The thing that I like about growing my own food, preserving, and foraging, is that a lot of the food that we eat has a story. Thankfully I am not just using random things that I have picked off a shelf the week before, and have no idea about the history. Memories remind me of where it came from and I know that it does not have preservatives or fertilisers. It was foraged, planted or made with love, effort and creativity, and not in a machine.
Making a meal brings me so much joy as when I look at the vegetables in my fridge and freezer I can remember when I first sowed the seeds and how I nursed the seedlings on my overcrowded dining room table with Mr S grumbling that he had to sit in the kitchen to eat his meals. I have muscles from dragging watering cans up the garden to water them, and I remember climbing down steep banks to cut leaves, climbing trees to pick fruit, searching woods for mushrooms, or getting prickled as I reached into barbed bushes.
Every meal that I make brings back memories. That jar of wild garlic pesto that I made garlic bread from last week, was foraged near a river bank. The pasta sauce was made with tomatoes, onions and peppers I grew in my garden and it fills me with pride every time I open one. I can remember the exact moments I donned the gloves to pick the nettle seeds to put in my the bread that I made today. I also remember the carrier bag that I picked the dock seeds in that I turned into flour to make crackers.
The dried herbs that I have in little jars in my cupboard were dried in the sun in my conservatory. The berries that I have in my morning porridge and crumbles, I netted in my garden all summer so that the bird could not gobble them all up. The sweetness comes from rosehips I foraged in Aberdeen on a break away. Tomato powder that thickens my stew is made from the tomato skins I dried rather than throwing away when making passata. The accompanying mash brings back memories of burying my hand deep into the warm soil to see how big the potatoes were before I turned the pots out onto a piece of blue canvas that I keep in a wooden box in my garden.
The quinoa that added beautiful colour to my garden all summer, took ages to winnow and separate in the wind. There were bits of chaff all over my stone flags. For Christmas I will be cooking the gammon in cider we made from foraged apples over 5 years ago. It was so dry initially, but it has mellowed and tastes wonderful when mixed with juice from foraged brambles. Mr S fell out of the tree and hurt his leg as he reached for the apples on the higher boughs. The jars of fridge pickles for the Boxing day table were grown up the arch over the path in my garden, and the Christmas toast with my family will be made with blackberry vodka from fruit picked on various misty, early morning walks
Even things I have bought have a story, as I have made them from scratch. Peanut butter in the cupboard was made from peanuts that I separated from a bag of mixed nuts bought as a bargain after last Christmas. I can still remember sitting in front of the woodburning stove listening to music as I separated them between 4 bowls and then threw some in the air to catch with my mouth just as my grandad had done when I was a child . Butter in my fridge was made from reduced cream bought on Easter Monday. The curried salmon pasties that I baked today were made with grated courgette, onions and garlic grown in my flower beds. salmon flakes from the cooked fish heads of whole filleted salmon bought for half price, and spices bought from a market in Herefordshire when I went to visit my daughter.
Those that can hunt, keep animals, and grow more self sufficient than me, probably find even more joy and pride from the stories of their food than I do, but even living in a suburban semi detached house on the edge of a town means that my food has a narrative to be proud of and enjoyed. Making new recipes with random ingredients also means that my food is unique and personal. This means a lot to me, and this is the story that I want to pass on to my ancestors, so that they will know how to find and eat real food, and not the UPF that fills our supermarkets. Does your food have a story?