Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Sharing Apples with Mule Deer
Just got back from a conference in Missoula, Montana.

While reading on the back porch of the country home where I stayed (the place adjoins an elk refuge of sorts) I heard a plunk and looked up to see an apple drop from a tree in the neighbor's yard. I inspected and snapped a green-red apple from one of the branches for myself to eat.

I returned to my book and munched on the tasty apple but was interrupted again by a different sound: a mule deer snatching apples off the ground (she didn't ask the neighbor for permission either.) This deer picked up the apple and looked like she'd gulped it whole but it was at the back of her throat (as if she might choke on the thing,) then she started to chew on it like chaw. It appears her teeth are in the back of her jaw.

I was struck with the fact that the deer and I had shared this moment and this sun-warmed apple tree.

It's what I love about knowing where my food comes from. You create a memory of place (the sound of wind rustling aspens and dry golden grass and the slant of light) that's attached to the feel of the food, the cool, smooth-skinned apple in the hands, the crispness of a bite and the perfect taste- watery, untart but not too sweet.

The deer was looking for survival, I for an appetizer. . . that's perhaps the largest difference. The deer didn't feel guilty in the least for "stealing" this apple.

It's interesting how what is grown seasonally in a place and what the locals eat seems to shape the way they are. At a party in Missoula, someone asked me what my favorite animal was and I said a Big Horn Sheep, to which another guy sitting in the room said, "Oh, I just ate Big Horn sheep yesterday." I guess one of his roomates who they call "wolf-man" just returned with his kill and shared it with his roomates.

(From a bumper sticker in Missoula, it appears that they don't eat maggots here, the festival has something to do with Rugby and free-flowing beer)

Every year the area puts on the Testical Festival a Mardi-Gras type party where people come in their boots, hats (and some wearing nothing but chapps) and eat deep-fried cow testicals cooked in various ways and in various sauces. Yeah.

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