I must admit, I quite enjoyed Celia Brooks’ description of me. It was at the beginning of our collaboration at the Demo Kitchen at Borough Market on Friday 27th May 2016, when she was cooking up some wild food I had found locally. We were both in conversation about the ingredients and how to cook them and she introduced me to the gathering crowd as ‘a Mistress of Wild Food’.
Whenever I receive the label ‘Expert’ in wild food, I have to say I’m not. Because I really am not. There’s so much I don’t know, I don’t know latin names, if you can’t eat it, I don’ t know it. I really know my 30-40 plants and that’s about it. I’ve always said on the Invisible Food foraging project that I share my learning, not my knowledge …. I want to learn something … want to come too?
After publishing and spreading the word about my book Street Food: Urban Foraging and World Food in 2013/14, I thought my time on this project was almost up, as I wanted to dedicate time to working with Communication, conflict and mediation, but this year I have been asked to do a few walks and feasts (At Soundcamp and at Borough Market) and I so completely enjoyed them both, that I remembered why I spent 6 years working full time on this project. So these are, once again, 5 reasons I love Urban Foraging.
Having recounted all of that, I still don’t know why the word ‘Mistress’ made me stop momentarily, I don’t know why the word ‘Mistress’ seems to fit, when the word expert absolutely doesn’t. Maybe it’s something to do with ‘letting myself go’ with the plants … a convergence … a surrender … a union …? . How Celia Brooks knew all of that is also a wonder. But I’m happy that, after 8 years of urban foraging, the blackberries are still there to lose myself in.
(Well … mid July I reckon, this year, in London)