Friday, March 30, 2012

Throw Away People

When I was in my late teens, I worked at a grocery store deli. Behind the grocery store was a HUGE trash compactor which was probably 20ft long, 10 ft high and 10ft across. There was a 5ft high cement porch at the level of the door of that compactor, so it was easy just to drag the trash out the back door and push it in. The first night I started working there, the guy who trained me told me that before I pressed the button to compact the trash to make sure that there were no people in the compactor. He said that sometimes homeless people would be in there getting the food out. I was paranoid about crushing a person because I think that would be one of the worst ways to die. The grocery store was in a small town but in the poorer section. It was also next to the county jail, and one night a man escaped and ran behind the store with the police chasing him. After I had been working there for a couple of months, a stockboy pointed to an old man and woman and said that he had to yell at them to get out of the compactor. I recognized the couple as people who came in during the evenings asking if I could sell them something from the deli at a cheaper price. Usually, I was the only employee there at night and wasn’t sure, so I asked my manager and she said absolutely not. Her reasoning was that if we started selling food cheaper when we were closing, then many people would wait until the deli closed to come begging for cheaper food. Her solution, in fairness to everyone, was to throw the food away. Every day that I worked there I would throw away about 100lbs of food. I wasn’t allowed to take home any of the food either for free or discounted. Ironically, that store held food drives a few times a year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Food Challenge Changes

I have decided to modify my food challenge a little. So far, I have not followed it for only two days since January 1st. One change will include one day per season when I can eat whatever I want. Another change will include allowing myself to puchase milk products and meat from local farmers. The challenge has been an eye opening experience and given me a greater appreciation for our ancestors who had to grow or kill all of their own food. It is not my goal to lose a lot of weight this year, but I have lost nearly 30lbs in 80 days :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Warning: Do not eat plants or fungi found in the woods based on my photos!

I’m taking a botany class on local flora, and puttyroot is one of the species I have to memorize this semester. I first noticed puttyroot last year because it is one of the few green plants in winter. It has only one leaf which sits directly on the forest floor. Puttyroot is in the orchid family (Orchidaceae Aplectrum hyemale), but it has a rather boring flower so it isn’t cultivated like more showy orchids. There is a colony of them in the woods behind my house. I counted 80 individual plants in my field of view, so I didn’t think it would be harmful to dig up two plants to eat.

My edible plant book says:
Puttyroot Use: Cooked vegetable. Boil the bulblike corms for 20min and serve with butter.
Note: Relatively uncommon; use only in emergencies.

An alternative name to puttyroot is Adam and Eve Orchid which is named for the fused corms. One of the plants I dug up had 3 fused corms, so I guess it was an Adam, Eve and Cain Orchid. The corms are very sticky and can somehow be used to create a glue-like substance. I decided not to eat them because they didn’t smell like something I would like to eat. It is good to know that these are edible, though, just in case I should ever find myself lost in the woods.

If you live in the following states, then you should follow the state laws and not disturb puttyroot:

Connecticut: Special Concern
Massachusetts: Endangered
New Jersey: Endangered
New York: Endangered
Pennsylvania: Rare
Vermont: Threatened

The Morel of the Story

Unless you know exactly what you are doing, do not eat plants or fungi you find in the woods. 
I found my first morel of the year. It is classified in my mushroom book as having a honeycomb-like cap. It has a hollow interior and I’ve been told they like to grow in old apple orchards. The mushroom book also includes elms, poplars, tulip poplars and conifers as sites to find morels. They grow worldwide but are less common in very cold or warm to hot regions. I watched a show on PBS that had a segment on how to cook morels, and the chef cooked them in a pan with butter and garlic. I usually eat morels raw, but the show said that people shouldn’t eat them raw because they are mildly toxic. There is a poisonous species called conifer false morel (Gyromitra esculenta), which superficially resembles the common morel, and it usually grows near conifers on sand soil or on wood chips. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Narcissus and Echo

Narcissus was a handsome young man who was adored by women and nymphs, but he rejected all of them. A spurned woman said a prayer that one day he would know what it was like to love but to not be loved in return. He was on a hunt through the forest when he called for his hunting companions but only heard Echo. She was a nymph who loved Narcissus and longed to speak to him, but she had lost her ability to say what she wished. The goddess Juno had cursed Echo for talking too much and lying to her about where Zeus was. Echo’s curse said that she could only repeat back what was said to her, but she would always have the last word. When Narcissus called to his companions he said “Who is here?” and Echo replied, “Here.” Narcissus saw no one but called, “Come.” She answered back, “Come.” Narcissus asked “Why do you shun me?” Echo said the same thing. Then he said “Let us join one another.” Echo answered back with all of her heart and went running to meet him. He saw her and backed up yelling, “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!” She then answers, “Have me.” She was heartbroken and went to live in caves and mountain cliffs. Her body eventually faded, and her bones were changed into rocks with nothing left of her but an echo.

