Thursday, September 6, 2012
Cat Tail Bread
It's not all that hard to find something to eat out in the wild, it depends mainly on the season and how picky you are. Around Oklahoma there's always squirrels, rabbits, fish, snakes and if you can't managed to catch at least one of those and you're hungry enough there's always bugs and worms (don't knock em till ya try em). The hardest thing to come up with, to me anyway, has always been bread. Course now, I like bread and enjoy having it with pretty well every meal so I set out to try and learn how to make it.
When I first started trying this I didn't know anyone that knew how to do it so I had to fall back on on my trusty mountain man books to see if I get any ideas. Now, as usual, the books have a lot of over-view but very few details. About the only thing I was able to find out was that native Americans used to pound cattail roots into a paste and made a kind off an unleavened bread (and No, I didn't have any have any idea what that meant until much later in life).
The first time I tried this I gathered a bunch of cattail roots from McKenna's pond early in the season. My camping area was up stream from Skyrocket (the local swimming hole) and the pond was close to the creek. There is a lot of black shale around there so I stacked up a couple of pieces on each side of the fire pit and put one long one across the top to use as a griddle. I got a good fire going to heat the rock while I mashed the roots. I peeled the roots and lay them on another piece of shale and tried mashing them with a branch from an Oak tree. It looked like it should have worked, but didn't. Seemed like every time I tried to hit the root I would just catch the side and shoot it of the stone. I finally found a piece of granite that I could use and was finally able to get everything smashed into a paste. The first time you try this you will surprised at how much mositure are in those roots. The resulting paste comes ends up looking just a little on the slimy side but in for a penny.
Once your griddle is hot (rock in my case) pour the paste on, kind of like a pancake. Flip it once the bottom side has browned.
Now I'm not going to lie to you. Was it hot, yes. Was it filling, yes. Did it taste good, let's just stick with hot and filling. It's hard to judge some things with our moadern tastes, Maybe if we had grown up never tasting any other bread we would really like the taste but for me, I ate it and if it was all I had I'd eat it for every meal but it would not be my first choice.
After a few more tries I did find ways to make it a little better. If you happen to catch the cattails when the heads are full of pollen you can knock the pollen out and mix it in with the paste. It will thicken it and adds more flavor. It even adds a yellow color which looks more like pancakes when it's coked.
The best way I've found to add flavor is to mash some berrys into the paste. The first time i tried this it was using dewberries. I've also tried black berries, possum grapes and sand hill pumbs any of these will turn it into something that you can actually look forward to.