Hi, I’m Ceridwen. And I love cities, I love the unexpectedness, the variety and the whole mishmash of people in the city. In the city, you can travel round the world, just by connecting to your neighbour. Except we often don't connect to our neighbours, or maybe only the ones that are pretty similar in background and share similar interests to us. The project that I run, Invisible Food, has been an experiment in reaching out to the people around me and building community. I've just published a book Street Food: Urban foraging and world food, which I crowdfunded for to self publish.
So what is this book Street Food: Urban Foraging and Wild Food all about?
It’s a recipe book which matches seasonal wild food and world food. We begin in January and go through month by month, with recipes for a 3 course meal from a different community each month. For example, in January there are recipes from South East Asia including rice wraps with wild herbs and Chickweed salad with spicy dressing. In March, we turn to East Asia with sautéed burdock root with shepherd’s purse sprinkle, wild herb Chinese dumplings and Dorayaki pancakes with Japanese knotweed. And then in April, we are looking at recipes from the British Isles, including nettle haggis, Wild herb Glamorgan sausages and garlic mustard colcannon. The geographic region for each month represents a community that has settled here in London from that region. So we cover, North, South, East and West Africa, the Middle East, Greece and Turkey, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Mediterranean countries, South America and South Asia.
So how has this book come about? It's simple, we've gone walking together in parks and green spaces finding plants that are edible and safe to pick, we've talked together and we've cooked food together. The name Invisible food refers to everything that sustains us that isn’t ordinarily visible or easy to spot. The ‘food’ has a literal and practical interpretation; the ‘food’ is the wild foods such as nettle, elderflower, chickweed, dandelion that, once we’ve learnt how to identify, we can harvest and learn how to use. There is also a deeper, more soulful and humanistic interpretation, as that which sustains us emotionally and spiritually, such as friendship, a strong community, a connection with the earth, and a belief in social justice.
When I began this project in 2008, I knew pretty much nothing about plants. I learnt to connect to the plants in a meaningful way, not just by observing them or learning their names, but by learning which ones I could eat. I learnt about their unique flavours and textures and created new recipes that worked well for each particular plant I was discovering.
You may be asking Why Wild Food? Why world food? What’s the connection? Well, for me, it was an opportunity for play and innovation. A ‘Why not?’ kind of thing. But there’s also something about a connection with wild plants that brings a kind of rootedness and sense of belonging. Connection with nature brings wellbeing, we all know that and I really want that sense of wellbeing for everyone so that no matter where you were born or were you came from, you know the green spaces in the city, you are familiar with some of the wild plants and you know their potential as food sources. Experimenting with World Food seemed to be the most inclusive way of beginning this conversation.
Another big motivation for this book is that this has been a community project run on a lot of love and not much money at all. This book will mark and commemorate 5 years of the energy of people coming together across barriers, beyond comfort zones, towards each other in a city where people can easily be separated from each other. I don't want the experience of this to slip away unnoticed, as many projects with community wellbeing at the heart of them do. I want this book to be a reminder of what we can achieve with the 12 magic ingredients of:
1. Safety and structure
5. Play & Fun
6. Being seen and heard
8. Inclusion and connection
In 2013, I crowdfunded on the Crowdfunder website and raised almost £3000 to publish the book and pay for designers and photographers.
And what do I hope for the future, after this book is published?
I hope that this book both supports you to connect to nature and to your community in a spirit of greater connection, fun and play. And do what your parents always told you not to do, Start playing with your food.