Anxious about finding breakfast, I wake at dawn and quickly head out to take advantage of prime fishing, or the short time before the sun gets too high in the horizon. One advantage of not having food is that I don’t have to take the time to make breakfast or even pack a snack for the outing. I’m out of the tent and sliding the canoe noiselessly from the bank in seconds flat. As I had hoped, the mosquitoes ease up considerably once I am away from land. The morning is silent besides the occasional song from the White-throated sparrows that are ubiquitous through canoe country. I am careful to maneuver as quietly as possible through the water. The silence is an enjoyable rare treat and I don’t want my actions to ruin the moment. I carefully fish the bank with a diving crank bait, hoping to pick up a walleye or small-mouthed bass. I work up the large bay of our campsite and suddenly, without warning, I am staring into the eyes of a loon sitting on her nest. The nest is at the edge of the water and I slowly pull the camera out of my pocket and snap a couple of pictures as I drift within 20 feet of the bird. I’m proud that my actions didn’t flush her and we both continue on with our morning. Perhaps it is the lack of food but the moment is filled with meaning. A sense of peace and belonging come over me, everything feels right in the world.
Foraging: I haven’t eaten much of anything in the last 16 hours (a couple of berries near camp) but oddly enough I can’t say that I am all that hungry. Our fishing efforts were a success this morning and we caught three very large small-mouthed bass, two of which may be around four pounds! The fish is currently cooking in the fire wrapped in tinfoil.
Although all day in the making, dinner is a real meal! Bass, cattail laterals, wapatoo greens
and a dessert of service berries and raspberries. I’m full! At least for one day our foraging was a success and I feel a little more confident in obtaining food. The fish gave us two large meals to enjoy today. We cooked the fish in tinfoil, without oil or butter, which turned out quite well; meaty and satiating. Although time consuming, obtaining cattail laterals should be a reliable source of calories and starch.
The shoots are tender and slightly sweet. To harvest the lateral shoots, we jumped into a mucky bay and worked our hands along the lateral roots of the plants to find the terminal ends.
The laterals are a bright white color and snap off easily from the plant floating to the surface. Harvesting was a messy endeavor and I got a leech or two in the process, but in the heat of the day it was refreshing to be working in the water. Without salt or seasoning the food was a little bland, but we still had some wild leeks left and used those for flavor. I’m going to miss the leeks when they are gone. What else can we use for seasoning? Did the native peoples of this region have a source for salt? It is quite a loss when one considers the knowledge that has been lost in regards to native foods and cooking. At one time, every man, women and child in this area held the knowledge of the foods around them. Today with billions of people inhabiting our country not a single one of us possesses even a fraction of that wisdom.