Urban hunter-gatherer

posted in: Food | 0

I’ve been walking around outside. I really wanted to ride my bike – to feel the exhilaration of flying along down a hill or into the wilderness. But instead I walked through the neighbourhood up to Venables, Commercial and back. Commercial: it’s exactly what it sounds like. Stores. Consumerism. I didn’t buy the sunglasses with rhinestones on the bridge. It was sunny and they were cheap and I have money in the bank now, but I restricted myself as I often do to filling my cloth bag with produce – a few organic items but mainly cheap and moderately fresh squash, nectarines, and onions.

Since we’ve reverted back to a nine-to-five work week, I’ve found my desire to cook again – I don’t know what you call that – it’s like a green thumb, but for cooking. Autumn transforms me into a hunter-gatherer. Maybe my ancestors were nomads or at least thrifty Irish farmers. I am compelled to collect  things that most people would buy – probably because it’s cheaper and faster to just buy things. Especially in this neighbourhood. For example I didn’t realize that rosehips are just the red berrylike things left on rosebushes at this time of the year. Instead of paying $59/kg at Sweet Cherubim, why not dry them myself? And if that’s the case, I should be out digging dandelion root. The image of a gurgling cauldron comes to mind here, but I assure you, I’m not into witchcraft, nor do I even really have much faith in herbal remedies or teas. I just enjoy the creativity of mixing them.

So my gatherer exploits started the other night when we were walking to our friends’ place through a nearby alley. I noticed a big bush that I thought was dill in the past years was actually anise. We picked a bunch of the stalks and made them into tea with some fresh mint. This was a hit with the friends, so we got some more and left it on the kitchen table for a few days. The seeds all started falling out so I gathered a whole tea can full of it. The next thing I knew, I was searching for anise recipes, and the next thing I knew I was up to my elbows in flour.

I moved on to preserving the rosehips. The best time to pick them is “after the first frost.” What’s frost again? It’s unlikely that it will freeze here in general, so move on to step two – allow them to shrivel a bit, cut in half, take out the seeds. Dry some more. Freeze.

Speaking of the freezer, I gathered a few bags of basil and french tarragon leaves which can successfully be frozen for use in the rainy season. I was hoping I could make a lot of pesto and freeze it or something, but this seems to be widely discouraged.

But my main occupation has been trying to use the jalapeno peppers that are adorning my garden. It started with corn bread yesterday, when I discovered that the peppers aren’t even spicy. Today I made vegetable pancakes and now it’s black and white bean chili to accompany the lonely chili-cheese cornbread.

All of this to say – or to not say – I’m trying to reconnect with my primal creative instinct, which is supposed to lead to either writing or painting before this weekend is over. Earlier this week I submitted my first portfolio – ever. And I made it in one evening. I wouldn’t recommend that process – I’m scared to look at the files in case I find a belated error. I’m going for a job that would be very good for me. It’s internal, but would bring about a significant change in my career. I feel more hopeful than I have in a long time. And ready for the change.

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