Food in the Americas: Tree of Life

Now Coyote gave the people the carrying net. He gave them bow and arrows to kill rabbits. He said: “You will have acorn mush for your food. You will gather acorns and you will have acorn bread to eat. Go down to the ocean and gather seaweed that you may eat it with your acorn mush and acorn bread. Gather it when the tide is low, and kill rabbits, and at low tide pick abalones and mussels to eat. When you can find nothing else, gather buckeyes for food. If the acorns are bitter, wash them out; and gather “wild oat” seeds for pinole, carrying them on your back in a basket. Look for these things of which I have told you. I have shown you what is good. Now I will leave you. You have learned. I have shown you how to gather food, and even though it rains a long time people will not die of hunger. Now I am getting old. I cannot walk. Alas for me! Now I go.” –


Mysterious, potent and full of the energy of life, Oak trees have been considered sacred by almost every culture that lives in their midst. Norse, Druids, Koreans, Greeks and Native Americans all associated the Oak with well being and magical protection. The Tree of Life. They are the realm of many gods, spirits, home to the fae, and legend says that King Arthur’s Round Table was made from a giant Oak tree.  Many Native Americans viewed the oak tree as a symbol of strength with many supernatural powers. In fact, the tradition of “knocking on wood” is said to be of Native American origin in order to avert the failing of a boast or hopeful prediction. The tradition believes that it is bad luck to boast, claim victory, or predict bounty; in today’s culture we would consider it to “jinx” a situation and therefore knock on wood to avert the failing.


From Oak trees come the ever-useful acorn. Acorn flour was a very popular staple in the America’s and it still is today in many Asian countries. Asia and the Pacific Coast have had long historical ties and those of you who read my last series might recall me saying that one of the best ways to preserve a cultural tradition is to export it. The use of acorns as a staple food is so ancient that is has been preserved in many places around the world.

In the case of acorn noodles we can import it instead. If you don’t have a lot of time to collect acorns, remove the tannins on a buckskin, grind the nut meat and dry it out, you can just purchase it at a near by Korean market. Korean acorn noodles, or dotori guksu, are made from a mixture of acorn flour, buckwheat flour and salt.

Acorn Pasta with Fried Sage and Mushrooms


25 Sage Leaves (Wash, Pat Dry)
1 pound Sliced Mushrooms (Chantrelle, Shiitake, or Button)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1 Head Garlic (Or Less To Taste, Peeled And Sliced)
12 ounces Dry pasta

Place 4 quarts of water in a large kettle, add a bit of canola oil. Heat the water to boiling for pasta while you prepare the sauce.

Melt half of the butter. Add sage leaves and fry until they are crisp. Remove and place on clean paper towel. Melt the rest of the butter. Add sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When mushrooms are slightly toasty around the edges add the sliced garlic. Stir mixture and cook just until garlic is fragrant.

Remove and put in a bowl. Throw your pasta into the kettle of boiling water. Mix enough water with the flour to form a smooth paste. Set aside.

Add about 1/2 cup water to hot pan and use a wooden spatula or spoon to scrape mushroom bits from bottom of the pan. Heat the water to boiling. Gradually add flour paste and stir until you have a smooth sauce. Add the mushroom mixture to reheat. Reduce heat to simmer.

Drain pasta. Place pasta on plates. Spoon up the mushroom sauce. Scatter fried sage on top. Serve.

Note: This recipe would easily accommodate bits of smoked salmon or other smoked fish



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