Monday, May 12, 2008


I was thinking more about my last post----Jess commented on the taste of nettles, and she has a point. Wild foraged food tastes strong, gamey almost, can be tough. It can be hard to find dandelions, for instance, that aren't hairy and tough and bitter. It helps a lot to have a manual to help find the most succulent wild vegetables maybe. A big appetite helps too. If you are climbing through the forests all day and have no Trader Joe's rations in your backpack, I think the new strong flavors of wild food are more quickly assimilated. I cooked with nettles a few times this spring and found them sometimes to be hard to like. I made one soup that turned out green and tasty and another that was swampy. I snuck nettles into a risotto and nobody noticed they were eating tough burr-y greens. Everyone got all glowy because nettles are such a nutritional powerhouse food.

It's wonderful to make meals for friends who are used to convenience foods, which lack the vitamins and minerals that help us overcome our inevitable hangovers or lack of sleep or hormonal imbalances. When I cook medicine-style delicious foods for them, we get happily fucked up in a whole new way! The conversation is different from the Pabst-and-pizza dinner talk, but I do like both tables, pizza and medicine.

Michael has a good story about foraging for food without a field guide. He was working at Yosemite and took a days-long hike with friends through the high country. They didn't bring much food, they were headed to a big fish-filled lake so they just brough fishing poles, butter and sesame seeds. They also knew where to find ramps, which are wild leeks, so they anticipated fire-roasted fresh-caught fish dinners. But then they were misinformed and the lake was actually fishless and the guys didn't even know how to use their fishing pole. They lived off water and spoonfulls of butter and sesame seeds for the few days, until they lost their water filter, and then began hiking desperately for civilization. At Yosemite, leisure and the Grim Reaper weave so frighteningly quickly! The novelty of wild food is like that too. I will experiment with the flavors but then I think about actually subsisting on it and it sounds death-defying.

I'm packing up my kitchen tomorrow in anticipation of moving to Oakland. It's hard to reckon, even a couple of days without my kitchen and my reliable remedies and comforting habits. But packing is fun for taking inventory: the wooden lemon juicer, the tabletop pickler, jars and wooden spoons. It will be fun to experience the difference again between Portland and Oakland. Here in Portland, there's so much hippie pizza and an overflow of organic grocers and jam-packed cafes and bars. In Oakland, my neighborhood bar, Victors, has had scuffles between the lady bartenders over the tip jar and is generally extremely unfriendly. There's no organic shit in my Oakland neighborhood, just Asian grocers selling bottom-of-the-barrel cheap vegetables. There's no pretty little cafes, but Vietnamese iced coffee/gambling halls, liquor stores, scuzzy noodle shops. I like it better there, it's surprising to me too sometimes.

1 comment:

sweeetheartfever said...

"The NYU market made me feel pretty bleak about the state of freshness in New York." ---> me too :\

When I first moved here from California my friends tried to almost shield me from the farmer's market, ha. Like it might actually destroy me in comparison to the ones I grew up with.

I really like your blog! I like how much you write vs being picture heavy. It's a nice change. :)