Earlier this month I made wild garlic pesto with my daughter and thought it a very current thing to do. Foraging,making food from scratch and connecting with nature definitely seems in vogue right now.
The day before we had taken a walk to collect the wild garlic from a woodland path and then, with a 21st century twist to our attempts at wild survival,had Googled to verify the plant type lest we pick anything deadly and then referred to Google once more to find a recipe.
Was very enjoyable to first harvest the leaves, then make the pesto together – even if the pine nuts, pecorino and olive oil were neither free nor foraged locally. But satisfying still to make food with a tiny connection to the land and to enjoy a bit of mother – daughter bonding over a shared food discovery at the same time.
After our pesto adventure I came across my ageing copy of Richard Mabey’s book -Food For Free – given to me as a school prize for Modern Studies in 1976. Prize winners were free to pick their own book and my choice of this guide to feeding yourself from nature’s larder was, I imagine, something that fitted with me going through something of a mildly hippy phase – along with dressing in cheesecloth and listening to Bob Dylan.
In the mid 70s at the school I attended my favourite teachers seemed to me very modern and liberal – certainly after my village primary school. My teacher of Modern Studies,with her views on the Russian revolution and questionable power of the media certainly appeared to be interesting, worldly and cool to my 14-year-old self.
Choosing the Richard Mabey book coincided with a rather fogeyish interest I had at the time around the disappearing skills of food preservation and cooking and wanting to know more about how things were done in the ‘olden days’ – quizzing my farmer dad about how to preserve food, make butter and making a reasonably successful attempt at crowdie – basic cheese making.
With the benefit of hindsight I could say this was me reacting to the change I saw in eating patterns and dominance of factory produced ready meals – Vesta curry, Findus crispy pancakes and the like, but I don’t know that I was trying to make a social comment or that I was ahead of the curve, more likely I was just a bit of an odd child.
Is interesting now as with a renewed interest in food provenance and craft skills more prevalent to think of that curiosity and my childhood experience. Many things I took for granted growing up in the countryside around freshly grown food and a kinder approach to farming now seem to pop up on lifestyle and food programmes, magazine articles as a return to a better way to live and eat. Reassuring I suppose to know that while food trends and fashion ebb and flow the fundamentals of good taste, heathy food and craft survive.
These days I no longer live in the countryside so my foraging is of the urban variety and I am really just a dabbler in trying to find food for free, but through the small act of gathering wild garlic and making pesto with my daughter, I felt I had gone some way to rekindle my latent hunter gatherer.