Wednesday, August 13, 2008


(photo collage images from the Quinalt Rain Forest on the Olympic Penn.)

In my studio today, reviewing some of the music made for Nimbus, I decided to also listen to an older recording, a mix of song from The Approach, called Bigfoot. It took me back to the forest on the Olympic Penn. where I almost thought I met Bigfoot. Here's that story from Cebah's Kitchen:


One of my nephews decided to get married in the Olympic Peninsula, and a bunch of family and friends flew out there and stayed in park
cabins for the event. There was a trail not far from the lodge, just a
half-mile loop, and since we were a variety of ages and walking
abilities that distance seemed about right for a group walk. That walk was just a
taste of the rain forest, but not nearly enough of a taste for me.
On the loop the different speeds of walking split the group up, and
some, when they arrived back at the parking lot where the trail began,
went back to their cabins, while others were still on the trail. The result was uncertainty whether everyone was back out of the woods or not, and fancying myself a herd and guide, I volunteered to retrace the trail and make sure that everyone had made it out safe and sound.
I wanted to see it all again anyway, and see it alone, so I set off at a easy run, planning to slow and enjoy once I was deeper in the forest.
It was late afternoon - the time that photographers call "the golden
hour." The gilding sunlight streamed down in slants through acres of what looked like green lace hanging from the towering conifers. flaring green-gold in a phantasmagoria of giant ostrich-feather fern fronds, illuminating great hummocks of cushion-deep moss sprouting finger-shaped fungi, nurse-logs with perched on baby hemlocks, hanging beard tendrils of jade-algaed lichen, bejeweled with mist drops, all of it draped with roots and tangles inching over and through every available surface, emblazoned with sunset lime fire. What a beautiful forest!
Half-way around the loop I slowed to take in as much as I could,
letting myself miniaturize beneath the impossibly huge trees, the vast
quiet suddenly stark in contrast to my breath, but muted, everything
softened by so much moss.
Peering into the patterns of spaces between plants I became aware of how thick the growth actually was. Off the trail it looked as if it would actually be impossible to walk through. The forest appeared impenetrable, filled with trunks and stalks and logs and tangles of cloudberry so dense that only a very small creature could wriggle through it.
The only creatures I had seen were giant adorable slugs, as big as small bananas, cruising the moss in olive drab, khaki, glow-in-the-dark chartreuse, translucent white, and burnt umber - with every possible combination of those shades in pintos, easing their way through the densest vegetation on slides of iridescent slime.

As I marveled at the dizzying kaleidoscope of illuminated greenery, a sudden realization jolted me - this is exactly the sort of place in which people see Bigfoot.
The novelty of the thought, corresponding to the eerie charm of my surroundings, gave me pause. Had I had just seen, heard or smelt something out of the ordinary? In the midst of so much sensual information, the leading edge of awareness is as hard to pin down as a green hair in a haystack. The possibility that I might be sensing a presence subliminally gave me a thrill, a rush that rooted me to the spot.
What, I wondered, if Bigfoot is actually very attractive? Hairiness and bulk are not automatic disqualifiers in my book. Contraire; a positive attraction. What if he isn't even a male of our narrow ways, but something more wonderfully refined, able to slip in and out of trans-dimensional forest passageways as easily as a slug over a leaf. What if I were to wind up in snug cave with a nest of this moss, night wind rushing over the boughs of this enchanted forest, content in an interspecies dream.
Then I began to wonder if such thoughts were themselves an extension out into the green psychedelic brocade, advertising my availability with the randy abandon of some crazed orchid pouring forth a skanky perfume to lure a giant elusive moth - one with a long uncoiling proboscis capable of getting in deep and sucking out the nectar. Was I responding to some smell? There was definitely an unusual scent in the air. A flush of heat shot through my body and I poised for a moment on the edge of taking off all my clothes. Then I panicked.
As I began to flee, first walking quickly, then a lope, then running hard,
I noticed that I was in a low depression in the forest, the black duff
moistening into puddles, a soak at the edge of a little branch. Out of
the inky loam poked the strange flower spikes of skunk cabbage, erotic prongs
jutting up into the twilight, spewing scent. The air was filled with
I ran.
Back home I googled my way to a crypto-zoology site with visitor
Testimonies - tales submitted of a hulking shape crossing a late night road, footprints plaster-cast by a stream, weird howls, etc. Then an odd one - a woman jogger who heard strange sounds, then saw something like a box of "quivering air" tremble on the trail ahead of her. Out of it stepped a Bigfoot, who looked around, saw her, stepped back in and zipped the air closed again.
I wrote to the site, saying that I had had an unusual experience.
Was there any connection between Bigfoot and skunk cabbage?
An answer shot back through cyber-space, fishing for a story which might be evidence, the skunk cabbage info proffered as bait. So I wrote, something not quite as frank as the story I've recounted here. The answer returned; skunk cabbage is Bigfoot's favorite food.

