Wapato skunk cabbage roots
E2 THE JOURNAL-NEWS, JOURNAL-NEWS, JOURNAL-NEWS, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1986 Navigational error could have changed tradition By Eldon Barrett Gannett News Service Let's pretend for a moment that Capt. Christopher Jones made a navigational error, and instead of landing at Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower debarked on the other side of the country, say in the upper Northwest. Gadzooks! What would they have had for Thanksgiving dinner? Well, they certainly would not have had roast turkey or corn pudding. pudding. Wild gobblers didn't inhabit the Pacific Northwest three and a half centuries ago, and maize was unknown to the Salish and other tribes who lived here. But by no means would the pilgrims have gone hungry. If traditions traditions established by that original three-day three-day three-day feast on the Eastern shore in December 1621 were applicable applicable to a similar situation in the West, America might be sitting down each year to such bounty as skunk cabbage soup, powdered salmon with roasted wapato tubers, reconstituted dried service berries flavored with oolachan grease and stinging nettle tea. Those were just some of the foods the Lummis and the Nook-sacks Nook-sacks Nook-sacks and other tribes in the Pacific Pacific Northwest were thankful for. Scientific digs in the Belling-ham Belling-ham Belling-ham area indicate that local natives, natives, like those around Cape Cod, also ate deer, elk, bear, beaver, squirrel, rabbit and other game four centuries ago. But the mainstay of both cultures was seafood. seafood. On the Northwest Coast there never was a shortage of seafood stock or variety. Early white settlers settlers saw salmon so abundant at spawning time "you could walk across the river on their backs." Also found were codfish, sole, perch, snapper, rockfish and flounder. flounder. Halibut, often "as big as bathtubs," bathtubs," could feed an entire village. Spawning herring, smelt and "hooligans" "hooligans" were raked in by the ca-noeful. ca-noeful. ca-noeful. Intertwined cedar branches placed in shallow spawning beds served as depositories for herring roe, a prized delicacy when smoked. Salmon eggs also were favored. Some Salish people even ate dogfish shark. The local natives had a plethora plethora of shellfish. There wasn't one type from barnacles to geo-ducks geo-ducks geo-ducks that wasn't consumed. Clam digging was woman's work and a woman's prestige often depended depended on her ability to gather and preserve clams for winter by drying or smoking the succulent bivalve meat. Crabs of all kinds were gathered, but people then, and now, preferred the Dungeness variety. Although the Pacific Northwest natives didn't have turkey, there was no shortage of ducks, geese and swans. Using the blue-gray blue-gray blue-gray clay found in river banks or coastline coastline ledges, the Indians would plaster plaster a cleaned, unplucked bird with at least an inch but not more than one and a half inches of mud. After the clay dried, the plastered plastered bird would be placed on the coals in a fire pit and covered with gravel. About four hours later, when the clay was fired hard, the package package would be removed and set aside for about 15 minutes to cool. Then the shell was cracked and pulled away. The skin and feathers would come off with the mud covering covering and the hot, juicy flesh was ready to eat. Numerous vegetables and greens would have been served at any Thanksgiving feast in the Northwest in 1621. The onion-like onion-like onion-like camas bulb and the wapato were the basic vegetables of all tribes. The wapato was known by white pioneers as the "Indian potato," potato," and it has been credited with saving many overlanders from starvation. starvation. Both the camas and wapato were baked in hot ashes or on coals in fire pits. The wapato were also eaten raw. Skunk cabbage roots were roasted, but only after being soaked several days with frequent water changes to flush out a bitter taste. The roots then could be dried and stored for use later and usually were ground into a flour that was used for soup or cooked like johnnycakes.