April 2010
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Eating the landscapeEating the landscape


Newest generation of foragers - Brynna with wild leeks

Since late November until just last week,walks in the woods and fields have been a little dull. Animal tracking can keep the brain cells active on winter walks,but for us non-hunters and foragers,the flush of green on the forest floor stimulates a powerful and primitive excitement —an urge to ramble,smell,taste and consume the nutrition offered by the earth.  

From the pungent taste of the first blade of wild leeks pointing up out of the ground to the sweet pithiness of the last wizened apple,anticipation of the months ahead is marked by the progression of foods to be found on our home ground.  Similarly, my mental map of the the surrounding landscape marks the places I know to find nettles,chanterelles and the best blackberries. This focus on food might be considered obsessive but I choose instead to consider it a gift from my ancestors – those from millions of pre-agricultural (and pre-human) generations who populated this planet,eating the landscape. 

Research I read about some time ago,found women tend to navigate the landscape with a mental map of static reference points - the giant pine with a split in the trunk,the sunlit clearing with raspberries.  Men on the other hand,tend to hold a more abstract sense of space,enabling navigation while focused on a moving object.  This of course would support the theory that women are more disposed to foraging and men to hunting. I don’t like to over-generalize about gender differences,since each individual has different mix of these capabilities and I believe most skills can be learned. 

But when I examine my way of navigating this landscape,I do indeed rely on a mental map with stored images of fixed objects.  More often than not,those objects are related to places I have found food.

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