Hunting Season can bring out the primal spirit in even the most confirmed city-dweller. In fact, the primal spirit can throb more wildly in urbanites than in country-dwellers. Men in bright camo driving fresh from their office jobs into the country, already feeling the thrill of their budding primality by exchanging their electric razors for rifles and their gas grills for campfires, cause as much fear among those watching them buy cases of beer at the grocery store as they do among the deer and elk.
These city hunters have been known to purchase marshmallows at the store as well (in a small town, grocery check-out people have a real window into the private lives of both neighbors and the city-hunters who buy supplies in town.) Speculation runs along the lines of S’Mores and boyhood memories-- because of the furtiveness accompanying the purchase of the marshmallows. Apparently these hunters feel that the primal spirit can proudly embrace Keystone Light, but not marshmallows.
This is perhaps because their primal spirits have not been honed by real country wilderness experiences. Like a 16-hour power failure in January when you set your camping stove up on the porch in a snowstorm to make coffee, having had to choose between using the scanty water for coffee or for flushing the toilet, and you eye your spouse warily, wondering which of you had said they would fill the emergency water-jugs…
The battles between humans can rage fiercer during hunting season than with their natural enemy the Fearsome Deer. Like a neighbor who set up a decoy deer near her house to catch an unwary hunter in the act of shooting out-of-bounds, or the contingent of angry citizens who stormed a county commissioners’ meeting with accusations that the dump-man was using county equipment to hang the carcass after he Got His Elk…
But that’s another story. When Platypuss saw the theme “Bread,” she immediately thought of the Marshmellow Bread that one band of hunters cleverly invented after their food supply ran out and they were up high, high in the mountains where the elusive Wild Petunia is known to bloom. This hunting expedition takes place every year, but has not been disclosed to the wider world until now.
Hunting season opens when the Wild Petunia first blooms in late January or February. The only way to know exactly when they are blooming is to know when the bears catch the first scent of this intoxicating fragrance that, alas, neither Man nor Monster can smell. In Big Bed Land, we know when they are blooming because the bears tell us.
Only bears go on this yearly expedition to hunt the Wild Petunia. Everyone else, including pigs and giraffes, stays home. Isabear always goes. Sukey always goes too because she is the only one who really knows the Targ Forest. To get to the Petunia Mountains, you must pass through this Forest, terrifying to those who do not understand the ways of targs – those mysterious creatures who do not mean to terrify, but their habit of appearing and disappearing while making their song which is somewhere between the whistle of a tea-kettle and the sob of a soul in torment has been known to disconcert the bravest Animal. Even Pirate Goat confesses to an inward trembling when thinking of this sound.
Boo Boo always goes too, because he is known to keep a level head in all circumstances. Otherwise, any Bear who decides that he or she can accept the peril and the glory of the Petunia Mountains simply puts on a baseball cap – and becomes thereby a member of the hunting expedition. Here's a snapshot of them resting in the glaciers above the Targ Forest.
Food supplies do sometimes run out. The first time this happened, the bears discovered that marshmallows grow wild on bushes low to the ground. They tell us that no one would ever guess, from the dried product offered in grocery stores, how delicious marshmallows are when plucked fresh from the bush. Or the gentle glow that budding marshmallows emit by the light of a campfire with no rations left. That is how, in fact, they discovered them. Led by hunger and this gentle but persistent light, they found food.
And they rejoiced – at least for the first few days. Then we’ll have to admit that they became extremely tired of marshmallows and no longer marveled at the glow. Their first attempt to alleviate the situation was Marshmellow Soup, in which the contrasting textures of smooth white marshmellow sauce and smoky bits of pit-roasted marshmellow create drama on the palate.
Marshmellow Bread, however, is perhaps their most inspired culinary experiment. Piggles actually provided the idea for this recipe by tucking a note under the last of the food rations. It read simply: “For Marshmellow Bread: find a hedgehog and politely offer the hedgehog a marshmellow. Choose a fresh marshmellow as large as possible, but still juicy from the budding stage.”
Even though the hunters were not yet suffering from lack of food, they were so curious about these instructions that they made the attempt. Everyone watched eagerly as the hedgehog delicately snuffed the marshmellow and then began to chew it with remarkable speed. Some expected the hedgehog to offer bread in return for this treat. Others thought the note was not from Piggles at all but from Lefty who was laughing himself off the edge of Big Bed Land imagining this scene…
But what happened was that the hedgehog spit out the pith of the marshmellow after extracting all the juice—and simply waddled onward. They looked at each other in dismay until they saw that Boo Boo was thinking. They waited. Finally Boo Boo began to speak:
Old Bones, he said, had just sent him a message. Old Bones lived for a while in Bolivia and remembered that in the mountains near Tarija, the farmers and herders made a powerful drink made from corn that had been chewed first. When the other bears continued to look at him blankly, he realized he would have to explain further.
Yeast, he explained both kindly and clearly, is made from the fermentation of the brewing process. Then the light began to dawn on the other Animals.
“If we brew a batch of marshmellow beer from this,” Boo Boo continued, holding up the chewed marshmellow, “we’ll have our marshmellow yeast! Then all we have to do is grind some marshmellow flour and we’ll have bread.” They gave three cheers for Piggles, and set to work with a will.
All the Hunting Bears, we notice, have kept a profound silence on the subject of what happened the night they brewed the marshmellow beer, as have the deer who joined them on that long night of starlight and campfirelight dancing on the snow. But a couple of days later they continued the hunt – with enough bread to last them through the journey.