live off the land.
Matt Rilkoff will travel around Taranaki in an attempt to live off the land.

THE GOOD LIFE From January 28 to February 8 (or as long as he can manage) Matt Rilkoff will travel around Taranaki in an attempt to live off the land, eating only that which he can find.

Largely clueless on where to start he is seeking help in the form of hunters, fishers, fruit and vegetable growers, experienced foragers and anyone else who knows a thing or two about finding or making local food and beverages. Contact Matt on 06 759 0836 or matt.rilkoff@dailynews.co.nz

Sometimes when the moon is high and there is nothing on television, I fantasise about a different life. One free of money, supermarkets, office work or contrived social interactions and instead, full of hunting and gathering and sitting around a fire dressed in a fur loincloth.

It doesn't pay to think on it too deeply or you would start feeling the fleas biting from said loincloth, remember how you're hungry and tired most of the time and wince at the blisters you got starting the fire by rubbing two bits of wood together.

You have to push that aside and just think of the purity of purpose you would have if all you needed to do each day was find enough to eat. Concentrate on the joy of discovering an untouched patch of blackberries, the glory of trapping a fat rabbit and the unmatched sleep that takes you each night after a day of total exertion.

Many thousands of years ago our ancestors lived like that and though the world has completely changed and is now divided up into small parcels of privacy, I can't help but wonder if the hunting and gathering life is still possible. Could I find enough to eat without having to go to the shop?

I've never had the courage to try as it would require hard work and plenty of killing, something in which I have limited experience. That would have to change and is something I want to change anyway, mostly because of two conflicting characteristics: I am obsessed with food and I'm too cheap to use money to get it.

This is a problem as for the last few years I have felt a shiver up my spine that tells me food prices are going to go through the roof any day now. Any day. They are there already but it's going to get worse, especially if this global warming is a real thing and droughts and floods destroy millions of hectares of currently arable land used to raise good and honest chunks of red meat.

The prospect comes up in my worst nightmares, the opposite of fantasies. In it, I am sitting down for a dinner of chickpea porridge with the hypothetical Matt Rilkoff Jr, talking wistfully about the days when you could pop down to the store and buy a package of meat.

"What's that, Dad?" he says, at which point I wake up screaming.

Luckily, Taranaki is teeming with meat that no-one owns and therefore can be taken by anyone with a bit of gumption, of which I am sure I have.

This meat is called feral deer, feral pig, feral rabbit and feral goat. In the last 10 years or so the word "feral" has changed its meaning so it is now used in a highly negative way that implies uncleanliness, disease and rank odour. People even use it to describe other people and it is often attached to comments about traffic-light car window washers.

But feral animals are none of these things. They are just animals that got away on us and over which we have very little control. Because we despise animals we can't own or master we denigrate them, even though they all taste delicious when cut up and roasted over hot coals.

I therefore know that if I could hunt I would never have to live with the fear of a future without meat and Matt Jr would grow up strong and bright-eyed and blessedly ignorant of the nutritional benefits of chickpeas and soya-based products.

There would be other spiritual advantages to living off the land. You would no longer have to devote the best part of your day and life to providing a service of marginal use, such as stringing words together in an order that hopefully amuses someone.

You could stop clouding your mind with workplace gossip or listening to moronic middle managers attack you with imbecilic and meaningless phrases such as "going forward", "paradigm shift" and "win-win".

Your children would no longer have to sit in school having their spirit crushed because they couldn't spell encyclopaedia, or stumbled on their seven times tables. Instead, they would be with you in the bush or on the sea doing the one thing that really matters - finding food.

Because, for all the importance we attach to our careers, our things, our standing in community, they are just invented measures of success and totally meaningless when you sit down and try to figure out what you have done with your life.

What really measures up is food and how long you had to spend away from your family to get it.

At least that's what I'm going with right now. Fantasies, by definition, need not be bothered with pesky counter arguments or details. They're what we use to escape reality, whatever that is.

Taranaki Daily News