Londoner John O'Grady is owner of a bewitching little MG named Hortensia. A while back a pile of scaffolding fell on Hortensia, leaving her crushed and broken in Regent Street. The insurance company held that Hortensia was worth $98 as scrap and offered O'Grady $490, the market value of a 1939 car. O'Grady refused. He spent $708 to have Hortensia resuscitated and another $560 in car rentals. Then he went to court about it.
British law confirmed that a man is entitled to love his automobile and to remain faithful to her forever. O'Grady collected. Setting bowler squarely on head he seated himself behind Hortensia's wheel, reminiscing that he had paid $1,330 for her, that he had just turned down almost that much for her, that she has hit 84 miles an hour and that she "still goes like a bomb." She was, he said, one of only 100 MG TB models ever turned out.
"I love her," he said, and tooled happily away. Hortensia purred and winked her taillight.
THE GOURMET FORAGER
Pickled sunfish that rival the best Bismarck herring, sugar from milkweed, beer from birch sap, pigweed pancakes, boiled day-lily buds—these are unusual fare, but you might find some of the ingredients in the vacant lot next door. How to find and prepare them is the subject of a superb new book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus (McKay, $4.95), cooked up by a onetime cowboy, beachcomber and newspaperman turned schoolteacher. Since Euell Gibbons was a boy in Texas, he has been foraging for food in the wild. The summation of his experience will fascinate anyone who loves both the outdoors and good food.
Good wild food is everywhere, says Gibbons. Around a pond outside Philadelphia he noted 18 different edible plants. In a vacant lot in Chicago he found 15. The common cattail is, to Gibbons, the "supermarket of the swamps." Its green bloom spikes of May and June make a fine cooked vegetable. The bright yellow pollen is a good sifted flour. In winter the central core of the rootstocks provides a white flour for use in breadstuffs or as a food starch. The dormant sprouts on the leading ends of the rootstocks can be used as salad or cooked vegetable.
To cap their foraging, Gibbons and his wife throw "wild parties." One fall menu starts with wild grape juice and wild mushroom soup, followed by a main course of fried sunfish fillets, baked arrowhead tubers and wild apples done in butter and brown sugar. Salad is wild Jerusalem artichoke tubers and ripe ground cherries. Dessert: persimmon-hickory nut chiffon pie, topped off with chicory coffee.
There are illustrations to guide you in your search for pokeweed (Hoosiers fry it), mustard greens, or spring beauties (their tubers may be cooked as one would cook potatoes). And there are recipes for sage wine, raccoon pie and acorn bread. Of course, there are some plants of which the novice forager should be wary. Chief of these are mushrooms. These fungi require some study, Gibbons cautions, as the uninstructed amateur is "likely to poison himself." Our advice to beginners: start with raccoon pie and cattail salad. They never hurt anybody.
THE INSIDE TRACK
?At the Chicago Black Hawk opener of the hockey season in Chicago attendance was announced as 11,774, though all seats were filled and there was an SRO crowd in the aisles. Capacity: 16,666. Suspicion: The Hawks may be trying to build a "poor attendance" record against the day when players will be demanding bonuses and raises.