On nibbling from the hedgerow…
‘How do you know it’s an elderberry? What if its poisonous?!’
‘I know its an elderberry the same way you know broccoli is broccoli…’
Yesterday I made beeswax and coconut oil balm and was shocked when a friend of mine turned it down in preference for something he could buy in a shop. Rather than take this personally…it really is rather good…I wondered why he would think that way. Others I have come across are equally perturbed by things I have either made myself and/or foraged.
Why are my friends and family happy to eat home-cooked food but scared of home-cooked health and beauty products? Why will some people happily spend money on blackberries from the supermarket but balk at eating ones foraged from a natural hedgerow?
The balm, for example, is made using a recipe I was taught by an organic soap maker. He uses the very same recipe for the lip and beard balms he makes himself and markets in his online shop and to wholesalers that supply companies such as Neal’s Yard. So its a tried and tested recipe that is sold in shops but because I made it at home in my caravan, suddenly that makes it unappealing. But my homemade bread, baked in the log burner, went down a treat; even if it was slightly burnt with a light coating of ash…
As for foraged ingredients. I am a chef and enjoy using unusual ingredients in the food I prepare. Like magnolia petals in homemade sushi. The flowers of the magnolia tree are edible, there is a wealth of data online to prove this, and the fact that I’m alive and well certainly proves that at least I find them palatable! They taste faintly of ginger and have a similar texture and juicy crunch to endive, also known as chicory. It is perfect for sushi, in salads or as a scoop-like vehicle for humus, remoulade or any number of delectable dips. But would my friend eat it? No. How do you know its safe? What I’m getting at here is, why are people fine to eat foods packaged in argon gas, wrapped in plastic and covered in chemicals, yet frightened of eating natural, wild, package less flowers. If it were served in a restaurant would you be happy with it? Because I cook there too…Why are people happy to use beard and lip balms that are full of colours, preservatives and stabilizing chemicals but won’t use my two ingredient, organic balm?
I’m not sure of the answer to be honest. But I think a lot of it has to do with how we buy things these days, and how we are educated. People in my Nanny’s generation made their own clothes, made food from scratch and grew vegetables in their gardens. They weren’t afraid of a bit of chicken fluff on an egg, because the egg came out of the chicken’s backside! And they knew that. They weren’t afraid of mud on carrots or potatoes because the mud was a part of their garden. They knew the provenance of that mud in their bones. Now we are told that mud is dirty, that eggs carry disease and that all produce must be peeled – because there are chemicals on the skin if its not been produced organically. And yet, sloe gin, made from wild blackthorn fruit (sloes) is more popular than ever in the supermarkets? Weird.
But then, it is gin, and who doesn’t like gin?!