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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Issue Date: April 17, 2014

Foraging

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer




**********

The whole concept of snacks is relatively new. Stores are loaded with snack foods, and you can hardly buy gas without elbowing your way through a countertop loaded with food designed to be eaten in a car. Commercials talk about healthy snacks but they don’t tell you eating anything above and beyond healthy meals can cause significant weight gain. Commercials feature snack food in individual packages so that you can put snacks in your purse, backpack or car, lest you starve to death at some point in your normal daily routine.

When I was in school we did get a mid-morning milk break. This consisted of milk and crackers (I seem to recall two soda crackers) and I suspect part of the reason milk break existed was to allow our frazzled teacher to get a cup of coffee. At home, we did not usually snack between meals or after school, but if we complained about being hungry we got some peanut butter on crackers or a handful of raisins.

Since those choices weren’t all that appealing, we didn’t ask for them often and if it wasn’t winter, we liked to forage outside for our own snacks. Again, our hunter gatherer ancestry makes us like to hunt for plant and animal foods, and this was the kid version of fulfilling that drive.

Our farmhouse was surrounded by apple and plum trees. Since we didn’t spray them, every apple had worms. We would hunt for an apple without too many wormholes, and then eat the parts around the worm trails inside. Same thing for the small, hard, bitter plums, although with their size smaller than the strawberries you see in the store now, it was harder to avoid the worms. Goes without saying we never washed the fruit OR our hands before eating it.

My mother had large, healthy rhubarb plants and we’d swipe a big stalk, get a healthy amount of sugar in a cup and eat the rhubarb by dipping it in sugar to mask the sour taste.

Late summer brought the wild Loganberries and blackberries. Loganberries are a larger, seedier version of blackberries. They like sandy soil and grow low and close to the ground. The blackberries were better tasting, but growing in tall, upright and uncultivated tangles, and armed with lots of sharp thorns, you got slashed up pretty good collecting them. Sometimes we’d be able to restrain ourselves from eating all the berries we picked, so Mom could bake something with a cupful or two of them. We’d also eat wild cranberries, strawberries and blueberries when we could. If we were pretending we were horses, we ate some grass.

And in late fall and early spring, it was the wintergreen berries, tiny red minty treats that don’t mind the snow or ice. We’d pick handfuls in the woods across from our house, and brew a nasty tea out of the minty leaves. Like the rhubarb, if you put enough sugar in the tea, it wasn’t bad at all.

And of course the family garden was always being raided for peas, beans, and carrots. You pulled out a carrot, wiped the worst of the dirt off with some spit and your t-shirt, and ate it.

Well, none of us ever died from all this unhygienic activity, and all of us were at a healthy weight as well. We got some lectures about the potential to get worms from ingesting so much dirt, but my sneaky suspicion is the motivation for those lectures was to get us to stop generating so many filthy t-shirts for the wringer washer.




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