Get outside more. We have a philosophy at MeatEater, that a deeper understanding of the natural world enriches all of our lives. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can say without a doubt that spending time outdoors will feed your soul. The next time you feel overwhelmed or caught up in the stresses of everyday life, just go outside. Take a hike, breathe in the wild air, feel the ground beneath your feet, listen to the sounds of mother nature, and remember what it means to be human on a primal level.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Prewett. Danielle is a wild game lover and whole-foods evangelist, best known for founding Wild + Whole and as a contributing culinary editor for MeatEater. Danielle is fascinated by the unique flavors and health benefits of wild game meat and strives to convey its beauty by teaching others how to properly cook and enjoy their harvest. Find more of her recipes and writing at www.themeateater.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Danielle! What is your “backstory”?
Launching a career in hunting and cooking wild game was not in the original recipe I had written out for my life. I went to college for fashion design and, at the time, aspired to build a career in that direction. However, I quickly learned that I hated the fashion industry, and I didn’t feel a strong connection to my work. I no longer felt passionate or even excited by my original career ambitions. At about the same time, I was diagnosed with some health issues that led to a number of dietary restrictions. Although I’d never been particularly interested in cooking, I began to scratch the surface and experiment, specifically using the wild game meat my boyfriend (now my husband) brought home from his hunts. Sure enough — I noticed a difference. I started feeling better both mentally and physically.
Using wild game meat and fish, and fresh, whole foods gave me control of what was going into my body and quickly reversed many of my ongoing health issues. I knew there was something going on, so I started documenting my journey online at Wild + Whole so others could join in the experience as I explored, researched and felt the benefits of incorporating wild game meat. As I became more in tune with the food on my plate, I also became more passionate and fascinated by where it came from. Soon, I began hunting myself as the next step to forging this deeper connection with my food.
What I have learned is that there is a direct correlation between the effort put into harvesting meat and the level of appreciation I felt for my meal. It is this deep sense of gratitude for the animal that died that pushes me to hunt. Hunting not only forms a meaningful relationship with food, but at the core it means coming face-to-face with the burden of eating ethically. As consumers, every choice we make to put food on the table reflects a form of violence that cannot be escaped no matter how far we remove ourselves from the natural world. Hunting is assuming responsibility of the death of an animal instead of letting others handle it for you. Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to hunt, process and cook a variety of game. I challenge the standards of wild game cooking by working with the flavor (not against it) in order to create delicious and healthy meals.
Everyone talks about mindful eating for wellness. I believe that for true wellness, mindfulness should extend beyond just paying attention to the food while it’s on your plate.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
I believe that true wellbeing is a combination of mental and physical health. The three concepts below are what bring health and meaning to my life:
1. Know where your food comes from. When you take initiative to become a part of the story of where your food comes from, you create a connection and deeper level of appreciation. Eating no longer becomes just another meal to fill your stomach, it has meaning. In doing so, you are also likely to make much healthier choices.
2. Eat real food, avoid labels or packages. I am a big fan of Michael Pollan and subscribe to his suggestion of “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. Even though I love to cook and eat wild game, it might surprise others to know that I still believe in eating a diet very high in fresh vegetables and eat vegetarian meals on a weekly basis.
3. Get outside more. We have a philosophy at MeatEater, that a deeper understanding of the natural world enriches all of our lives. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can say without a doubt that spending time outdoors will feed your soul. The next time you feel overwhelmed or caught up in the stresses of everyday life, just go outside. Take a hike, breathe in the wild air, feel the ground beneath your feet, listen to the sounds of mother nature, and remember what it means to be human on a primal level.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Since launching Wild + Whole, several opportunities have opened up for me that push me out of my comfort zone. As someone who doesn’t like being center of attention, I find myself giving seminars and cooking wild game on stage in front of numerous people. This has forced me to overcome fears, take risks, and be confident in my knowledge and passion. More specifically — I have gone on several hunts that I would typically not take on my own. One of the most memorable was a chukar hunt in the mountains of Idaho. The terrain is steep and rugged, in order to physically endure a week running up and down the mountain in search of birds, I had to be in great physical shape. I trained for several months leading up to the hunt and had an amazing, successful trip. This year I am training for two separate backcountry hunts in New Mexico for Mule deer. Hunting for meat has truly become an adventure, I have been able to do so much more in life than I ever thought possible.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake when I started Wild + Whole was trying to be the brand that I thought others wanted to see instead of being authentic. Even though I was sharing healthy, wild game recipes that I liked to cook, I was doing it in a way that worked for other brands instead of finding my own voice. I took my photographs in the style that others did, I even wrote in a bubbly voice that I hardly recognized because I thought it was catchy. Luckily, I realized early on that I didn’t want to be represented like anyone else other than myself. So, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and share my voice. Slowly but surely, I developed my own style in food photography and have learned how to communicate my passion in a way that has become very meaningful and fulfilling for me.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
The old saying “you are what you eat” isn’t exactly right. I think there’s actually an extension to that because really, “you are whatever what you eat, eats.” Eating wild game makes a personal nutritional impact because their diet is natural, rich in variety, and free from hormones or antibiotics. Perhaps as equally important, hunting for wild game contributes to the conservation and preservation of our wildlife.
