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Dining Out

This article first appeared in issue 35, and was written by John Cox.

A three-mile hike into Bernheim Forest in southern Bullitt County put me atop a scenic ridge near a towering walnut tree. I walked to the base of the tree and sat down to enjoy the morning sun and a quick breakfast. As soon as I unzipped my fanny pack I knew that my Powerbar(tm) and banana were still in my car at the trailhead.

It is a terrible lot to intentionally plant yourself in the midst of such beauty and be able to think of nothing but your stomach. I immediately felt much hungrier than I had before.

I leaned back against the gnarly bark of the tree and began to contemplate the repercussions of my forgetfulness. What if I were stranded somehow without food for several days? What could I possibly do? There isn't anything edible in the woods anymore.

I wonder what the early settlers in Kentucky would think of me up there on that ridgeline pining for a highly processed prepackaged snack. People in Kentucky have lived off the land in some capacity for hundreds of years. When I was growing up, foraging to me was second nature, but all of the knowledge I had before seems to have been cast aside. I have unwittingly come to depend on marketing gurus to tell me what to eat.

It's been a couple years since I've picked any, but blackberries are probably the best food in the entire world on a hot July morning, and it would be unthinkable to buy blackberries. Hand-picking them from their dew-covered briars is the only way to truly appreciate them.

Growing up, I picked up countless pounds of hickory nuts and walnuts. Many were shelled and eaten on the spot, but if I could control myself there were a few extra for my mother to use in homemade fudge. Bluegill caught wading Russell Creek used to be a favorite summer meal, and in the fall pawpaws and persimmons topped any delicacy you might find in a grocery store.

Reflecting on these activities and how they shaped me as I grew, I suddenly miss them. Blackberry season is just around the corner, and I am making a promise to myself that the next time I'm on a ridge in a virtual wilderness, a Powerbar will be the furthest thing from my mind.

This story was posted on 2001-06-15 12:01:01
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