Posted on | April 4, 2012 | No Comments
N. E. Anderson, Professor of Anthropology – Emeritus at the University of California, Riverside, California, defines Ethnobiology as “… the study of the biological knowledge of particular ethnic groups – cultural knowledge about plants and animals and their relationships.”, whilst Edward F. Castetter at the University of New Mexico, who first coined the term Ethnobiology, defined it as “…utilization of plant and animal life by primitive peoples…”
In todays modern urban environments, this traditional knowledge of the use of the various herbs, vegetables, and other botanicals found in the “wild” has mostly been lost, and, what little is known about the foods found is limited to what is available in our now rather homogenised and industrialised food systems.
It was in the spirit of these definitions, and, of our introductory Ethnobiology class on traditional knowledge that we were to go into the nearby fields of Pollenzo to forage for our dinner as the next activity of this subject.
Andrea Pieroni, Ethnobiology Professor and our Course Director led the class out to the fields of Pollenzo and within minutes, we were introduced to our first wild herbs and vegetables that could be found by the pathways, in the fields and in the undergrowth of a grove of poplar trees.
Professor Pieroni is obviously very passionate about his work, and, every so often would exclaim in delight when he came across one herb or another and would describe their names, both in vernacular and by its scientific name. He would also go into some detail on the traditional uses by the different peoples in either Mediterranean Europe or the Balkans who would use them.
In all, we managed to pick about 30 different wild vegetables and herbs on this little excursion, and, all to soon the afternoon was over, and the class made its way to the Societa Gastronomica, the first Gastronomic Society of the Spanish model to be set up in Italy.
At the premises of the Societa Gastronomica, many hands got busy sorting, washing, preparing and cooking the foraged herbs and vegetables, whilst others set up the dining room, poured wines and prepared platters of salumi (cured meats) and formaggi (cheeses) as pre-dinner snacks.
A little while later, a beautiful array of dishes, both cold and hot arrived at the tables and everyone dug in with gusto.
Everyone agreed that dinner was delicious and many were surprised at the very different and complex flavours that were present in the dishes. Some have even made plans to do their own foraging on their walks home from Pollenzo.
Have you ever foraged for your own meals?Copyright © MM - MMXII Daniel CHIA. All rights reserved.