Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Foraged acorn salad: a philosophy on life

A few weeks ago, I attended a Los Angeles County Master Food Preservers class to observe for an article I wrote here. While interviewing some of the class members, I met Pascal, owner and operator of Urban Outdoor Skills, an outdoor preparedness school (of sorts). There, he teaches classes on wild food gathering and preservation, alternative energy, and urban self-reliance. Among other things, Pascal brought pickled yucca shoots and purslane salsa to share that night as examples of his homemade foraged preserves. He also brought pickled acorns. To that point, I never tried one. In fact, previously I thought acorns and squirrels went together, not acorns and humans. I tried them, and fell in top-five-food-experiences love. Sour, humble, nutty, and herbaceous, my moment with pickled acorns must have made an impression because as he was packing up, Pascal gave me the rest of the acorns. I am currently rationing them on top of salads and crackers with goat cheese. I haven't yet decided what my last meal with them is going to be.

I asked Pascal if he orients himself and his business more to food foragers or survivalists. In a sentence, he changed a bit of my perspective on life. He explained that typical "survivalist" goers tend to be isolationists man-in-the-mountains apocalyptic types. "Survivalism is a community effort. It's actually a very social activity." 

He's right. In the day-to-day, survivalism takes shape in mild, resourceful forms. I have extra garlic, you have extra tomatoes, he has a pressure canner, we all have tomato sauce. Those daily interactions intensify when times become tough, or extreme. As we watch our society limp along economically and philosophically, I see (and report on) demonstrated acts of our increased resourcefulness. We are becoming more responsible and vocal about our purchasing power and our activities. We are able to wipe our own slates clean right now and start anew, learning things we have always wanted to try, and new skills that add a more tangiable value to our lives. As I watch the Occupy movement coalesce, whatever its outcome, it is pushing "intentional communities" to the front of the media, and if you look at it through the right lens, how is that not the kind of community-based survivalism Pascal is talking about? How is it not an opportunity to do one new thing to improve the household today that we may not have tried in a while? Mend the shirt, stick a lettuce plant in a flower pot. Make a salad from the dandelion greens growing in the yard, and share it with a neighbor.

Our instincts are to pull together, not away, and sharing skills is a skill in itself.


  1. How timely. Karan, who is a great cook, has been trying to figure out what she can make with the bazillion acorns falling in her yard. I too though acorns and squirrels could not be separated. I wanted some just to feel like I was back east, so she might actually be sending me some... not pickled.

  2. Woohoo KCET!
    I remember learning about how the Chumash gathered and processed acorns to eat. I was so fascinated by that as a kid. I still am! We can learn a lot from the native people of this land.

  3. I love this philosophy, that survivalism is in community. I love food because it is communal, and really only find joy in cooking when I can share it with others. I love it. Also, funny side note: growing up, my mom had the great idea to teach us how to forage and we found this Native American recipe for acorn pancakes. We slaved for hours (or so it seemed) over these pancakes, and when they were finally done they were pretty much inedible. They were so horrible that my little sister immediately threw them up. Needless to say, that was the last time I ate acorns. :)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Stay positive!