The Call Of The Wild

With Forager And Chef Lori McCarthy

 

Posted March 5, 2019

You Can Eat The Woods For Dinner

 

Lori McCarthy gets excited about food. Wild food, traditional food, the food that nourished our ancestors and our culture, the food that makes us who we are. “It's my belief that our foodways are stories to be shared” she says. “Embracing the past, holding strong in the present, and growing with the future, they shape who we are as a people.” Rooted in the land and sea from which our traditional foodstuffs spring, Lori's relationship with cultural foods and the land borders on the spiritual, her respect for the natural world reminiscent of an earlier time when understanding of nature's cycles meant life or death.

A chef by trade, the birth of her children sparked a decision to follow her heart into the forest and down to the shore where the heart of Newfoundlands culinary traditions lay. She founded Cod Sounds, a homegrown culinary excursion company dedicated to preserving and promoting our cultural foods. A growing interest in hunting and the butchering and curing of wild meats have put her at the forefront of an evolving tradition, inspiring more women to enter this historically male-dominated world. In the same vein, her creative culinary skill set has seen her bring growing interest to traditionally underutilized wild food sources such as the various seaweeds abundant on our shores.

 

Animal, vegetable, or mineral, you'll encounter them all at a Cod Sounds workshop. Sitting by a fire on the beach mixing wild herbs you've gathered with sea salt while snacking on  moose heart pastrami Lori cured herself , the sensory immersion in Newfoundland culture is not unlike being wrapped up in one of nans quilts. Lori does not just tell the story, she embodies the story. She lives and breathes it every day. Here are just a few of her favourite wild ingredients and what to do with them.

 

From The Sea

Ulva intestinalis, commonly known as gutweed, is a bright green mass of tubes not unlike a bedraggled clown wig matted on rocks, in brackish pools and rivermouths around the shore. “It grows where fresh water meets salt, but it also growns in unclean water so be very careful where the river comes from” advises Lori. The big challenge is to remove the sand, and while not generally consumed raw it is highly-prized in some Asian cuisines for frying or deep frying.“I hang mine on the clothsline to dry” says Lori of her preservation method, and she favours making  a seasoned sea salt with the powdered , dried fronds.

Nutritious and tasty, seaweeds can be incorporated in salads and stir-frys. Rich in unami flavour profile, they can be used to make the fragrant Japanese soup stock  Dashi and feature in miso soup as well. Dried they can be sprinkled on many foods. Rich in iodine which supports thyroid function, almost as high in protein as legumes and packed with fiber, vitamins C and A and anti-oxidants, these little powerhouses of essential nutrients are an overlooked and free plant based food source.

 

 

From The Meadow

 

The Rosaceae family to which our sweet smelling glut of wild roses belong also includes apples and raspberries. The rose is no less edible, in fact even the young leaves can be consumed by those curious enough to try. But the aromatic flower and the swollen, bright red rose hip are the real prizes. While often used for jam or tea, the high Vitamin C content of rosehips is destroyed by heat, drying and processing so a simple de-seeding of the rosehip (this is important) and a little 'smush' to make it spreadable on toast with honey is the healthiest bet.

Persian cuisine favours lamb shanks roasted with rose petals and hot spices. Rose petal lemonade or iced tea is a delight on hot summer afternoons. British High Tea desserts often pair rose petals with lavender , and a rose syrup reduction drizzled on vanilla ice cream showcases it's delicate flavour.  The vitamins A, B-3, D, and E, as well as bioflavonoids and minerals the petals contain give a healthy kick to even the most decadent dessert, but  their healthy properties shine when added with minimal processing to cold drinks and raw foods. For an easy and versatile rose petal food product, Lori blends dried rose petals with sugar to sprinkle on whatever sweet treats she chooses.

 

From The Deep, Dark Woods

 

Golden chanterelles are among the most popular of  wild edible mushrooms. Each year as their late summer season approaches all the fine restaurants debut chanterelle pastas, pizzas, even toast smothered in the apricot scented, egg yolk yellow to yellow/orange , highly desired mushroom.  With increasing pressure due to higher harvesting levels in past years, added to development pressures, city dwelling foragers may have to look further afield for a golden chanetrelle patch these days. But there are other species of chanterelle, the humble, tiny winter chanterelle foremost among them for taste and bounty. They contain fiber, vitamins B, D, and K, and copper.

 

Growing near spruce and pine and enjoying heavy canopy cover and moist slopes, when you find one winter chanterelle you are sure to find more as they grow in groups. Starting their season in September as the golden chanterelles fade off, they will persist till heavy frost and their earthy , tangy flavour compliments the game meat that is another bounty of the autumn. Their drab brown caps bely their distinguishing feature, the hollow, golden stem that earns them their common name 'Yellowlegs'. Their high water content recommends roasting or frying before including in creamy, garlicky pasta sauces , game meat stews and pies, in omlettes or simply tossed with butter, sage and bacon.

- Felicity Roberts

 

 


 

About Cod Sounds

 

Lori McCarthy is the owner and operator of Cod Sounds, a homegrown company dedicated to preserving the cultural food of Newfoundland and Labrador. She has been listed as a hidden gem in National Geographic and has been written up in Costal Living as one of the 8 great excursions in North America. The Telegraph speaks about her in an article with Newfoundland being one of the most unlikely culinary destinations and check out what the National Post has to say.

 

To learn more about Lori or Cod Sounds, visit codsounds.ca

Lori will be giving a talk to NatureNL on May 30th. Check back in our upcoming events for details.

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