Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater


August 11, 2011

Just north of our neighborhood is a deep, wooded ravine that runs under the nearby highway to join a salmon stream. Just south are five acres of open land, privately owned. When I say open, I don’t mean empty. The land is dense with salal, wild blackberries, and scrub trees. Our neighborhood, on a dead-end street, serves as a wildlife corridor between the two areas, one of the reasons we love it. On the other hand, my cat disappeared about this time last year.

It is the season for blackberries, and the bushes are especially prickly during this time, as though to give up the purple/black fruit to only the most worthy seekers. Right now deer, songbirds, crows, blue jays, raccoons, and yes, rats are feasting on the fruit. There is so much that many berries will simply fall, staining the road with their bloody juice. One summer evening I passed two Russian Orthodox priests in full regalia reaching to snatch berries from the closest vines, putting them directly into their mouths over their long white beards and pale vestments, heedless of stains.

The vines are armed with a chemical irritant that keeps the scratches from healing quickly. The local name for them is Himalayan Blackberry, an invasive species along with Scotch Broom and English Ivy. There are work parties held on a regular basis to fight back the encroaching plants. No such work is ever done on these five acres.

The blackberries I eat with ice cream harbor a complicated flavor of sugars, fruit, and something darker, peaty, organic. It is a tangle of story lines, thousands of summers of growth and decay, the soaring song and the abrupt squeak. Somewhere in those brambles may lie our cat’s remains, already nurturing the profligate growth of next season – sweet, and bitter.
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Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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