A Compendium of Useful Information for the Practical Man/Survival

Food from Other Sources


Bad and poisonous diet.—In reading the accounts of travellers who have suffered severely for want of food, a striking fact is common to all, i. e. that carrion and garbage of every kind can be eaten, under those circumstances, without the stomach rejecting it. And life can certainly be supported on a diet which would give severe illness to a man not driven to it by the pangs of hunger. There is, however, a great difference in the power that different people have of eating rank food without being made ill by it. It appears that no flesh, excepting that of some fish, is poisonous to man; but with vegetables it is very different. No certain rule can be given to distinguish wholesome plants from poisonous ones, but it has been observed that much the same things suit the digestion of a bird that suit those of a man, and therefore that a traveller, who otherwise would make trials at hap-hazard, ought to examine the contents of those birds' crops that he may catch or shoot, to give a clue to k;° <"rr"vl'!ments. The rule has notable exceptions, but in ny other guide, it is a very useful one. rds are shot, they should be skinned, not :h of the rankness lies in their skin. The breast and wings are the least objectionable parts in them, and if there be abundance of food, these should alone be cooked.

If any meat that you may get, or if the water of any pool at which you encamp, is under suspicion of being poisoned, let one of your dogs drink before you do, and wait an hour to watch the effects of it upon him.

§ 2. Food from various sources.-—There are two nutritious plants, nettle and fern, that are found wild in very many countries ; and therefore the following extract from Messrs. Hue and Gabet's travels in Thibet may be of service:— " When the young stems of ferns are gathered, quite tender, before they arc covered with down, and while the first leaves are bent and rolled up in themselves, you have only to boil them in pure water to realise a dish of delicious asparagus. We would also recommend the nettle, which, in our opinion, might be made an advantageous substitute for spinach; indeed, more than once we proved this by our own experience. The nettle should be gathered quite young, when the leaves are perfectly tender. The plant should be pulled up whole, with a portion of the root. In order to preserve your hands from the sharp biting liquid which issues from the " points, you should wrap them in linen of close texture. When once the nettle is boiled, it is perfectly innocuous, and this vegetable, so rough in its exterior, becomes a very delicate dish. We were able to enjoy this delightful variety of esculents for more than a month. Then the little tubercles of the fern became hollow and horny, and the sterns themselves grew as hard as wood, while the nettle, armed with a long white beard, presented only a menacing and awful aspect."

Bones contain a great, deal of nourishment, which is got at

by boiling them, pounding their ends between two stones, and sucking them. There is a revolting account in French history, of a besieged garrison of Sancerre, in the time of Charles IX., and again subsequently at Paris, and it may be elsewhere, digging up the graveyards for bones as sustenance.

Honey, to find, when there are bees about.— Catch a bee, tie a feather or a straw to his leg, which can easily be done (natives thrust it up into his body), throw him into the air, and follow him as he flies slowly to his hive. The instinct of the honeybird is well known, which induces him to lead men to hives that he may share in the plunder. The stories that are told of the malice of the bird, in sometimes tricking a man and leading him to sleeping wild animals instead of the bee's nest, ai-e well authenticated.

All old hides or skins of any kind, that are not tanned, are fit and good for food; they improve all soup, by being mixed with it, or they may be toasted and hammered. Long boiling would make jelly of them. Many a hungry person has cooked and eaten his sandals or skin clothing.

Most kinds of creeping things are eatable, and used by the Chinese. Locusts and grasshoppers are not at all bad. To prepare them, pull off the legs and wings, and roast them with a little grease in an iron dish, like coffee. Hank seabirds, if caught, put in a coop, and fed with corn, were found by Captain Bligh to become fat and well-tasted.

The art of travel, or, Shifts and contrivances available in wild countries By Francis Galton (sir.)