FIFTEEN THE FORAGER
1. SERIOUS PLAY
There was one more meal I wanted to make, and that was the meal at the end of the shortest food chain of all. What I had in mind was a dinner prepared entirely from ingredients I had hunted, gathered, and grown myself. Now, there are some people (though not all that many of them anymore) for whom such a radically self-made meal exists firmly in the realm of possibility. I am not one of them. The growing part was the only part I knew I could handle. I’ve been a gardener most of my life, and have made countless meals from my garden. These included no animal protein, however, and I had decided that this meal should feature representatives of all three edible kingdoms: animal, vegetable, and fungi. I was about as ill prepared to hunt the former and gather the latter as an eater could possibly be.
I had never hunted in my life. Indeed, I had never fired a gun loaded with anything more lethal than caps. Being a somewhat accident-prone individual (childhood mishaps included getting bitten in the cheek by a seagull and breaking my nose falling out of bed), I have always thought it wise to maintain a healthy distance between me and firearms. Besides, you have to have had a certain kind of dad in order to join the culture of hunting in America, and mine, one of the great in-doorsmen, was emphatically not that dad. My father looked upon hunting as a human activity that had stopped making sense with the invention of the steakhouse. As a recreational pursuit that involved the certainty of going outside and the possibility of the sight of blood, hunting in his opinion was something best left to the gentiles. So in hunting my own dinner I would be starting very much from scratch.
Thanks to my mother’s more extensive engagement with the natural world, I did have some childhood experience as a gatherer. During the summer she would take us to the beach at low tide to dig for steamers, excavating by hand the airholes the clams had made in the...