Wildcrafting, April 27
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been familiar with the concept of “Slow Food”. And no, that doesn’t mean food that takes forever to cook. I don’t think there’s a single definition that would sum up the entirety of the Slow Movement, including the concept of Slow Food. In fact, Carl Honoré wrote an entire book titled In Praise of Slow, in which he goes through the Slow Movement in great detail, and how it relates to cities, our personal health, and work life. However, to me it simply means taking the intentional and necessary step back from our fast-paced instant, store-bought food system and going back to appreciate locally grown goods and the joys of a home cooked meal.
So naturally, I was overjoyed when I heard about The Food Connection from a friend, days before the Wildcrafting workshop was scheduled to happen.
The idea seemed simple enough. Just a group of people gathering for a potluck, with bonus points for dishes with some foraged finds, followed by a short workshop on Wildcrafting and urban foraging.
The evening began with me arriving a little later to my friend’s place than I anticipated. Although I was too late to help out with the cooking, I was warmly greeted with the sweet, tangy smell of fresh rhubarb baking in the oven. I arrived just as it finished baking and was lucky enough to be the designated taste tester; a role which I happily accepted. On our way out, we took a walk through her garden to visit the patch of rhubarb and the various herbs she also had growing.
By the time we made it to the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, I was famished. The minute we stepped through the door, we were welcomed by a plethora of delicious aromas, each competing for our attention. Smiles and introductions were made as we gathered around the table of our growing feast.
At 7 o’clock, we took our seats at the circle of tables and briefly went through introductions around the table, saying our name and sharing the stories behind our foraged potluck dishes. With a combination of Lebanese dishes, a foraged seaweed noodle salad, freshly baked bread, and more, each dish brought with it its own story, either about the cooks themselves or the land from which the ingredients were foraged.
Finally it was time to eat. Everything tasted just as good (or even better) than they smelled. Each dish was bursting with flavour; more than I had expected. Perhaps it had something to do with knowing the stories that went into preparing the meal. All the same, the meal was light and fresh, filling but not overabundantly so.
After a few minutes of collaborative clean up, we settled back down with cups of steaming lemon balm tea in hand. It was time for the Foraging workshop. Our workshop leader, Camille from MuseumEats, started off by going around making a second round of introductions, only this time to share what brought you to the workshop and to ask anything you wanted to know about wildcrafting or foraging. This helped open the group to the start of an engaging dialogue about regenerative food systems, knowing when to take and when to leave things as they are, and how we can give back and work towards a growing, sustainable local foods movement. We discussed the difference between cheap foods versus inexpensive food, and how the cost of local foods reflects the time and effort that goes into making it. The impact of pollution on foraged foods also came into discussion.
Fun fact: our annoying little friend, the dandelion, actually makes a really good source of protein when the petals are dried, and they can be picked virtually anywhere and still have the same benefits.
As we neared the end of our dialogue, I was introduced to the strong aromas of tinctures and bitters, and took a closer look at a selection of foraged mushrooms.
And with that, the workshop came to a close. Dusk had settled in, and I left the workshop brimming with a newfound sense of belonging and satisfaction. If anything, this was what Slow Food was all about. Knowing where our food came from, seeing the faces of those who made it. The sense of fulfillment after growing your own ingredients in a small garden patch, and being able to share it with like-minded people.
The Food Connection has created something beautiful. Food often tastes better when given the time to slowly simmer, stir, season, and taste. Gathering together over a potluck of home cooked meals helps us celebrate the way in which cooking helps create that tiny oasis of slowness in the midst of a society that revels in the “faster is better” ethos.
In the words of Anthelme Brillat-Savarin from his 1825 work titled The Physiology of Taste, “The pleasures of the table are for every man, of every land, of every place in history or society; they can be a part of all our other pleasures and they last the longest, to console us when we have outlived the rest.”
Thank you Christy for joining us and sharing your experience of The Food Connection!
If you missed out on the Wildcrafting event, check out our Photos and Workshop here.