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The Snake and the Paw Paw by Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr.
Art by Steven P. Eilers
Let your imagination transport you to an unknown time and place. Maybe it is long ago or perhaps modern times. Could it be somewhere in the future? Assuming the persona of a time-traveler waking up with his guts growling for food, lawyer, teacher, biologist, writer Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr. takes the reader on a wild romp in “the Snake and the Paw Paw,” the story portion of his scientific work, “The Wondrous Journey of Food.” Employing his fluid method of combining magical realism with textbook authority the author describes a fanciful excursion into primitive cuisine. It is late summer, the narrator is alone and hungry. A snake idles by. “Not much of a meal.” he thinks. But hunger guides his action. He decides that snake meat would taste better cooked, but in this forest of an undetermined era, how would he make fire? Having modern knowledge, he seeks flint pieces embedded in the creek bank. Van Stockum’s extensive background in biology and geography infuses his fictional character’s quest for food. He culls spoiled meat, unripe mayapples, and a puffball, and garners sunflowers, pepper-green leaves, and the yellowish sweet flesh of what is called a “Kentucky Banana”–the Paw Paw. The professor muses, “College raises the lid on the treasure chest of knowledge. I had lifted that lid and feasted on the glowing jewels within.” This latest short book in Van Stockum’s increasing list of offerings is edifying and entertaining from beginning to end.