Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scratching The Itch

I'd just joined the Boy Scouts, and our first camping trip turned out to be a muddy, mid-November adventure through some mid-Ohio tract of land cut flat by glacial activity with steep walls leading to a small creek that was once a mighty river. Our scoutmaster, a tall, powerful man who seemingly had biceps on his biceps rounded us kids and our backpacks up and took us on a survival walk. The point was to show us what we could possibly survive on, had we gotten lost in the woods.

The leaves had already fallen and what was green was now either asleep for the winter or eaten by the plentiful deer. The first plant he pointed out, a dark green fern that looked a bit like the top of a carrot, though it smelled much more like a skunk. He put the offensive plant in his mouth and chewed, talking the entire time. "Now, if you're out and surviving, the important thing to remember is that things won't always taste good. But, you'll need to eat to survive."

The next morning, he was taken away in an ambulance, the fern far more poisonous than he'd ever figured it would be. Months later, he confessed that he thought it was a wild carrot when it was something much more poisonous.

Since then, I've been cautiously fascinated with the idea of being able to eat things that are unfamiliar, and yet, too afraid to do so.

My name is Peter, Pete if you're a friend. I'm thirty-three in February, overweight and looking to change that. Within the last few years, I've discovered that foods grown and overseen by the people who grow them with minimal processing are far, far tastier than foods that are processed and packaged. I can make a better tasting catsup than Heinz, and freshly ground hamburger is likely the true ambrosia fruit. My fiancee and I have belonged to a CSA for two years, and we're proud of that. To support local farmers is great, and we're very in tune with our local growers and producers.

Participation for me in this challenge leans toward a journalistic curiosity than participatory. I doubt my garden will take off, thanks to a 75-foot maple tree in my backyard that's fantastic for shade, and not so fantastic for growing. I'm a carnivore, so, I'd have to hunt and fish for protein, if it weren't for my pesky rule of not being able to look what I eat in the eye. (it's a real problem with potatoes, folks)

What I want is to learn more than that scoutmaster could ever show me. I want to hit the hills with my fellow participants and forage for berries or edible flowers and greens. I'd like to sit out as Todd and Mark fish, skeeved about putting a worm on a hook. I want to learn vertical gardening and being able to eat food that I cultivate myself. I want to have a bit of self-sufficiency in my life, and to be able to look at something I'm about to eat and take each bite with pride. I'd like to expand my culinary horizons so that I can reduce my dependance on the global economy and reduce my waistline, too.

Will I? Stay tuned.

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