Questions that matter to us:
Can urban foraging make our cities less toxic?
What does it mean to put eating at the heart of place-making?
How does our style of cooking shape our most basic mental models?
Could weeds become our urban farms?
Can our political communities contain plants and animals as participants?
Is “Nature” still relevant to the environmental movement?
Is urban hunting the most ethical way to eat meat?
If heat was not central to cooking could we develop a new gastronomic revolution?
Could “sidewalk to table” be better and tastier than “farm to table”?
What are the best ways to prepare roadkill?
Did the Inuit invent “molecular gastronomy” centuries before Ferran Adria?
Do we need to abolish sauces?
Here is our recipe for Foraging from the Eat Your Sidewalk Cookbook:
We are not talking about foraging for mushrooms in the Catskills. This is how we began: Begin immediately where you are with what you know (however limited that might be). It is not about being an expert survivalist ready for the zombie invasion. Start by looking around you. Look at the cracks, the edges of buildings, the back lanes, and fenced-in abandoned lots. What is growing? Can you recognize anything? Birds, squirrels, ants, mosquitos, dandelions? Anything? Don’t be embarrassed if all you recognize are general categories: weed, tree, grass, bush, plant… Notice where it lives. What is beside it? What is eating it, or what is it eating?
Find something edible. Say the Dandelion. Pick the plant. Try and dig out the whole plant. Observe it. Taste it exactly as it is. Be nose-to-tail about this: Start with the leaves or blossom. Now the stem. (If the stem is too coarse try peeling it and sample a bit of the inner core). Now peel and try a bit of the root. Just nibble. Write things down.
Walk all the way around your block. Do this every day. Notice things. Draw a map. Put what you have picked on the map. Speculate on what time of the year they might taste good. Does something need to ripen? Or is it too fibrous? Speculate on how things might taste cooked. Just take it easy, stick with the plants underfoot, don’t rush to complex recipes—stay a while with what you have.
Don’t know anything about plants or other living things? Not a big deal. That’s where we started. Ask someone to show you one plant. Avoid going far afield, explore and enjoy the perplexity of your immediate world. Eat everything that you can. Just sit right there on the sidewalk and eat.
If you see someone picking something talk to them. Make a meal together. Get a few guidebooks, start with your library or used bookstore. Get one that meets your world, where you are. There is no one ideal book. Find a few. Leaf through your book of choice, and when you find an interesting plant go out and look for it. Once you find it, observe the patterns in where it is growing and what is around it. Dig it up and do the nose to tail eating process.
Here are some plants we started with: Lambsquarter, Dandelion, Wood Sorrel, Chickweed. What we found to be critical early on was to connect as one being to another being within the place you both share and co-shape. This is done through eating and not simply observing. Eat, enjoy, care, and live-with better. Trust your own sense of your capacities and grow these.
Making edible landscapes:
Here is the project we worked on at Pitzer College just outside of LA to develop a "multi-species commons": http://pitweb.pitzer.edu/forage/. The site has many resources on foraging, plants, and ideas.
Here is the bibliography for the Eat Your Sidewalk Cookbook