My Side of the Mountain

by Jean George

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In My Side of the Mountain, what did Sam make from acorn flour and water?

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Sam Gribley teaches himself how to live off the land in the Catskill Mountains. Because he doesn’t have access to store-bought flour made of wheat or corn, he makes it from acorns, with some ash thrown in to offset the natural biting flavor. The first time we hear about his use of it is at the end of the first chapter, “In Which I Hole Up in a Snowstorm,” in a flashback episode. Here Sam thinks back to how he survived the winter by eating pancakes made of acorn flour. He tells us more about processing the acorns in the middle of the eleventh chapter, titled “In Which Frightful Learns Her ABC’s.” He serves acorn pancakes to Bando in Chapter 12, titled “In Which I Find a Real Live Man.” Bando makes berry jam to put on top of them. Sam eats these again in Chapters 17 and 18, “In Which I Pile Up Wood and Go on with Winter” and “In Which I Learn About Birds and People.” He also serves acorn pancakes and jam to his father when he visits in Chapter 18. “Dad went through the motions of eating this,” he says. It may be an acquired taste.

Because the acorn flour is a staple of his diet, Sam occasionally adds it to other concoctions. In Chapter 11, he says he uses it to thicken the broth in his frog soup. And Sam, his father, and Bando eat a special side dish at Christmas: “A mound of sort of fluffy mashed cattail tubers, mushrooms, and dogtooth violet bulbs, smothered in gravy thickened with acorn powder.” Evidently this mix is quite tasty. By the end of Sam’s year on the mountain (Chapter 21, “In Which I Cooperate with the Ending”), he runs out of his acorn flour supply. Since he relied on it heavily, this loss is an apt reflection of what we assume to be the end of his solo outdoor adventure.

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