Saturday, August 29, 2009

What are you going to do when they see the bright lights of the big city? Well, to the folks back on the farm, I hope your kid is an aspiring Luddite, because then you just have to wait for him to come crawling back, eyes squinted from the electric onslaught.

But I over dramatize. Last Tuesday (8/25/09) I made the return to civilization, cruising at a comfortable 60 MPH down I-80, making me the first person to obey the speed limit since...well, they put in the highway. Sadly, it's hard to criticize the need for speed on 80. It is said that for every outlet store that opens between Sacramento and Vallejo, an angel gets his wings. From the looks of things, there are a lot of angels flying around the Central Valley these days, shaking magic development powder all over the place.

Having returned to Berkeley, I began to experience farm withdrawal. Fortunately, the city hasn't been entirely paved over (yet), so I was delighted to venture forth and collect some blackberries along the Ohlone Greenway, a bike path which parallels the BART tracks through Albany, El Cerrito, and beyond. Stumbling through the bushes, I managed to find a patch of semi-wild grapes. Using a dehydrator that was kindly given to me, I dried those suckers out and now am the proud purveyor of a raisin packet. Despite being seeded, the raisins are surprisingly delicious, particularly with a bit of yogurt. Plus, those seeds are good for you; loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and that magical substance that makes Sardinians live forever (actually, that's booze. Yep, just lots o' booze.)

But my urban foraging didn't stop there. Volunteering at the beautiful Berkeley Youth Alternatives garden, I collected some of their coddling moth-infested windfall apples (truly satisfying my orchard withdrawal here; I spent a lot of time at Green Cedar beneath apple trees with a five-gallon bucket). Carefully cutting out the worms and icky-parts, I dehydrated these with the grapes, making sumptuously sweet snacks for my mid-day meals.

Last time I checked, there weren't a thousand fruit trees lining University Avenue. Despite the lack of urban food production, it is comforting to know that, if you're willing to allow a bit of wilderness into yourself, you can find a bit of that country cornucopia even in the asphalt jungle. Stay tuned for more tips on foraging, fighting elderly women for figs, and wearing funny hats.