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Coyote and Acorns - Yurok


Retold from the Yurok story

Coyote was out wandering one day when he smelled something delicious cooking over in a village. He invited himself up to their cook fire and looked longingly at their basket which was filled with a bubbling hot mash of pounded and leached acorns.

"What is it that you have there in your basket that smells SO delicious ?" Asked the always-hungry Coyote.

So the people let him taste some. It WAS delicious. Coyote ate more, and more. But then he thought to himself, what happens if they will not give me this whenever I desire it ? I must learn to make this food on my own. So he asked them "How do you prepare these acorns to be so tasty ?"

The people explained to him how they pound the acorns into a meal and then add water to the acorns, press down on it with a weight for a few days, and then find that the bitter acid from the fresh acorns has been removed and the meal is now ready to be cooked with hot stones in a basket.

"No," Coyote protested, "you don't do it THAT way - I know you have some other way and you aren't telling me." But they insisted that this was the way they made the meal. And still he refused to believe them and pressed them for the real truth.

Soon the people got fed up with his behavior and decided to tell him that they actually load the acorns in a canoe, take it down the river, and then tip the canoe over and drown the acorns. Then later, the acorns washed up on the shore and they could gather them. Now THIS Coyote believed. He quickly said goodbye, and headed off to gather acorns into a canoe for a journey down river.

But when Coyote turned over his canoe, he lost the canoe. And then when he walked the shoreline he found not a single acorn. By now Coyote was very hungry again. He went to his grandmothers and begged her to feed him. But when she heard of how stupid he had been to drown all of those acorns, she refused to feed him. Instead, she invited him to go into the sweat house. While Coyote was in the steaming sweat house, he began to smell the delicious aroma of cooking acorn mush. He rushed outside and confronted the grandmother. But she had hidden the basket of hot mush under a blanket and sat on it. She tried to insist that there was no acorn meal, that he had just been imagining it, but he didn't believe her. He asked her what she was sitting on, but she refused to tell him the truth.

Finally Coyote got so crazed for the acorn mush that he threw the poor grandmother off the basket and had his fill nearly right down to the bottom of the basket. Some people say that Coyote first brought acorns to the world in the days when people were animals, but he never did learn how to cook them !