Yes, I know I said I would have Day 7 done yesterday. Unfortunately, when I made this optimistic prediction I failed to take school into account. I will publish that hopefully soon (meaning probably Saturday). Thanks for your support in coming back to read. You people rock.
Now is the winter of our discontent.
“My car broke down. I need help.” I gazed at the text blearily for a moment, sounding out the syllables slowly.
My-car-broke-down-I-need-help. I think this is some kind of call for help, said my mind in an effort to be helpful. Oh. OH! I GET IT! Throwing on two coats, I crawled out of my sleeping bag, unzipped the tent door and shivered. It was 3°F (-16° C). Ugh. It was like Siberia—or worse, Wisconsin. I struggled to lace my snowboots as my fingers lost dexterity and sensation in the cold. How did a double knot go? Was it—no, it was—There! I headed off in the general direction of my car as dawn threatened to bleach the indigo sky.
This is the seventh installment of the Urban Forager Project. To start from the beginning and learn why I’m going a week in the winter wild eating only food I’ve foraged, click here.
In order to keep its location as unavailable as Benedict Cumberbatch’s heart, there’s a very specific way to leave Cloudreach. First, duck and step carefully through the exposed area to the untraceable zone. Crawl on hands and knees before sinking gloved fists into snow to get standing and stable without faceplanting in the snow. Walk carefully, being sure to step where you have previously stepped to give the appearance you were only ever there once. Angle left. Now right. Left again. A casual observer may mistake you for a drunken cat at this point, but don’t take it personally. That’s probably enough. pause at a tree. Listen for deer, cars, or people. Is it clear? Then angle right, dash through the bushes, through another untraceable zone and to the relative safety of the street.
Now in the clear, I began walking as quickly as I could. Despite the frigid temperatures, I was feeling great. This might have been because I was moving, but it’s more likely it came as a result of the clothes I was wearing:
- Black polyester running pants
- Blue Jordanian kaffiyah (used as a scarf)
- Knit technicolor hat with earflaps
- Blue jeans with belt and Leatherman
- Two pair of socks: one synthetic, one woolen, both moisture wicking
- Two pair gloves: weird maroon thin gloves beneath big black ski gloves
- Snowboots: size 14 Columbia Bugaboot
- Slim red running jacket
- Black merino wool dress suit sweate
- Puffy, black Euro-coat
- Size XXL tan-puffy coat inherited from a deceased great-uncle with great clothes over it all.
The effect made me feel a little bit like Randy in A Christmas Story, but at the same time it granted me enormous power. Far larger and more armored than normal, I had completed my transformation into the sworn enemy of winter: Marshmallow Kodiak Destructo-Man.
Furious energy pulsed through my arteries with each heartbeat. I backhanded a shrub covered in snow as I passed; the powdery whiteness fell helplessly to the ground. A full-bore roundhouse kick to a snowbank left it in weeping ruins. Going out of my way to crush errant pieces of ice underfoot, I felt no sympathy for my victims.
“I’m just a civilian,” objected a small land-stranded berg. “I have no part in your—”
“Please, milord! I’ll bring the sheep to the manor on Thor’s Day!” cried a fallen icicle.
“Ay, Señor! Los niños estan in the casa, all alone! Por favor, for their cause please espare my life!”
I was invincible. Cackling pitilessly, I pulverized my enemy with each thundering step until I came at last to my car encased in a chrysalis eight inches thick of ice and snow. The door was frozen shut.
Is this all you’ve got, Winter?!? I threw my head back and roared. Grabbing hold of the car door, my ursine muscles pulled taut. I strained for a long, quiet moment before the door burst free with a groaning skkkrrrrikk! My windshield scraper now in hand, the ice on my car fled from my presence like a herd of baby raindeer before a flamethrower-wielding Russian.
Some minutes later, I found MacGyver in a parking lot.
“What took you so long?”
“Oh, you know… stuff.”
After we jumped his car and took it to the mechanic, I drove him to work and returned to my territory. My sister and her family wanted to visit me during my self-imposed torment, so I agreed to meet them at the local museum of art.
How To Laundry Like A Boss
Before that happened, I needed to wash some clothes. My thermal long johns were smellin’ pretty rank, as was the running jacket I was wearing beneath my Kodiak coats. I headed over to the locker room of the athletic building. After a quick shower and a shave to eliminate my patchy scruff and unseemly odor, I grabbed the things in need of cleansing and carried them over to one of the cleaner-looking sinks. Soaking them first in hot water, I applied a liberal amount of coconut-scented hand soap from the abundant dispensers. I washed my clothes by hand last year in Ecuador (out of stinginess rather than need) so this didn’t take long. Drying would take far longer than washing under normal circumstances, but desperation was a valuable teacher: some months ago before a lunch date with a friend, I’d learned a reeking, sopping-wet orange North Face jacket could be placed in the nearby swimsuit spinners for a couple cycles and emerge almost completely dry. The same trick worked today. Total time elapsed from dirty jacket to dry coat: seven minutes. What’s more, my clothes smelled fantastic. Industrial coconut scent for the win.
My scraper now in hand, the ice on my car fled from my presence like a herd of baby reindeer before a flamethrower-wielding Russian.
I spent some time with my sister and her family. Before we parted, she handed me a carefully wrapped gift. “I was going to give this to you on Saturday,” she began, “but I think you could probably use it right now. Go ahead, open it.”
