Monday, July 02, 2007

Foraging for Fun in Central Park

On Sunday Kajal and I attended a foraging tour of Central Park led by Steve “The Wild Man” Brill. There was much munching of greens and poking around in bushes (If only used condoms and broken glass were edible I could save so much money…). Unfortunately, there were no mushrooms to be found, however we did spy bushes loaded with blackberries that should be ready to bake into pies come mid August and I procured the root of a sassafras tree which hopefully I can turn into some root beer before the summer is out. The majority of the edible foods we found were of the “this could be added to salad and the flavor easily masked by a nice vinaigrette, you won’t even notice the bitterness!” variety and since the CSA currently supplies me with ample quantities of unrecognizable green stuff I didn’t bring much home.

The tour was much more crowded than I’d have predicted –when I arrived at least 20 people were gathered at 103rd and Central Park West collectively bitching about the MTAs broken promises of B and C trains (I for one had a great time dodging old ladies on my jog down from 125th). There were a shocking number of children on the tour, I suppose there are a lot of parents in Manhattan looking for an easy way to rid themselves of extra offspring (by the time they hit 7 the cuteness completely wears off) and letting them graze on random vegetation in the park probably seemed like a great opportunity. Spending 4 hours following toddlers, tots and tweens into the woods is the best birth control in the world since it became obvious after only 15 minutes of foraging that you seriously can’t take kids anywhere, even when anywhere is “the park.” All of the parents on this tour were in a sort of deep denial where 4 hours of “my feet hurt!” “I’m hungry!” and “why didn’t you bring my gameboy?” (I hear ya kid…) could somehow be interpreted as family fun. I usually love kids but come Sunday evening I was heavily camped in “not yet ready”– Kajal’s husband has been pushing her “make a baby” button in vain for years now and I suspect that this event will be enough to delay that plan for at least another month – this is how I plan to slowly win the game of “Keep Kajal Fun and Baby-Free.”

The tour guide, a man who refers to himself as Wild Man without irony, brought along his own brood – wife and 3 year old daughter Violet. At times the tour seemed a long drawn out episode of Violet Don’t Eat It as the three year old lunged at plant after plant screeching, “Daddy!!! What is this??!?!” Wild Man’s replies of “you can’t eat that” were heeded but only begrudgingly and Violet kept rubbing poisonous leaves against her lips clearly contemplating the day when her rebellion would begin with a little nibble. Mom seemed wholly unconcerned, lagging behind us, occasionally asking Dad to stop the tour because Violet wanted him. I have no kids (save one adopted chinchilla with very few needs outside of, “gimmie a craisin now bitch!”) so I feel obligated to include a caveat about not knowing how hard child rearing is and blah blah blah but if my husband ever shows up at my job asking me to take the child while I’m working and he’s meandering around the park it will be very difficult for me to resist castrating him on the spot.

Late to arrive on the tour was a Hasidic Jewish family (you have no idea how hard it is for me to resist calling them “Amish Jews” which I am not afraid to admit is totally how I think of them in my head even if it makes me a huge insensitive jerk) consisting of 2 deaf parents and their five children under the age of 8. At first this seemed like a sure fire recipe for disaster but it slowly became clear that if you plan on leaving the house with a brood of this size being hearing impaired is a distinct advantage. While other parents were forced to put their adult fun aside in favor of chasing down wandering lads and lassies the deaf parents could blissfully ignore the cries and whines of their offspring. I’m sure they had a much more relaxing Sunday than the rest of us. Both HJ (Hasidic Jewish) parents were adamant about documenting everything The Wild Man said even if it required forcing the hearing on the tour to act as scribes. Late in the tour HJM (Hasidic Jewish Mama) asked Kajal and I why we came on the tour. We hardly had time to get through our, “It seemed neato!” schpeel before she jumped in with, “Yeah and if the government falls apart you need to know how to feed your family!” The picture of 8 million New Yorkers trying to feed themselves off of things growing in Central Park is the now the most humorous aspect of the apocalypse (replacing flaming goats). At one point Kajal and I witnessed HJC#2 (Hasidic Jewish Child #2), age ~6 LICK THE EYEBALL of HJC#5, age ~1 – it was refreshing to see that even extreme religion and crazy parenting cannot beat down the urges of curiosity and sibling rivalry. I like to imagine that CJC#2’s thought process went something like this, “oh sure you can eat that weird green planet over there but it’s just going to taste like green and I get plenty of that grossness with dinner every night. I need a new taste sensation, something to really wow my tongue.… I wonder what my brother’s eye tastes like….*LICK*…. It’s Razzz-a-matastic!” For his part the one year old was completely unfazed and all, "I got 4 old siblings my eyeball is constantly soaked from all of the licking." Kajal and I stood next to the stroller openly guffawing at the youngins until Papa CJ walked over and gave us the “my children are not here for your amusement!” death stare.

The Hallmark Channel had a crew on hand to film the festivities for some show that they claimed was not about abused women, kidnapped children or underage sex (I just threw that last one in to mess with the keyword searches of perverts the world over), after a quick perusal of the show's web site I think it’s pretty clear that they were lying. Kajal and I were interviewed over lunch by a nice girl named Sandra (not the sketchy host pictured on that site) but I'm pretty sure we won't be making it on air since we used our time on camera to discuss exactly how awesome the wood sorrel would taste in mojitos (we predict pretty damn awesome since the leaves taste like lemonade -- we'll be testing this theory out soon).

Despite this silly post I have to give the entire foraging in Central Park experience a big thumbs up mostly because it was hilarious enough to inspire a decent blog post. In this day you can hardly beat $12 for 4 hours of entertainment, I'm practically making money when I factor in the dollars I've saved on birth control pills this month. Kajal and I ended the day by foraging for some popcicles which were much yummier and easier to locate than any of the greens offered by the Wild Man -- but they cost us $3.75 each.


amy said...

now i've wasted an hour of my life reading with fascination the things that steve will eat. Damn you brianna!!! Oh, and if you need more sassafras root, it grows wild behind my aunt's house- I used to use it in play cooking all the time due to it's awesome smell.

themikestand said...

I can't believe anyone would eat ANYTHING that grows in Central park. But then again, I've never been there so I don't know how pristine / clean some of the park must appear to be.

That said, you're on the right track with the 'naturalest form of birth control' (hanging out with annoying kids) -- may your womb be enjoyably uninhabited for ages to come :)

alia said...

*snort* laughed so hard i started wheezing. (asthma is killer when it comes to humor. sigh...)

um, have you considered making eyeball flavored mojitas?

(still gasping a little)

Sky said...

I want to know if the "Amish Jews" children used liberal amounts of cuss words? You would think being deaf would make it difficult to enforce good verbal behavior in children and I imagine Hasidic Jews have high standards there. Though I guess they would rat on one another.