When I was growing up, my mom used to always tell me, “Someday you are gonna have to pick one thing to do and settle on it.” She was referring to my obsessions with skateboarding, snowboarding, riding bikes, hockey, baseball, adventuring, writing poetry, painting, playing guitar, the list went on. In looking back, and now in raising my kids, I’ve learned if, for nothing else, parents are for proving wrong.
Rather than think of my passions as “too much” with a need to limit, I’ve worked hard to braid them all together so that I don’t have to choose.
It should come as no surprise that one of these many loves is food. Particularly, I love food with a story. Food with an edge and a soul. Like good music, good trail, and good literature,
it should be hearty, satisfying, and challenging at the same time.
Back in 2007, I cooked in a well-known restaurant in Minneapolis, and it was there that I solidified an understanding of this kind of food. Not fancy infusion food, but simple food – peasant food. Made from the dirt, made with honest hands.
Eventually, my working in the restaurant led to an opportunity to work as a butcher, and I began learning the art of salumi and charcuterie with Minneapolis chef Mike Phillips. Over the
years, Mike has become one of my best friends and favorite people to ride bikes within the woods.
At some point on just about every one of our rides, there has been a moment where we end up sharing a similar vision. He and I leading a group of folks into the woods with a bunch of cured meat and beer to eat sandwiches and then listen to music.
Recently, we made the vision a reality. Teaming up with Dan and Josh at Spokengear bike shop in Two Harbors, we led 30 riders through the leaf-scattered gravel and two-track roads just northwest of town on a ride I called “Ride with the Wolves.” Midway through the ride, we stopped at a snowmobile shelter on the C.J. Ramstead Trail. The group gathered around the picnic table to hear Mike tell the story of his salami while he and I prepared their “Wilderness Sandwiches.”
Not surprisingly, salami is no different than all other things. You get what you put in. For a long time, the U.S. has been eating sub-par salami. Mike has been working hard to make a product in the States that lives up to the standards held up by the countries who invented it. Most notably, France and Italy.
The quality of the pig is extremely important. Its diet, where it lives, how it is treated, and how it is killed all matter. When there is care and love put into all the components of the cycle, the difference in the final product is obvious.
You can’t imitate authenticity. The fat rises to the top. Soulful things speak for themselves.
Needless to say, while handing out “Wilderness Sandwiches,” we heard many “Oh my gods,” and “Holy **** this is so good!”
As the fall wind blew thick with leaf litter, and golden light rattled through the dusty air, we pedaled back to town. I found myself relishing in the joy I saw expressed on the faces of these
riders as their hearts and appetites had been filled by the collection of so many things that have brought enormous satisfaction to my own life. Meat, cheese, bread, beer, dirt, music, and bikes.
Pretty sure this is going to become a thing, so stay tuned for the next installment of Ride with the Wolves.
Photos courtesy of Michelle Pierson
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