I found one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received:
“I got it for you weeks ago, before you’d ever said anything about your project. Sorry I couldn’t give it to you sooner, but I think it might still be helpful.”
Within minutes of opening the book I chanced upon Skill #136, the art of turning acorns into food. I’d spent part of Day 4 and most of Day 5 trying to understand why my acorns weren’t becoming edible, and here it was, explained. The most effective way to rid acorns of inedible tannins is to soak the nutmeats in alternating baths of warm and cold water in hourlong intervals, the book explained. Allowing the water to boil actually prevents the tannic acid from leaving effectively. Well, who’da thunk. My acorns had just been transformed from inedible frustrations to an easy source of carbohydrates.
After saying goodbye to my family, I went to the place where I had stashed my soaking acorns and pulled the containers out of the fake plants where they were hidden. I microwaved them in new water until they were warm, but not boiling. Once an hour I would return, change the water, and begin the process anew. In the meantime, I blogged and snacked on a new food source: frozen crabapples I’d found on a tree near the Museum of Art. Something about the freezing-thawing-refreezing process had changed these normally disgusting fruits into something that to me tasted like popsicles made of sweet, frozen apple butter complete with notes of clove and cinnamon. They were so intensely flavored that I could only eat a few at a time before my brain threatened to fry under the sensory overload.
The lights began to shut off in the hallways of the building where I slowly coaxed my acorns to edibility, a not-so-subtle message for all denizens of the cavernous edifice to Get The Heck Out. I pulled my possessions out of the building in several trips, hoping I hadn’t left anything inside. The building would be closed for the next two days, and forgetting something critical like my mortar and pestle could end my urban adventure very quickly. Walking along a darkened hallway, I encountered a powerful carpet fan airing out a wet spot of carpet. Ever the opportunist, I pulled off a boot and placed it downwind of the humming device I promptly tilted on its side.
“Excuse me?” I looked up in alarm. One of the building caretakers was looking at me an odd expression apparently baked with two cups impatience, one cup suspicion and waaaay too much salt.
“Who, uh, what?”
“What are you doing?”
“Oh. Wait, me? Oh, I was just, uh… ” We both looked down at the boot drying by the fan, laces flapping in the breeze. “I was just curious what would happen if you put a boot… by a fan… turned on its side.”
“Sorry, I guess that’s kind of weird. I’ll just… take that now.” She stared at me disgustedly as I glomped hurriedly down the hall, boot in hand. A question was forming on her lips and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be around when it was spoken.
The rest of New Years’ Eve was pleasantly uneventful. I watched The Giver with some friends, stopped to see a good friend visiting from Texas, and ate a delicious acorn porridge. I should probably specify that “delicious” used in this context means “a quavering, microwaved acorn mash mixed with FishFood, sumac, pounded crabapples and—inexplicably—sea salt that you will force yourself to eat, periodically suppressing your gag reflex because it could probably be used as a psychological weapon were it to fall into the wrong hands.” It was almost as bad as eating a raw tomato.
The lights began to shut off in the hallways of the building… a not-so-subtle message for all denizens of the cavernous edifice to Get The Heck Out.
As the year concluded, I took the time to compile a few New Years’ Resolutions. I’m not really into the whole Resolutions idea (my resolution for most years being simply to not make any new resolutions the next year) but this time around I felt my goals were within reach:
- Buy Strawberry Cheetos off the internet. They have them in Japan! I knew the Japanese could do it.
- Make my own version of Strawberry Cheetos. The measly internet bag will hardly satisfy me; I anticipate I will be needing at least 3 to five buckets myself. Each individual corn snack will not be those stupid big puffy cheeto things, but the small, satisfying crunchy ones. The snack pieces will be made with a sweeter-style batter and have a hint of vanilla. The powder will be made of dehydrated strawberry jelly and confectioners sugar, or wait! I will use Strawberry Nesquik powder.
- Eat a very large serving of fries
- Eat butter, straight from the tub. (I do not admit to actually doing this. My roommates have tried to intervene, but I insist I don’t have a problem.)
- Sleep in a bed.
- Cook more food on the stove.
- Actually use the two pounds of spices I have in my cupboard and learn how to make Indian food.
- Alternatively, just eat the spices to see what happens.
- Also, I guess I should probably graduate from college.
One general theme exists for the new year: I hope it is full of delicious things. Particularly if “delicious” is Japanese slang for “strawberry cheetos.”
I considered this glorious future as I silently approached Cloudreach. As the first moon of the new year rose sluggishly in the cloudless sky, I managed to think of something else:
Day 6 was complete.
Do you think Strawberry Cheetos should be brought to America? Like and share!
The eight and final installment of the Urban Forager series can be found here. Come on back if you want to know what machetes, snowmen, and the Silver Musketeer have to do with it. Also, if I survived. What if I were dead and had written a fake final post in case I didn’t make it? That’s not the case, but if it were it would be pretty messed up.
Just an FYI announcement of sorts. I’m behind with posting. I haven’t had internet for a bit so I apologize to all of you who have been so loyal in following me through this adventure. I hope to post Day 6 soon and Day 7 not long thereafter. Please come back soon and see if I survived ( a ghost is writing this, possibly. or a computer hacking ferret.)