My mother-in-law-to-be walked into our apartment and bee-lined it straight for Dina Falconi’s book, Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook (2013), which I had out on the coffee table. The cover is a hand-drawn festival of colorful wild plants, from bulbs to greens to flowers, bursting forth from a Dutch oven to dance on the crisp, white background.
It’s a hardcover book that really is quite lovely in the hand, so I could see why Nancy liked it. She collects and sells antique children’s books, many of which are fashioned with such quality. I love hardcover books with decorative end papers, and this book’s are fantastic—a whimsical, pink-red revelry of Alliums (field garlic, to be exact) drawn by Wendy Hollender, the botanical illustrator who teamed with Falconi on the project. The rest of the book is hewn with similar care, from the full-color botanical illustrations of 50 common edible plants with identification and usage information, to the recipe section that follows.
The seeds for Foraging & Feasting were planted a long time ago. Falconi recalls her earliest experiments in the culinary arts—sprouting grains and beans, and cultivating cashews into cream—in her family’s small railroad apartment in New York City. Later, at summer camp, she made the “life-altering and mind-blowing discovery” of wild mint, berries, and other wild-growing foods.
“For an inner city kid this was surreal—harvesting fresh, vibrant food directly from the earth rather than purchasing items viewed through store windows, separated by store walls, and owned by somebody else,” she writes.
She became enamored of the idea that she could connect with her forbears through food—both the early Americans who foraged for food, and her more recent ancestors, those of Jewish, Mexican, German, Mayan, Lituanian, Austro-Hungarian, and Italian descent. “As a lifelong cook, I have enjoyed creating and eating foods that my forbears may have eaten as a way to celebrate and honor them,” she said. “I guess you could call it soul-filling food, grounding food.” Read the rest of this entry