Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hickory nut holiday

This Thanksgiving, many traditions went by the wayside in service of trying to keep the holiday low-stress. At my parents' house, mom served sweet potatoes, rolls, snap peas, cranberries, and tenderloin; I think our holiday meal with Brian's family was pizza, topped off for me with a Blue Moon beer. We had plenty of family meals, but none of them involving a turkey.

However, the tradition we didn't ditch is actually my favorite: the family hike. I've historically thought of this hike as the one where I either walk off the meal, or, as during grad school, the one where we walk off the all-day drinking we did while we were cooking and before the bird is ready. This year, the only association between the hike and the food was incidental.

But the hike ended up being all about food, anyway. We set off on a trail near Boston, Kentucky, up a half mile from the Bluegrass Parkway to a 2.5 mile loop. We like this hike (this was our 3rd time), because it seems to have it all: woods, a hill with good views, a stream, and fossils. In August, the wildflowers were excellent. We have yet to see another hiker on it, which is an extra appeal. The length is just right for us - enough to be pleasantly tiring, but not long enough to have any drudgery to it. I'd packed snacks.

We noticed lots of lovely moss, including one patch which I thought had an old washer on it, but actually featured a crinoid stem (fossil) instead. Both girls found geodes. We found the views to be all that winter hiking has to offer. And Emily found her own food.

I'd kept wondering why Emily wasn't asking for the packed snacks. Instead, she had picked up a bunch of hickory nuts, which must have just fallen, as they were perfectly sweet and fresh. She found a couple of stones, and cracked them for all of us (see above), and still she carried home more.

If I'd served hickory nuts at the Thanksgiving table, I have no doubt she would have refused. If I'd made pecan pie, she would have turned up her nose at it. But Emily made her own meal, found food outdoors, for herself, in a season none of us expected it. We topped it off with a few fallen wild grapes. Who needs turkey, or even a table? Emily found what the harvest season had to offer, and enthusiastically gathered and prepared food for the rest of us, for Thanksgiving.


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