Wild + Whole emphasizes the importance of knowing where our food comes from. Our society is disconnected and in turn, has lost the appreciation. We eat without hesitation of what we’re consuming and don’t even consider the effects our food choices have on our environment and health. When you are able to see where your meat comes from you become a part of that story and in turn, find more value in what’s on your plate. My intentions for my work with MeatEater as well as for my blog, Wild + Whole, is to teach others who already hunt how to make their wild game delicious, inspire others to learn how to hunt, and encourage our society to make mindful choices about the foods they consume for a better lifestyle and better health.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of my husband, after all, he introduced me to this lifestyle. Initially, I was very hesitant to hunting, I didn’t understand why he enjoyed it so much. He was very patient with me and continued to invite me outdoors and to teach me how. Learning to cook with wild game takes some time. Because the meat is so lean, it can easily overcook which is the number one mistake most people make. It is frustrating when you mess up because you often can’t just run to the grocery store, buy more, and try again. You have to hunt for it and that takes a tremendous amount of dedication. My husband continuously provides me with an incredible amount and variety of wild game and fish to cook and eat.
Today, we share a hobby and a bond that most people will never experience and I am fortunate to have him.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I want to see others becoming connected to their food in whatever means available to them. Hunting is fantastic and I would love to see more people getting involved. However, I also understand the bigger picture. I want to encourage others to make an effort to contact local CSA and visit nearby ranchers and farmers to see where their food comes from. The best option is to buy direct from the source, or in other words cut out the middle-man and stay away from mass-produced meats. Choosing to consume local, ethically raised meat has the power to dramatically transform our food and health system.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Prepare to let your walls down and be vulnerable. I spend a lot of time promoting Wild + Whole on social media. I’ll be honest, it takes a lot of courage to share your voice and you should do so with authenticity. It is so important to share not just who you are, but why you do what you do. When you let your guard down you allow people to get to know you. Doors will open in the most unexpected ways.
2. There are a lot of misconceived perceptions about hunters and so many people want to tear us down. Others want to place us in a box of what they think we should look like or act like and it can be difficult to break past the stereotypes. Often times people think we are stone cold killers and hunt for the joy of murdering animals. While there are certainly a lot of irresponsible hunters out there, for the most part, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t allow harmful thoughts to take root in my mind and I don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t expect to be a good hunter right out of the gate. Hunting can be extremely challenging and there is so much to know about it. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to go on a hunt and come home empty handed, but it happens a lot. It isn’t always easy and it takes dedication and commitment to stick with it. However, the rewarding feeling of accomplishment and appreciation when you do come home with meat can’t be explained, it can only be experienced.
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )
I would love to have brunch with Dr. Sara Gottfried! Gottfried is a functional medicine doctor who focuses on female health, natural ways to balance hormones, and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She goes beyond traditional women’s health by addressing underlying causes to get to the root of the problem and heal in a holistic way. Not only is she a tremendous wealth of knowledge, but overall she is just a cool human being!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges facing us as a people. It’s a complicated matter and unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a singular solution for the challenges of our growing global population. I do believe that hunting is a sustainable lifestyle that is better for our health and aids in the conservation of our animals. I also believe that the hunting and outdoors community is uniquely positioned to create a positive impact in this space. By taking the initiative to source our own food, we ensure that each part of the animal is used and can pass that mentality on to others, even those who may not necessarily want to hunt themselves. Often times, farmed meats are used for a few specific parts of the animal, leaving much of it wasted. However, a hunter is able to process and use every piece of the animal, from the meat to the hides, bones and organs and that’s not only respectful to the sacrifice of the animal, it’s a huge step in improving our sustainability.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?