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Acorn Story

Christy DeWees tells about making food from acorns.

Submitted by:  Christy DeWees 10/23/07
This entry relates to the past and present
Category(ies) of this entry:  Nature

I’ve been a naturalist at the UC Davis Arboretum for many years, developing a special interest in the uses of California plants by Native Californians. To try to develop hands-on activities for children's tours, I have taken basketry classes and workshops in how to prepare local foods the way Natives have traditionally prepared them.

The arboretum staff asked if I would organize a workshop to teach interested people how to prepare various plant materials for food and other uses. I solicited other experts to demonstrate fire-making and display useful plants, and I intended to prepare acorns to make the traditional "acorn" that California Natives relied on daily as a staple food source.

Late the night before the workshop, I peeled my properly aged acorns and put them in my Cuisinart to grind them up before leaching and cooking them. When I turned the Cuisinart on, there was a terrific racket and not much grinding. It turned out that an acorn piece had been impaled on the tip of the Cuisinart blade and was spinning around with the blade. I pulled it off and turned the machine on again. I left the machine on longer this time, though still not much flour was being made. When I investigated again, I discovered that another acorn had been caught by the rotating blade and was pressed against the side of the plastic container, developing friction enough to melt the container in a ring of ooze and plastic fumes. Now what?

I realized I had the naturalist program's grinding rock in my car that night because I was going to take it to Putah Creek Lodge the next day for the workshop. So my husband hauled it into the kitchen for me and I sat on the floor at midnight, cradling the grinding rock between my legs as I'd watched Natives do and dropping the pestle rhythmically and carefully down onto my acorns, turning those rich, nutritious, life-sustaining acorns into marvelous fine flour ready for leaching. I felt so calm and satisfied, in tune with a simpler way of life.

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