My great aunt could name every plant on the land she grew up on. I grew up on the same land too, and we would walk together through the woods some days. She would point out the names of the trees and shrubs that her father, my great-grandfather, had planted and the names of the wild edibles that had sprung up on their own.
We used to label them together, I’d fasten a metal tag around a branch and make an impression on the soft metal with the tip of a pencil, so that we’d always have record of what it was that had been planted, if by chance some generations later we were to lose the knowledge of the plants around us.
When my great aunt died, the metal tags twinkled in the sun as a reminder of her knowledge and determination to preserve all of nature’s great variety.
Aunt Gray didn’t have this skill because it was in vogue or part of a hip locavore philosophy. Aunt Gray had this skill in order to survive in a time when money was tight and the land was her ally, one of her best resources.
Perhaps you’ve heard -- there is a movie coming out this weekend, based on a book called “The Hunger Games.”
I only found out about this, because I have been asked to give a lot of interviews leading up to the weekend, to talk about how my recent non-fiction book “Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat One Hunt at a Time,” relates to this post-apocalyptic young adult fantasy in which the female heroine is a hunter/forager who lives off the land.
The book, “The Hunger Games,” which is part of a trilogy, was a runaway bestseller.
People are enamored of this futuristic fantasy where society is divided into distinct “districts,” the citizens of which only work on their one specific skill every day.
In this society, people rely on a greater ruling system to provide them with food, the same ruling power that only allows them to practice one skill.
Every year in this futuristic society, young people from various districts are set loose in the wilderness to compete against each other. The last one standing wins praise, money and food. Ill prepared for this skill, most of them perish.
The heroine Katniss, a small demure female, is among the last standing in “The Hunger Games.’ And Katniss is the only one who has diversified skills.
Her father, before he died, had secretly taught her the names of all of the edible fauna and flora on their land. Katniss knows how to fashion a bow and arrow by hand and hunt for squirrels and other game. (Defying the rules of society in the process.)
She is then able to trade the game she killed on the black market to help feed the hungry citizens in the districts.
Katniss even gets her sister a goat so that she could be empowered to make cheese.
She stands out in this society, because she exemplifies manual literacy in an era of manual illiteracy. And as a result, she winds up being able to survive and possess remarkable power.
The “Games” in this fantasy novel, are televised by the ruling class, and all of society sits and watches as people compete, race, and fight against each other. It is great television entertainment for these people of the future – not surprisingly, the ratings thrill the ruling class.
As I conducted these “Girl Hunter” book interviews this week and thought about my great aunt, I thought to myself how lucky we are that all of this— a difficult economic climate, widespread manual illiteracy, a lack of diversified skills, the reliance on an industrial system to provide citizens with food, reality TV in which people fight— all takes place in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world.
Or does it?
Georgia Pellegrini is a chef, hunter and author. Her most recent book is Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time." Visit her website at GeorgiaPellegrini.com.