Saturday, October 1, 2011

Eating the good food

For many years now I have kept sporadic logs of my foraging activities.  At times my writing has been no more than simple lists, and at others, more detailed accounts, but the purpose has always been to help me refine my relationship with the natural world in the context of space and time: where and when I collect different types of food.  Someday, when I have completed the autecology of Abe, I hope to have a better understanding of the environmental impacts of a wild food diet.  This might look something like a performance index that evaluates the social, ecological, and economic sustainability of different dietary elements and allows comparisons to be made.  For example, I might compare corn and acorns, two starches of global importance at various times in human history.  Indicators of ecological sustainability of these food systems might include biodiversity and soil health (erosion vs. genesis); social indicators might include percentage of land owner in-habitation and the ratio of living costs to income; and economic indicators would include yield per acre and many others.  The point of it all would be to develop a sense of the cost/benefit ratio of different food production systems.  A corn farmer may produce 100 bushels of food per acre, but what of soil loss, of biodiversity?  Very few wild foods are understood well enough to even calculate the yield per acre, but we know, generally, that they are native species that grow in poly-cultures, and require much less intensive disturbance than many of our industrial food crops.

If there is one thing that I have learned in the process of completing my master's degree, it is that big things are accomplished incrementally.  While I consider the task above to be my life's work, I chip away at it every day by learning how each individual component of my diet works.  This blog, therefore, is a more deliberate continuation of my impulse to record my day to day wild food experiments.  For me, and perhaps some of my readers, many of the most important details are simple: what did I collect, when did I collect it, and where was it.  I will attempt to standardize names to make this log easier to search.  With the exception of public figures, human names will include only the first name to provide some level of anonymity, but to still acknowledge my friends and associates; plant and animal names will be capitalized when using the common name, and at least for plants, scientific names will be given to allow easy key word searching of the document.  The scope of my experiences will probably be limited to the Pacific Northwest (Northwest Coast), which as Andy McKinnon once told me, is easily delineated by everywhere that a Pacific salmon species swims. Currently my forays are centered in the Victoria, B.C. area.

At this stage in my life, I have the great luxury of diving headlong into foraging.  My motivation is to write a wild food book, and my inspiration comes from great wild food books like Thayer’s Nature’s Garden and Forager’s Harvest, Gibbons’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, and Thoreau’s Wild Fruits.  These are books filled with personal experiences with plants.  In order to write, I to must experience, and so I have become a full time forager, a modern hunter gatherer, and I hope at times, when inspiration affords me the opportunity to scribe some of the realities of life, a true Naturalist. Pin It submit to reddit