Posts tagged lesson learned

Nurturing My Weed: A Fable

Okay, to go along with my previous post about foraging, let me tell you a brief story.  A few years back, when I had access to a place to plant flowers, I used to spend a lot of time in the garden watering, pruning, even just looking at my plants as they grew.  It was meditation of the best sort.  Well, one year, after the daffodils had bloomed, I planted a few overstock seeds in a planter and started watering, waiting to see what emerged.  When a plant did poke its head out of the soil, I was surprised (they were old seeds, and I didn’t know if any were still viable) and pleased.  I kept looking after it daily, watching it grow and wondering what sort of mystery seed I was raising. 

Still being relatively new to SoCal at the time, I didn’t recognize the leaves of the plant, and when buds formed, I was so excited.  Now I’d finally know what this lovely little planty was!  And so it bloomed.  A tiny little yellow flower, and then another.  Hmm, I thought kind of disappointing for a cultivated flower, but hey, maybe I didn’t give it enough love.  I kept on watering and hoped for the best. 

Now shortly after that, I was walking down the road one day, and I saw my plant, or rather dozens of them, growing on the side of the road.  My little plant, the object of all that devotion, was a weed!  I was not happy to make this discovery at all, especially since it was only days after I’d let the seeds from my plant scatter wantonly across all of my flower beds, and I was therefore looking at the prospect of having hundreds of them growing in my garden.  I went home, pulled the “weed” and did my best to collect the seeds I could see on the rest of the soil. 

Fast forward to this year, as I’m reading all the foraging books, and lo and behold, there is my “Weed” on the pages of the wild foods guide, listed as a particularly nutritious foodstuff for hikers.  What?  I killed a plant that would have fed me if I’d known better, and spurned it daily as I passed its brethren on the the roadsides of CA?  Never again!

The moral of the story is this: the things we think we “know” about the world are often just perceptions we’ve been taught that have little to do with the reality of a situation.  My disappointment in finding that the plant I loved was a common weed didn’t even compare to the disappointment I felt when I realized that I’d allowed myself to be swayed by common opinion into killing a useful plant.  I guess in the end, it’s all about making sure you learn from reliable sources, and educate yourself on all sides of an issue before you feel comfortable saying you “know” what you’re talking about. 

Wild Lettuce

For more information about wild lettuce, see PlanetBotanic.ca

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LESSON LEARNED: How not to Cook Eggs

Here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs
Sesame seeds
3 handfuls shredded cheddar
2 oz. sliced mushrooms
3 oz. canned sweet corn

All were mixed by hand.

Here’s what it SHOULD have looked like: Mushroom Omelet

At 1:05 the eggs went in. At 1:25, the temperature was 140° F in the bag outside the pot. I rotated the cooker at that time and went back inside, clipping back an edge that seemed to be blocking sunshine. At the 1 hour mark, temperature was 150°, but the entire rack had slipped off one end, spilling (more!) of the contents into the bag. It was kind of a steamy mess, and foggy with condensation – I’ll have to do something about the slippage problem of both the rack and pot. At 2:25, I checked again and the spilled “juice” in the bag was still quite liquid. Since I’m still not sure what the relationship is between the bag and pot (after all, the pots seemed VERY hot, even though temperature registered around 130° on the thermometer), I decided to take a peek. Not solid, but not too runny anymore either. Okay, that’s good, at least. Reading the cookbooks, egg dishes seem to range somewhere between 2-4 hours. Hoping for two!

Yuck! When I went out at 2:50, the pot had toppled again, thanks to deceptively strong wind. Clearly this is not going to work as is. I elected to dump the messy stuff out of the bag, even though it meant losing heat. There is still something solidifying in the bottom of the pan, even after all those mishaps. Without the liquid I’m not sure how that will turn out, but let’s just keep our fingers crossed for now. Thermometer was down to 110° before emptying, so I can’t have lost TOO much heat! Time to check again (3:25)….

Another total blow-over. Now there are actual scrambled eggs curds in the pot, I guess from all the action the oven is getting! This construction issue must get fixed, pronto. Rotated the cooker again, and blew some more air into the bag. It’s still pretty messy in there, but it smells good, like grilled mushrooms. Should I declare this a failure? Did I mention that I’m stubborn when it comes to success? Well, I should have. Another 20 minutes it is!

And… Well, it didn’t blow over this time. But the food and the temperature still look the same! Everything is at 110°. Not too hot, and I’m wondering if this dish will even be SAFE to eat, given the eggs. There is still runny juice in the pot, though not much. Where did my 175° go from the other day? At 4 pm, it probably won’t happen today.

Thumbs Down

I should go ahead and tell you what I’ve told every prospective boyfriend, roommate, and employer in life: I don’t do dishes. And yet here I am with my hands in a goopy pot of water, scrubbing half-cooked eggs off of every component of the oven. Guess I’ve been praying to the wrong cooking gods. No, this clean-up was not easy, breezy, or beautiful like the grilled cheese. Oh yeah, the experiment was officially declared a “learning experience” at 4:05, three hours after the start. Instead of omelet, I got… yummy smelling goop. It did at least LOOK like eggs. In the interest of you enjoying your dinner tonight I’ll spare you pictures. Surely not edible, except by my cat, who didn’t seem to mind. As romantic as getting salmonella poisoning for “the solar cause” sounds… wait, that doesn’t even SOUND romantic. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.

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