One day while Narcissus was in the forest he stopped to have a drink of water at a clear pond. He saw his own reflection and thought it was a beautiful water spirit living there. He gazed at it and went to kiss the water spirit, but the object fled from his advances. He talked to the being in the water asking, “Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckoning with the like.” He stayed next to the image and didn’t eat or drink and eventually wasted away and died. Echo had always stayed near Narcissus, and when he died she and the other nymphs had prepared a funeral pyre, but his body was nowhere to be found. In the place where he had died watching his reflection was a flower.

I summarized this myth from “Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology.” It is slightly different in other versions, but they all have the main similarities such as Narcissus is always paired with Echo. He never recognizes the image in the pool to be his own. Echo loves him and he loves to hear his words echoed, but he doesn’t love her. In all of the versions he wastes away and dies next to the pool of water.

This myth shows us what happens to us if we only hang out with people who are like us. We only grow, learn and experience when we quit hanging out with ourselves and people who will only echo what we wish to hear. It’s a risk for all of us, when we are around a group of people who share our similar beliefs and attitudes that we will start loving our group so much, we become incapable of leaving our own reflection. The problem is that, like Narcissus, we don’t recognize when this begins to happen. We make the ones who echo us into objects, and we don’t love them as individuals. We only love to hear what others repeat back and reflect what we wish to see.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I recently taste-tested toothwort (Do not eat any plant unless you know exactly what it is!). The plants grow in abundance next to the creek in my backyard. According to an edible wild plant book it says, "Use: Horseradishlike condiment, salad. The crisp rootstocks are peppery-pungent; mixed with vinegar and a pinch of salt, they can be substituted for horseradish; chopped up, they make a lively addition to salads." I tried the root and it did taste like a mild horseradish. Maybe I will dry several roots and turn it into a powder so I can use it for a long time. Unfortunately, I could not find any information on how toothwort was used as for teeth. The word "wort" usually means the plant was considered, at one time, to have healing properties. This is the reason why there are also plants called liverworts and spleenworts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Humans are Omnivores

The previous statement is obvious to most people, but some extreme vegan and vegetarian websites seem to believe humans are supposed to be herbivores. I have a problem with the terms herbivore, omnivore and carnivore because animal diets do not fit neatly into those categories. For example, my carnivorous cat will eat cat food which contains corn meal, wheat flour and soy flour. Do you see the picture of the garter snake and cat food? It would make much more sense if my cat would have eaten the snake and left the cat food; instead she let the snake go and ate her grain-filled cat food. Herbivore eating behaviors are also just as confusing as my cat's behavior. Someone who has never raised rabbits may not realize that rabbits can be cannibalistic. It is somewhat normal for a mother rabbit to eat a few of her own young. A common practice among people who raise rabbits is to place a piece of bacon or hamburger in the mother rabbit’s cage shortly before she is due to give birth because if she needs the extra protein after the birth, she will eat the meat instead of her offspring. Other animals we normally think of as being strict herbivores, such as cows and deer, oftentimes eat small birds. Many egg cartons proudly display the statement, “Vegetarian fed hens.” Chickens are not naturally vegetarians so I’m not sure why it is something to brag about on egg cartons. The statement tells me that the chickens must not be allowed outside or are simply corn and chicken-feed. Chickens are predatory hunters and will even gang up on a snake or rodent to kill it. I think they would even eat me if I happened to become severely injured in the yard. 

Several vegetarian and vegan sites try to convince others that as a species we are herbivores. I have no problem with vegetarians or vegans but I don’t like how they manipulate information to spread their personal memes. One thing I noticed is that many of them seem convinced that chimpanzees eat an entirely plant based diet. Chimpanzees are omnivores and often form hunting parties to kill monkeys. Humans are also omnivores and our bodies can tolerate a huge variety in diet. After reading about the teenager in Britain who lived off of chicken nuggets for 15 years, it seems that humans can live off of just about anything. People evolved to eat what was available in their environment. Some people groups ate more meat and others ate more plants. It is true that humans cannot live completely from a meat diet, but if we eat the organs it does provide enough nutrition for extremely long periods of time. Our bodies can even tolerate a lot of raw meat, but most people like their food cooked. I read a study about how primates preferred cooked meat and some types of cooked vegetables. Cooking food releases vitamins and nutrients which make it easier for our bodies to digest. As soon as our ancestors discovered fire, they started cooking their food.  For our forefathers (and foremothers), there was no magic ratio of plant based diet vs. meat because they ate whatever kept them from starving to death. In our western culture, we have too much time on our hands to consider what we like to eat and what we do not like to eat which means people can obsess over foods they prefer and would prefer others to eat.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Yesterday I ate local domestic rabbit, and I think rabbits will soon be a part of my food challenge. Last week, I picked up a Grit magazine about raising rabbits for food. Several articles featured recipes and the nutritional content found in the meat. Before I read the magazine I had not really considered meat rabbits, but now I see things a little differently. Because purchasing rabbits, building a hutch and buying rabbit food is a fairly large financial investment, I bought rabbit meat from a woman who advertised on craigslist. I went to the woman's house and was ok with how she raised her animals, so I purchased 2lbs for $14. A lot of people in the area where I live speak highly of rabbit meat, but I wanted to make sure I would like it. For example, I don't like the taste of pork, so I would never consider raising a pig because the end product is something I would have to force myself to eat. I liked the texture of rabbit meat, and I found it does not have a strong distinctive flavor but takes the same flavor as the herbs or powder which are cooked with it. The meat has the versatility of flavors in the same way chicken does but with higher protein, less fat and lower cholesterol.

