The Chesapeake Semester has begun. We were christened with the water kissing the shoreline of Chino Farms, located in Queen Anne’s county. The group marched single file into camp as would little ducklings waddling after their mother along a river bank. After taking time to set up camp, equipped with tents and a makeshift kitchen, we scurried off to discover some flora and fauna of the farm lands. Food was certainly on our minds as we came back from romping around in the “wilderness”.
Dr. Schindler, professor of Anthropology at the college, joined us for day two of our camping trip to expose us to the foraging techniques used by people who lived in this area many years before. We expended a fair amount of energy clawing at the roots of cattails in the mud, collecting grit under our finger nails to obtain part of our meal. The robust, starchy roots were highly desirable due to their caloric density, and also how palatable they are. Following this, we padded around the surrounding area searching for more edible plants, uncovering an assortment of under ripe fruit, prickly pear cacti, seeds, and sassafras root (which made a delicious tea!). Considering the caloric densities of these foods, survival in this area would be difficult without supplementing diet with animals. Venison and poultry could be obtained in this area which would allow one to sustain themselves here. Dr. Schindler provided us with squirrel, duck, rabbit, and cow femurs for bone marrow to incorporate into our meal. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to crack open the femur using brute force and stone tools. I was shocked with the amount of force which was required to access the buttery liquid. I also consumed rabbit for the first time, which was also the first meat (besides fish, which began this summer) that I had consumed in four years, as I was vegan before starting this adventure around the Bay.
Preparing and cooking our dinner took hours – which was all accomplished through our fire and pots which were also provided by Dr. Schindler. The most interesting part, to me, was boiling the quinoa, squash, and beans inside of a pumpkin. You get to eat everything there – the cooking vessel too! After throwing stones in the fire to heat them, these were transferred into the pumpkin which brought the water to a boil. Aside from some grit and ash that made its way into the mixture, it was quite delectable, even without seasonings. This was the most connected to food I had been in a while – I was able to appreciate how much work went into retrieving calories and how precious they can be. Our western society has become absolutely detached from food – we have broken it down into individual aspects of fats, carbohydrates, protein. But this only needed to be analyzed so closely once we became sedentary individuals. People sitting on couches in sterile living rooms scanning through hundreds of television channels have to diet, and watch their weight, for they consume calories in vast quantities through junk foods. The calories are empty – think of potato chips. Light and crispy, but what do they actually provide? Fat and salt, but not other vital nutrients.Not to mention it would require a bag of potato chips to even begin to consider being satiated. I enjoyed experiencing this deeper connection to the food I consumed through spending ample time collecting and preparing it. I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves to make connections such as this, or else we too fall victim to the advertising companies flashing pictures of the packaged snack foods and sealed packages of meat products, boasting about what they DON’T contain. Things such as “low calorie”, “no HFCS”, “low fat”; the list goes on and on. One of my goals throughout this semester is to make these connections throughout our journeys, and try to trace the food on my plate back to its home base.