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When we sail out and away from towns, we generally like to stay out and away for a good long while. Our stores lean heavily toward dried goods; rice and lentils, wheat and beans, onions and garlic, fruits.
Fresh produce and meats are unavailable after the first week or so. In any event, we balk at their prices. Shipping costs and middle-men jack up the price of produce in Alaska. Locally grown foods often cost even more, due to economies of small scale, short growing seasons and cost of feed. We like to support local producers and businesses, but have to keep a close eye on our budget.
Our answer is wild foods. Wild plant forage, wild animal meats and fats.
Local plants have provided most of our greens for many years, now, with only a few dumpster-diven exceptions when in a town. We fish and beach-comb (some wierd stuff, here), and sometimes receive gifts of red meats (venison, bear and seal... often organ meats) or poultry (ducks or geese). Down the road, who knows? Grubs and insects aren't so far from wrigglers we eat from the beach.
To some degree, most of these are stronger in taste than domesticated foods. Wild plants have tastes which stray from the supermarket palette, and where similar, tend to be stronger and often with a bitter tinge. Wild meats can be 'gamey', depending on what the creature has been eating, and organ meats each have their own flavors.
So, to eat widely and in season from our locale, the acquisition of tastes is a real benefit.
Mostly, it seems, our tastes are matters of habit. One culture's delicacy can turn another's stomach, or at least their head. When we eat from off our beaten path, most of us approach with caution, and eat with 'long teeth'.
A famous Chinese subject of painting is The Vinegar Tasters... three men are tasting newly brewed vinegar. One represents Confucianism... his expression is sour... affronted by the taste. The Buddhist looks resigned... another shot of dukkha (trans. suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, stress) from which to detach. The Taoist smiles... this taste would go well with any number of others! Yum.
I can't say we're advanced souls, finding the yum in all that which does not kill us. But we aspire to it, relating to the Taoist's engagement with the world. In food, as in so many aspects of simple living, we seek Yum.
We try to approach each new taste with an open mind and the expectation of dawning deliciousness. Frequent exposure helps with acquisition, especially if blended with other tastes we already like. Or we might relate it to some positive value. For example, when a trophy hunter gives us bear meat that would otherwise be left for the birds and the beasts, reduction of human wastefulness and relating to the spirit of the bear appeals to us.
Over the years our tastes have broadened, and with them, our options.
|The Vinegar Tasters|
PS. Not all plants or even animal (parts) are safe to eat... be sure to do your homework before venturing out into the wild!
As a kid, one of our Tlingit friends went along as fishing crew for his Grandfather. These trips lasted about a week before returning to sell the catch, ice up and head back out.
Fishing, of course, is hungry work.
"Grampa, I'm hungry! What've we got to eat?", he asked.
"There's a grub box on deck, s'brd side. Help yourself to as much as you want," came the answer.
When our friend opened the lid, he was hit by a wall of... well... in the spirit of this post, let's say 'interest'.
The box was brim full with an old-time Tlingit delicacy. Stinkhead... fermented - some would say rotten - fish heads! And no reprieve from the catch... fresh salmon is as good as cash money, and ya don't eat that!
Our friend only lasted that one trip, and he said he lost 25 pounds, fasting except for the occasional unmarketable fish that took their lines.
Stinkhead is a powerful gustatory experience whose appreciation has dwindled with changing times. It vividly demonstrates the power of mind over manna.