National Geographic : 1972 Jul
told us. Jonny had caught a depression from the girls and said he felt sick during the night. Freda, David, and I were thriving. We had steamed clams, bayberry tea, and hot clam nectar for breakfast. The girls passed again, but the rest of us filled up on hot food and felt better. We fished the high tide from a steep foreshore, using rock snails for bait, and Jonny caught the only fish, a gruesome sea raven (Hemi tripterus americanus).This creature looks poisonous but isn't. When we cleaned it, however, we found the flesh almost solid with para sites-crawling worms, eggs, encysted things. "How about a nice parasite stew?" Jonny asked. Even I gulped. We threw the riddled carcass away. More clams, mussels, vegetables, and fruit for lunch. An island, I have long maintained, is a body of land surrounded by the need for a boat. I had brought along a canoe, and now, with our spirits so low, I decided it was time to use it to seek some change of fare. Mark, David, and I paddled to a nearby islet, and things im mediately began to look up. The sky cleared, the sea calmed, and the new island proved bountiful. We found treasures we had not seen on Rockystone. In a seabird nesting area, where guano had made the soil very fertile, we came on luxuriant sheep sorrel, a sharply acid plant with a lemon flavor. It is the essential ingredient of a gourmet's soup, and is great raw in salads or eaten plain with seafoods. For lunch we just munched our way around the island. Whole gardens of ripe wild gooseberries proliferated. On a salt flat we dis covered glasswort, whose stems can be chopped into bite-size pieces and mixed into salads. In an abandoned 19th-century quarry we found a marsh with a great plenty of cattails. The base of the cat tail plant, peeled down to a tender white heart, is a sweet, nutritious, starchy vegetable when cooked. When eaten raw, it has a delicate cucumber flavor. The few patches of soil around the marsh were red-flecked with mountain cranberries. This northern fruit, whose berries are so acid they are hardly edible raw, can be cooked with sugar to make a tart cranberry sauce fit for any Thanksgiving table. WHEN WE RETURNED to camp with our imported viands, I decided the time had also come to break out some supple mentary ingredients to tempt our two starving little daughters to eat. Since we were not attempting a strict survival experiment, I had brought along, besides fresh water, a few basic fixings to lend epicurean zest to our cuisine: cooking oil, sugar, powdered milk, flour to be used only for batters or crusts. Freda and I went to work preparing a dinner of fried battered clams, a totally different gustatory experience from steamed clams. With them we had boiled cattail hearts, boiled peas, and a tasty salad of salty glasswort and sour sheep sorrel, perfectly dressed with a little oil. We had two desserts-fresh raspberries, and ripe rose hips boiled with sugar, gooseberries, and cranberries. This gastronomic triumph was wasted on the girls. They still refused to taste anything. "But we could be poisoned!" one cried. Her friend apologized, "I just never have liked vegetables." They retreated to their tent for another cry, and the sky, as if in sympathy, began dripping rain. The rest of us were enjoying the (Continued on page 58) To whittle a snack, cut off a six-inch section of cattail stalk (top), then peel to reveal its core, or heart (middle). Mark samples a bite raw; it may also be boiled or roasted.