I have been on vacation for, seemingly now, quite a long time. I have almost been gone the entire month of August and when I look back at everything that has occurred I am in complete shock. How I have grown as a person because of the new skills I have learned and friends I have made.
This is the second year in which me and my best friend Jess have gone to the Island (Vancouver Island) and made a go at food foraging. For most people food foraging is living off of the land the way nature intended it, but I feel that for us, or rather for me, there is a disconnect in the separation between the individual and other people in this construct. I mean, nature doesn’t provide enough surpluses for today’s population to go and forage and survive. I feel that a healthy food system, a healthy and sustainable food foraging system, should stem from the values of ‘community’: community building, and community making. Food should be grown with respect, shared openly, and given freely. I wasn’t too sure if this idealism would really work, I mean, isn’t the ground principals of consumerism and capitalism based on the notions of hoarding and selling? In my heart, and in my full stomach, I now know the truth…. society and community are two different things. Societies seek identity in ideology (norms, beliefs, values, rules, regulations….) but communities seek identity in one another. Friendship and companionship honours courage, strength, faith and love over any societal norm. So, at best, our journey to the Island was just as much community foraging as it was about food foraging.
So, how we manifest food? Well, you can’t just go up to someone and demand that they share their surplus. That just isn’t a great way to cultivate long-term friendships, or travel safely in unknown terrain. Really what you need is something to trade: always give where you receive. So, Jess and I did what we love to do and came here to do: we canned jam. If you have ever been to Vancouver Island before, you will know that these little berries grow in excessive abundance here in August. We brought our canning ware and got to work. In the first day on the Island, we canned about 5L of blackberry jam, with a few litres of syrup for the road. Mixed with some wild apples for pectin, we also made some fruit leather from the pulp. From then on, we did not buy anything in which we did not share a small jar of jam; treated as currency or simply as a gesture of appreciation for the sharing and caring of a new friend. So far we have traded for:
Pemberton: Excessive greens for day labour, Qualicum Beach: 2 tarts from Elains Bakery and Loaf of Bread from the Community Market, Port Albernie: $5.00 off 10lb Salmon on the Res., Tofino: Discount entrance to DICA Beach party for morning clean up, Tofino: Free groceries from Shop in exchange for 1 can jam, 1 can of pickles, and 1 can of plums. Gold River: 7lb salmon Comox: Free 1/2lb of shrimp from fisherman, 1/2 salmon from another fisherman, 3lbs of clams and oysters from diggers. Duncan: Tomatoes from Hog Farmer in exchange for coveted Salalh Berry jam.
Meanwhile, we were picking grapes, apples, spearmint, chamomile, plums, and berries from all over the Island and canning it. We learned to shuck oysters and clams, decapitate shrimp, fillet a fish, candy salmon, sprout grains on the go, dehydrate tomatoes, and pick up hitchhikers! We learned so much, and our car will be FULL on our trip through the Okanagan after some wheeling and dealing out there. All in all, this trip has been fantastic.
You don’t need money to eat nor do you need to read a million books on native plant species: what you need is faith in your fellow human being. You need to trust in the innate goodness of people’s hearts and that when they are looking after their families and their friends, they too can be looking after you, they just haven’t met you yet.
So, food foraging, although it may not put you as it did for Jess, head first in a dumpster behind a bakery in Port Albernie, it may just make your hands feel a little less empty, your heart and stomach a little fuller, and your culinary creative juices more savoury.