Friday, March 2, 2012

February Food List

Here is my February food list. I added garlic since last month.The lime cake is something that my mother makes from the ingredients I can eat. I also found the perfect tortilla recipe which only has 1-1/2c flour, 1/6c oil, 1/2tsp salt and 1/2c water and it makes 3 medium tortilla wraps. I like to mix eggs, green peppers, rice and onions together in a wrap. When I write 1/3 spritz cookies, it means that I ate 1/3 of the entire batch of cookies. More fresh vegetables are growing so next month my food list will look completely different from this month.    

1st1 limecube, 1/4c bell peppers, 4 wild onions, 1/4c spinach, 3 eggscr, 1/6c rice, 2med tortillas, 1/8 pound cake, 1/2tbs butter, 2tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
2nd1 limecube, 2 eggfr, 1med tortilla, 1/4 pound cake, 2tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
3rd2 grapefruit cubes, 1/8c green peppers, 4 wild onions, 1 eggscr, 2 eggfr, 1/6c rice, 1/2tbs butter, 2tbs sugar
4th1c blackberries, 1c blueberries, 1c raspberries, 3 eggsb, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1tsp honey, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
5th1 limecube, 1/4c green peppers, 2c bush beans, 2 eggb, 2 eggscr, 1/3c rice, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 3tbs sugar, 2 pots coffee
6th3 eggscr, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs honey, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
7th2 eggfr, 1/3 bread, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1/2 pot coffee
8th1c bush beans, 3 eggscr, 1/4c rice, 1/4 bread, 1/4 pound cake, 1tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
9th1c bush beans, 3 eggscr, 1/4c rice, 1/4 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
10th1 limecube, 2sm spinach leaves, 4 eggb, 1/4 spritz cookies, 2tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
11th2c applesauce, 1c broccoli, catnip, lime squares, 2 eggb, 2 eggscr, 1/4 bread, 1tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
12th1c blackberries, 1c raspberries, 1/2c blueberries, lemonsquares, 1c bush beans, catnip, 3 eggscr, 1 eggb, 1/2 bread, 1/4 pound cake, 1tbs butter, 1tsp honey, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
13th1/8c green peppers, 3 eggscr, 1/2c rice, 1/6 pound cake, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
14th1/8c green peppers, 1/4c spinach, 2 scallions, 3 eggscr, 1/3c rice, 2 med tortillas, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
15th1c bush beans, 3 eggscr, 1med tortilla, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
16th3 eggfr, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
17th2c applesauce, 3 eggscr, 1med tortilla, 1/3 bread, 1/4 pound cake, 1tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
18th1c dried apples, 3 eggscr, 1med tortilla, 1/3 bread, 1/4 bread (made with honey instead of sugar), 1/4 pound cake, 1tbs butter, 1tbs honey, 1tbs sugar, 1/2 pot coffee
19th1 limecube, 1c applesauce, 1c bush beans, 1/2 tsp garlic (on honey bread), 3 eggscr, 1 eggfr, 1med tortilla, 1/3 honeybread, 3 sugar cookies (flour, sugar, egg and unsure exactly of other ingredients… may have contained baking soda), 1tbs butter, 3tbs sugar, 2 pot coffee
20th1/2tsp garlic, 1c bush beans, 3/4 limecake, 2eggscr, 1/4 bread, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
21st1/2tsp garlic, 1/4 limecake, 4 eggscr, 1/2 bread, 1/8 pound cake, 1tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
22nd1/8c blueberry syrup, taste-test of mixed foreign fruits from botany class, 3 eggfrtst, 1/4 bread, 1/8 pound cake, 1/2tbs butter
23rd1/2tsp garlic, 1/4 bread, 1/4 pound cake, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
24th1c bush beans, 2 eggscr, 1med tortilla, 1/4 bread, 1tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
25th1c dried apples, 1c bush beans, 3 eggscr, 1med tortilla, 1/4 pound cake, 1tbs butter, 1tsp honey, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
26th – 1c blueberries, 1-1/2c blackberries, 1/2tsp garlic, 3 eggscr, 1med tortilla, 1/4 bread, 1/3 spritz cookies, 1tbs butter, 2tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
27th1c bush beans, 3 eggb, 1 eggscr, 1/4c rice, 2/3 spritz cookies, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee
28th1c bush beans, 1/8c green peppers, 1 scallion, 1 eggb, 2 eggscr, 1/4c rice, 1/4 bread, 1tbs butter
29th1c applesauce, 1/4c spinach, toothwort root, 3 eggscr, 1/3c rice, 1/8 bread, 1/2tbs butter, 1tbs honey, 1tbs sugar, 1 pot coffee