1. The Dandelion Advocate Claims Credit
I harvested the dandelions. Not by myself, obviously. But after the corn and wheat and barley vanished, I was the one who remembered this alternative crop. You are fortunate to have a naturalist among you.
I did all the cooking that first week, while the rest of you roamed around hoping to upon stumble on fruits and vegetables left behind in the exodus. I persuaded the children that fried dandelion blossoms are as tasty as eggs. (This was easiest among the younger ones who no longer remember eggs.)
I dug the cellar. Now the roots will last through the winter, allowing us to eat roots every day for several more months. And they can be boiled or roasted, a blessing since we need to conserve our cooking oil.
I brewed the dandelion wine. You must admit that our elderly became cheerier after the uncorking. Though it’s a shame about that one fellow. He did become a handful.
I canned the jam. Some of you are angry that I used the last of the sugar this way, but the jam will keep longer. Yes, okay. A lot longer. You’ll get used to it.
I scattered the seeds—poof! poof!—throughout the fields. Our former farmers claim that the wheat could come back. The gardeners hold out for the possibility of potatoes. But the dandelions are a sure thing.
Dandelions may be bitter and strange, but they are here for you, my friends. They will always be here for you.
2. The Dandelion Advocate Concedes the Need to Diversify
It has become clear that dandelions are not enough. They are rich in vitamins and iron, but we need more protein. Chicken would be nice. A crispy fried chicken leg, dripping with juice, and a creamy side of dandelion slaw…but we may never see another chicken. Insects, on the other hand, are plentiful.
Cockroaches have an appealing crunchy texture when roasted. I’ve tested samples with the children; the ones who are old enough to remember nuts think they taste like cashews. It’s best to take the wings off first. And it will be important to avoid collecting the roaches in or near the latrine. I gathered my sample a mile away, in what used to be the cornfield.
Ants are rich in protein as well. It takes forever to collect enough to make a meal, but there is no reason not to include a smattering in other dishes. Think of them like poppy seeds or peppercorns, garnish for our dandelion salads and cockroach stews.
Centipedes are also edible, though their speed makes them difficult to catch. Make sure not to confuse them with millipedes, which have shorter legs and are toxic.
Finally, mealworms. Those even sound like food, don’t they?
3. The Dandelion Advocate Teaches a Cooking Class
You kids are the new generation. You’re going to lead us forward, figure out what we can eat besides dandelions and insects. When I was your age, we ate animals you’ve never seen. Some had four legs, some had wings. Some swam. That’s a thing you do in a big pool of water. Never mind. The point is, those creatures are gone. These new ones that have turned up lately are different. Lower to the ground, more scuttly. More horns. Your parents are scared to try them, but you guys aren’t. Right? So here’s what you need to do:
1. Catch one. Set a trap outside its burrow. Hold off on trying to grab it with your bare hands until we know how sharp its horns are and what kind of teeth it has.
2. Skin it. We need to know what’s under those scales. If we’re lucky, it’ll have a little fat. Save the hide in case we can make something out of it. Shoes, maybe. Or roofing tiles.
3. Roast it. Not too long. We don’t want it to get dry and tough. Take a peek after ten minutes, and then every two or three minutes, until it’s not pink anymore. Then it’s done.
4. Make it look appealing. Separate the meat from everything else—no bones, guts, claws, teeth, whiskers, horns, or eyes. Present what’s left on a bed of dandelion greens. That’s a thing we used to do in restaurants. Those were places where you could order all kinds of different things to eat. Never mind. The point is, it’ll make your parents think the food looks fancy.
5. Give the meat a name. When we ate cows, we called the meat “beef.” “Jittercritter” suits that freaky sidewise shuffle these new animals do, but it doesn’t sound so tasty.
6. Invite your parents to dinner. Give everyone an extra big glass of dandelion wine before you serve the food.
4. The Dandelion Advocate Lays Out a Tough Choice
We shouldn’t be surprised to find the jittercritters eating our dandelions. We all have to eat something, and as we know, dandelions are nutritious and tasty. But it seems we humans must choose between the critters and the plants. Dandelions grow like weeds. (That’s a joke, kids. Never mind.) But jittercritters reproduce even faster. That means that if we want to keep the critters around, we have to cede the plants to them, because if we eat up all their food, they’ll die. Conversely, if we want to keep eating dandelions, we need to take those jittercritters out. This is an either-or.
I made a list to help you weigh the options—practical, ethical, and aesthetic.
Excellent source of protein but not Excellent source of many nutrients, but
other nutrients not protein
No obvious supplement for the other nutrients Protein can be supplemented with insects
Sharp horns and teeth (difficult to catch) No horns or teeth (easy to catch)
Can use the hides to make roof tiles Can use the blossoms to make wine
Sentient (Almost definitely) not sentient
Strange and ugly The only beautiful things left in our world
Think carefully. We’ll vote in the morning.
5. The Dandelion Advocate Lists the Available Weapons
- Axe (the best option—too bad we only have one)
- Fire pit (lure them in with dandelions)
- Hoe (not very sharp but has a long reach)
- Hammer (short but effective if you have quick reflexes)
- Large rocks (work in pairs; sit in trees)
- Slingshot (only if you have excellent aim; those scales cover everything but their heads)
- Steel toe boots (pretend you’re playing soccer; that’s a sport where you kick a ball… never mind.
6. The Dandelion Advocate Dreams of Time Travel
My aunt used to travel through time. She worked for the Stealth Service. You know, before. She was supposed to prevent the catastrophe by eliminating certain people from the past. I don’t know which ones. I don’t know if she succeeded. How could I? They’d be gone from the history books if she did, wouldn’t they? And from my memory. What we’ve ended up with doesn’t seem so great, but maybe it would’ve been worse if she hadn’t done whatever it was she did. Assuming she did anything. One day she got upset because they were sending her forward, to gather data on the year 2073. I think that’s still a few years away. I never saw her again.
If I had a time machine, I would use it to go back and eat. Sushi, filet mignon, kumquats, ice cream. That’s a dessert we used to make by freezing sugar and milk. It could be any flavor you wanted. Mint. Pecan. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Dandelion. A strange and wonderful thing.
Not everybody could afford those foods, though. These days, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything nice to eat because nobody else does, either. But back then, folks would be eating sushi and ice cream all around you while you could only watch and drool. If I had a time machine, I would go back and rob a bank and buy sushi dinners for all the homeless people.
Before that, I’d go swimming. I’d have to do it before since after I robbed the bank I’d probably get caught. I wouldn’t care, as long as we all got to eat sushi first. And ice cream.
Also, I would pet some animals. The kinds with real fur.
Danielle LaVaque-Manty’s stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Sou’wester, The Pinch, The Baltimore Review, and Monkeybicycle. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.