On Monday, while the kids were having "rest time" and watching WordGirl in the family room, I slipped out to check the mail. I had almost made it to the mailbox when a huge acorn fell from the oak tree in the middle of our yard and smacked me square on the top of my head. It hurt! Our neighbor was out in her yard and she shouted something to me about the killer acorns and how bad they are this year. And really, I've never seen so many of them my whole life. This is what our front path looks like right now:
And we have collected buckets of these--they are shiny and round and firm. There's something pleasing about a handful of acorns, really, unless one hits you on the head, or you've twisted your ankle on one, or it's beamed the top of your car and left a dent. When I was growing up, my sister and I loved acorns. We liked to collect the ones like this:
that look like little heads with caps on. And we made tea sets out of the cups for our tiny dolls. Acorns were harder to find back then, which made discovering a perfect one all the more special. Now we have buckets of them everywhere, and the novelty has worn off a bit.
All the acorns in the front yard, and my kids' enthusiasm for them, got me thinking: What on earth can we DO with acorns? There's got to be some crafty project lurking out there--if only I can be creative enough--for which we can put these acorns to good use. What did people do with these things in the old days? Can you cook them? Roast them? Make acorn butter? (It doesn't hurt that my American Literature students are reading Sarah Winnemucca's Life Among the Piutes.) Intrepid Google expert that I am, I sat down and googled what to do with acorns. Did you know that acorns are really good for you? That they can control blood-sugar levels, and are rich in minerals and vitamins? And you CAN do things with them.
Apparently, not only can you paint them to make them look like pumpkins and apples, and glue-gun them to wreaths and picture frames for fun fall crafts, and pile them into hurricane jars for autumnal centerpieces, but you can also grind them into meal and use them in strange recipes, like Acorn Soup, Apache Acorn Cakes (scroll down for recipe), and (I love this one) Acorn Mush. What better way to spend the afternoon, I thought, than "harvesting" acorns off our brick walkway, peeling them, soaking them to leach out the tannin (which makes them bitter--have you tried one? Go get one right now and give it a try), drying them in the oven, pounding them into smithereens (the kids' favorite part) and making them into strange little patties for frying?
I had grand intentions, I really did. T. and I peeled a whole slew of them, and I thought I'd have time to dry them, then after school L. would help "leach" the tannin out by way of a lengthy mortar-and-pestle process. But then we had to get in our van and go pick up L. from school, do homework (45 torturous minutes spent wrestling with multiplication), then stop at the store for a hasty last-minute ingredient for build-your-own-tostada night (the Apaches never had to contend with these things). By the time we got home, I just didn't have it in me to do anything with acorns. I imagined how satisfying it must have been to sit under a tree all day, working with your hands, peeling back all that bounty from nature, grinding it, turning it into food. And while we may not have gotten a dinner out of our acorns, we did make these:
And now I want someone to come and sweep away every last acorn from my driveway.