But with the exception of fish, today it is vanishingly rare to find wild foods in our marketplaces. The 10 million prairie hens in the Illinois of Twain’s day have diminished to a mere 300 birds; his terrapin struggle to survive amid wounded Eastern wetlands; his titanic Lahontan cutthroat “lake trout, from Tahoe” were killed off by over-fishing and the introduction of invasive species. Tasting some of Twain’s wild things is impossible or illegal, with more limited to dedicated hunters and fishermen.While we don't necessarily believe that not being able to eat a variety of animals is the worst part about not having them around anymore, we do think its worth contemplating the level to which we've already accepted a much blander and more homogeneous world. And if foodies in NYC can begin caring about the preservation of wild places as sources of rare eats, well... we're grateful for more voices calling for protection of our forests, rivers, deserts, and grasslands.
Preserving or restoring the wild foods that remain begins with appreciating what they have to offer — extraordinary taste and smell, certainly, but also the joy of experiencing the marshes and mountains and lakes these plants and birds and animals rely upon. We have a great deal to learn from Twain’s instinctive premise: that losing a wild food means losing part of the landscape of our lives.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Memories of a more diverse place
The New York Times today has this opinion piece, "Where the Wild Things Were," lamenting the loss of diverse native food traditions in the U.S. The piece begins by describing the rich North American feast that Mark Twain pined for while traveling in Europe, and concludes with a litany of disappearances: