Wednesday 28 October 2009

Help from an Unexpected Quarter

We are down in Essex for a couple of days, and decide to take the children for a walk in the woods behind my in-law's house. It doesn't immediately go according to plan - the girls are in no mood for walking, and ask if we can go in the car. Go in the car? Through the woods? Don't be silly! Some serious chivvying follows and we manage to coax some interest in looking for squirrels out of them.

Further down the track, we hit the next hurdle - "we're hungry! can we go home now?" At which point, R suddenly detours towards a big tree and comes back with a handful of shiny dark chestnuts, their brown skins like polished caramel jewels. She peels them, pops one into each small mouth and everyone is happy! I'm amazed. Less than a week after my confession in the comms meeting about not knowing the difference between a conker and a sweet chestnut, here is my wife of nearly ten years, and partner for ten years prior to that, happily foraging for chestnuts! And I never knew she knew this stuff! Turns out she used to go foraging for mushrooms and other wild food with her Grandad in Ireland when she was a child. But until the need arose, we never had the opportunity to share this information with each other. So, while the girls happily munched on a raw chestnut each, we talked about wild food, free food, and transition. I told her about the Spring Tonic walk earlier in the year. R had read somewhere that nettle soup is delicious and full of vitamins, and we wondered whether someone would consider doing a "Food Walk".

So buoyed up by this revelation, I tackled the garden. I found the two chestnut trees, and, really, how could I ever have thought I wouldn't know the difference between a conker and a sweet chestnut? Next thing, the girls and I had foraged a treasure-trove of fat chestnuts, and buried them in a tin under a bonfire of raked leaves.

A couple of hours later, it was getting dark, so we dug the tin out of the ashes and brought it into the kitchen. I discovered that two hours in the low heat of a leaf-bonfire isn't enough to really roast chestnuts, but the ones at the edges of the tin were cooked through and delicious. A stint in the oven will sort the rest out, and they'll retain that lovely smoky flavour.

So now I just need to find that perfect recipe for nettle soup!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Jon. I could almost smell the smoky sweet chestnuts as I read it. I have a pocketful of them myself (as yet unsmoked), collected from a tree down the road this morning on the way to the library.