Like for Jack London’s beloved canine Buck, a call comes from the forest. A call that urges you to leave everything and turn your life upside down, immersing yourself in the wilderness, following nature’s call.
This is what writer and blogger Linda Louis did, and she invites us into her enchanted uncontaminated world with her book, L’appel gourmand de la forêt, a kind of gastronomic survival guide to the forest, which has just been published by La Plage.
«It’s been nearly 8 years since I’ve been living in a forest situated in the heart of France. It is a private space of more 1,000 hectares, consisting of woods, meadows and ponds, a place protected from the pollution,» explains Linda: «As I am fascinated by wild, edible plants in a general way, little by little I became interested in the wood flora and mushrooms. I like the idea of being able to go shopping in the middle of nature. The products which we find there are delicious, natural and nourishing. In a context of crisis, they also help us improve our everyday lives».
This seems to be an increasingly popular position where food is concerned, and Louis has a loyal following of young chefs all over the world. This lifestyle choice is only partially food-related and it often develops into a desire to embrace a more balanced approach between man and nature.
One of the most famous exponents of this trend is Rene Redzepi, the highly lauded chef of Noma in Copenhagen. His belief is that knowing how to grow a plant and tasting it in its natural environment is a perfect example of the kind of flavour that one should expect to find on his plate. It’s mother nature herself that teaches us to respect ingredients, which should never be modified to the point where they no longer have any connection with their origins.
But where do we begin to cultivate this new relationship with nature, using the gifts of the forest to nourish ourselves? Redzepi walks through the woods with his team and distributes advice as befits someone who has been gathering mushrooms and herbs since 1970, with the exact locations of where he finds certain berries and flora written meticulously in a secret notebook, so that he can find the same spots every year.
But anyone (who takes the proper cautions) can become an expert at foraging for edible foods directly from the woods and using them as ingredients in their own kitchens. Linda Louis did just that and has put all her own personal experience to use, sharing her advice on both how to identify and collect ingredients as well as how to use them in preparing dishes. The region she is familiar with (and describes), is Sologne, a French region filled with lakes and woods, and more specifically, the area of S.Augustin. This is where Linda begins to conduct us through her new world: hundreds of acres of Oak trees, various species of Carpinus and Conifers, a forest inhabited by deer and other small mammals.
Paying tribute to nature means, first and foremost, observing and respecting the seasonal cycles: separating and recording, tasting and experimenting, Linda Louis teaches us how to gather and make the best use out of these almost magical ingredients. Like Birchwood water, extracted directly from the heart of the trunk by use of a rubber straw.
Packed with gorgeous, luscious photographs, the book features recipes, experiences and tips in a kind of “survival journal”, as well as the necessary steps to take in the kitchen. «Wild cuisine is the image of nature and life itself, it’s an eternal rebirth,» explains Linda. «There’s the search in this marvellous world that is the forest, for a balance that makes us simply happy.»
Maybe not everyone will be able to succumb to the call of the wild as completely as Linda has, but the invitation is still valid: protect what is natural within ourselves to keep our inner wilderness in pristine conditions.