Confession: I am a forager. I just realized this while rereading The Backyard Homestead.
What fun! I now have a hip title for the otherwise hillbilly practice of scrounging iffy edibles from the wild. In my early years we went mushroom hunting—morel, fairy ring, meadow, puffball and shaggy mane. And berrying—blackberries, raspberries, and wild strawberries. We ate quail if it wandered by, and fish and deer and bear meat.
But perhaps the king of unlikely foraging feasts was this one: an “endive” supper. New dandelion leaves make a wonderful mock endive about this time of year—before the plants bud and turn too bitter.
Way back fifty years ago, my dad* and his siblings were eating this for supper in the spring. Then my parents served it to me. Now I serve it to my kids, and they turn up their noses at the endive, just like I did thirty years ago, but I have grown up. I love it.
You build a stack with boiled potatoes, new dandelion leaves, slices of hard-boiled egg, and crumbles of bacon—and pour a thin sweet-and-sour gravy over the top. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and you have yourself a feast. Anybody gagging yet?
[My egg slicer is currently MIA, and sends regrets.]
The gravy is made by stirring flour into the bacon drippings. Add a little water and boil till quite thick. Stir in equal amounts of brown sugar and vinegar until the gravy is thin and tart.
*My dad thinks, but is not sure, that he remembers his mother talking about the frustration of not getting the gravy just right, after learning it from her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother.
I’m curious—did anybody else grow up eating this? Believe me, it’s the least of the food oddities I’ve inherited by direct descent; and yes, I’m proud of every single one. Even bean soup, which is hot salted milk with pinto beans and pieces of soggy bread. (Proud doesn’t mean I actually cook it.)
What food eccentricities came down your family line?