Foraging is in.
Danish René Redzepi of the three times over best restaurant in the world, NOMA is chiefly responsible for this global restaurant turn towards foraging. He is known for some weird and wonderful naturally-sourced menu options.
Deep fried moss with cep, anyone?
In chef practice, you must now be accountable for your produce; it is a responsibility of a chef to forage for at least some of your ingredients.
To eat in Redzepi’s NOMA, you need a spare grand, or two. However, he is making a point about skilling-up in self sufficiency (and the irony is not lost on us):
When you can no longer afford to import raw materials, you automatically look to see what you have yourself that you can do something with and how you can be self-sufficient (Redzepi 2010: 39).
Here are some of the Mocan Green and Grout chefs foraging last winter just out of Canberra, Australia and their loot of slippery jack mushroom.
Of course, foraging for foods is not something only high-end restaurants do at the prompting of René Redzepi, nor is it new.
In Timor-Leste, women (and it is mostly women) forage out of necessity. They have no option but to ‘automatically look to see what you have yourself that you can do something with.’ They look for sea cucumber (meci) and seaweed at low-tide and carry it in hand-woven baskets on their heads to the markets to sell in order to feed their own families.
This is Seeds of Life researcher, Modesto interviewing a market seller in Suai, Timor-Leste about the foods she grows, forages and uses to barter in order to obtain other necessities.
In the mountains, Timorese look for wild yams, seeds, beans and nuts (more on this later).
In the forests and towns of Sumatra, Java and Bali, palm fern – also known as fiddle-fern or pakis, is a staple – as is banana flower, both cooked in creamy coconut curries and stir frys.
Happy weekend and happy foraging!
postscript: Lucky Peach Lucky Peach’s “Humans forage to pass time”