All We Eat is Words by Emily Baber
Now all we eat is words. We used to eat sorrel and pawpaw and hen of the woods. We used to grow our own galangal and hot peppers and spend a whole day winnowing coriander, cleaning and breaking down and pulverizing until we had curry paste the color of wild green summer. Now we “source locally whenever possible,” - but only when it’s convenient and only so we don’t have to concede, that’s not who we are anymore.
We’re a business. Financial sustainability is a thing, too. I get it, I really do.
Now we buy ingredients with good resumes, like ivy league grads plump with nepotism’s milk, heartless but dressed in all the right stamps and certifications. Fortified with words. A sanitized, salable, anemic cousin of the wild harvest that still breathes in our ancient chests, trying to tell us when to wake, where to look, what to pick. We pretend not to hear it.
But before all this my love worked between the texture of the forest and the sheen of the kitchen’s stainless steel. He camped out at the river overnight, catching crawdads to make an Ohio version of shrimp paste for a single dish. The moment chanterelles flushed he was racing the slugs to harvest before they could tunnel through the tender, orange meat. Reverently crouching to fill his waxed bag, mindful to take just enough. He would emerge from the woods with moss for flesh and river for blood and the heart of the earth beating in his own chest.
Later those nights, he’d be electric in his fatigue, relating each discovery from the other side of the couch - the spiky bug, the neon newts, the mystery skull that was probably a raccoon but what if. Sharing a video of oyster mushrooms cascading down a log decadent as a velvet sash, a photo of his proudest find – a praying mantis in the spicebush. Spilling his beer in the relived awe of spotting an eagle. Clearing the loam from his voice to start workshopping a menu with me.
Now all we eat is words and my love doesn’t cook for a living anymore because words don’t taste like the forest floor, and now his blood is just plain old blood.
Emily Baber writes copy daily, but only recently returned to fiction after a decade of simmering. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio and is drawn to Lake Erie, the intricacy of natural systems, and snacks. She is currently working on a novel. Emily holds a degree in Spanish, a certificate in Conservation Psychology, and any animal that wants to sit in her lap.