Skunk Cabbage is an Arum, related to other odd plants like Jack-in-the-pulpit. It has strange powers of heat production. Not only does the plant cause a burning sensation when tasted (perhaps it's the Bigfoot capsicum) but the emerging flower buds produce enough heat to melt snow. It does this with its electrons somehow, so maybe it's not so much of a stretch for me to wonder if those quivering particles of funk are at once a favorite food, body and home.
Garden Cabbage is a Brassica, along with a bunch of other delicious green things to eat - kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

I do love cabbage. Perhaps what I like best is the
core, left-over from cutting coleslaw, like a faceted prong, dipped bite
by bite in salt.
Chisato showed me her recipe, magic to me, for a salad of
Chinese cabbage. The cabbage is cut up into bite-size pieces, stems and
all, and put in a zip-lock bag with as much ginger and salt as you like,
maybe some carrot shavings, and sealed, then left overnight in the
fridge. The next day it is a crunchy mild pickle, delicious as is, or
with a quick faux ponzu; a sparse shot of soy sauce and a squirt of
lemon. Or if you're going for baroque, a dash of sesame oil, some
cayenne and toasted black sesame seeds. Its so good that sometimes I
just eat it right out of the bag.

Since I mentioned coleslaw, here's Cebah's method; Get a good tender
head of green cabbage (by this, ideally, she means go get one out of
your garden. and chop it up. She chops it finely, but not as fine as
grated. Hence, our proportions will be for a smallish head, say seven
inches across.
Put it into your bowl, salt and pepper it, as only you can know the
amount of, exactly, because you taste it till you're certain. Stir in,
not alot of stirring now, a half cup, more or less, of mayonnaise, which
you could make yourself, no? To this you may add a big pinch of sugar
(a scant teaspoon) and a dash of balsamic vinegar (a couple of
teaspoons, as you wish.)...these complications can well be left out of
slaw made with new green cabbage from the garden. The elder giants from
a grocery may benefit from it.
Fresh dill is good chopped in, as are the tender shoots of spring

Cebah cooks cabbage, just until tender, by slicing it roughly, adding water just to cover, a slab of bacon, salt, and some cayenne pepper - a half inch cylinder of a fresh one in summer. This, with mashed potatoes and fried pork tenderloin, is very good.
I handle that combination thusly:

Mashed Potatoes:

Peel 3 or 4 potatoes, cut them into 1 or 2 inch chunks and simmer them, along with 3 or 4 cloves of chopped garlic, in salted water until they are tender. Drain them, add 2 tabs of butter and a half cup of heavy cream while they are hot, and mash them. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pork Tenderloin with mustard cream:

Salt 2 to 4 slices of half inch thick pork tenderloin (enough for 2 ) and dust them with flour, also seasoned with salt and pepper. Saute the slices in 2 tabs of lard, or a tab each of butter and olive oil, on medium heat, just until they firm, a couple of minutes on each side. Overcooking pork is to be avoided, unless you enjoy it dry and tough… if need be, cut a slice in two; when the pink has almost disappeared, remove the slices from the heat and reserve on a plate. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat, retaining the browned bits in your skillet, and deglaze it with a half cup of chicken stock or dry white wine with a tab. of good French mustard. Add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and continue the reduction until the sauce has thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Pour over the tenderloin and mashed potatoes and serve.

Sour Kraut:

Gluts of cabbage can be kept through the winter as kraut. Cebah
grates her cabbage on an ancient wooden cabbage cutter with an
adjustable blade. What you want are long slivers. Put a teaspoon of
salt in the bottom of a quart canning jar. Pack in as much cabbage as
you can, and pour boiling water in to cover. Tighten on the lid and
keep it in a dark place, otherwise the kraut will turn dark to
compensate. In two or three weeks it will be kraut. During this time
the kraut will work, and you will want to sit your jars on a tray to
catch some overflow from the fermentation, which will ooze out no matter
how tight you have the lid.
This needs only heating to be delicious, but of course link sausages are welcome additions, as is bacon.


Apifera Farm said...

"...letting myself miniaturize beneath the impossibly huge trees..." lovely.

When I read this sentence, I got goose bumps..."The answer returned; skunk cabbage is Bigfoot's favorite food."

Do you have any pictures of Cebah when she was young?

Dan Dutton said...

That experience was such a hoot. I really fell for the NW coast hard. The Olympic Penn is just like heaven to me.

I do have some pics of the young Cebah & I'll do a post of them!