Being Modern: Foraging
Sunday 01 April 2012
As anyone who has studied those academically certified case histories of Stone Age man, The Flintstones and Captain Caveman, will know, foraging has been going on since prehistory. Bish-bash-bosh with the club and you've got a larvely bit of woolly mammoth for tea.
But it was a skill that was largely lost as we moved from caves through wattle and daub to pebbledash and crazy paving. This despite the best efforts in the 1970s of acclaimed writer Richard Mabey and his bestselling Food for Free, in which he encouraged us all to get back out in the wild and hunt boar. Or at least to seek out a few weeds to supplement our dinner. It worked for a while, until people remembered they could just as easily buy herbs and mushrooms in shops without having to get dirt under their nails.
Yet fast-forward 40 years, and foraging is most definitely back in business. And not just with adventurers such as Ray Mears and Bear Grylls. What's more, it's not just fare that's long been thought to taste better wild – salmon, mushrooms and the like – that's taking pride of place on our plates, but obscure plants that the majority of us had never heard of until the past couple of years: hogweed, marsh samphire, ramsons and sea beet.
Copenhagen's Noma, the world's best restaurant™ of the past two years, has led the way, basing its success on picking Mother Nature's pocket. Having said that, Mother Nature is particularly kind to head chef René Redzepi, providing as she does such delicacies as lingonberries and seabuckthorn – not the sort of things you'd find in your average field/stream.
And that's the caveat with this rediscovered craze. For while fêted dining-rooms such as L'Enclume and Sat Bains can get away with picking only the most seasonal ingredients and baking food in treasure chests of soil, when the local pub tries serving up pine cones that they've collected off the street, it somehow feels altogether safer to order the sausage and mash.
Anyway, must dash. We're off to forage for our dinner. We know this great little place to look; it's got all sorts. We call it the corner shop.
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