Sometimes hazelnuts are more than hazelnuts
It's been a couple years since I harvested any hazelnuts. Last year at this time I was working a lot of hours in a commercial kitchen and didn't get out into the countryside near as much as I prefer, so my foraging time was a shadow of what it had been both prior to and following that job. This year has been a struggle at times, without the steady paycheck, but peace of mind and fullness of spirit means a helluva lot more than a paycheck with stress and negativity attached to it. And up to now I've been able to find a way to keep us in tucker and keep the lights on. Darn few complaints.
Finding just a few dozen hazelnuts today reminded me that it's been two years since I last harvested any, that last year was a "lost year" in some respects, and that I need to make an effort to keep certain things - like foraging for hazelnuts or fishing for bluegills with my daughters or shooting my bow - alive and active even while doing the things that are necessary but perhaps more soul dampening.
Funny how looking down at a handful of nuts can light up the synapses that way.
Today my friend and fellow culinary adventurer Christine and I took a drive over to Brillion, to the homestead of the brother of a friend (thanks Glenn!) wherein lay fruit trees bearing more goodies than they can use right now. That's also one of the cool things about having friends who know I'm a forager and cook, I periodically get generous offers and opportunities like this one to glean or harvest fruits and veg. Christine and I made good use of our time by harvesting three or four varieties of apples, pears, some plums, a pail full of fuzzy quince, and a couple pints of blackberries and elderberries.
We then drove over to a small county park in the southern part of the county, where Christine was excited to pick a bucket full of wild grapes and we spied the aforementioned hazelnuts (I also found a nice nannyberry tree, though most of the nannyberries were well past their prime). The hazelnuts excited me the most, because, as I said above, for some reason - maybe simply because I haven't had any in my hands for a while, and I do love them so - they reinforced to me why this path we're on is important.
There is something so fundamentally satisfying and spirit enhancing in harvesting something that is both nourishing and delicious, and aesthetically interesting, from the branch of a tree. That holds true for everything I use to feed my family, be it a nut from a tree, a root from the earth, an egg from the duck coop, a trout from a river, a grouse or deer from the woods. All of these things are beautiful and pleasing to look at, and they speak to the artist in me. All of these things connect me to the daydreams and life stories I envisioned in my youth. All of these things provide creative sustenance for the body, mind and spirit.
It's about more than food, but it's also entirely about food. It can be as deep or as simple as you want to make it, and simple or deep are each pretty darn interesting. We buy less from the grocer but we surely eat better than we ever have. Our food is more enjoyable, more worthy of conversation, more central to our daily life. I think that is how it should be. I'm happy that a handful of wild hazelnuts can compel me to think about bigger things. I'm happy too that I can just crack them open and simply enjoy their deliciousness for a few minutes.