Musings from an environmental anthropologist dedicated to exploring wild, untamed foods — even in her own backyard
Is it possible to be homesick, not for a place, but for the past?
One of the central themes of my book, Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food, is the sense of nostalgia we might feel for a time when eating meant something different. When nutritious food came fresh from the pristine nature all around us. When we knew the seasons and could identify the abundant edible plants growing in our backyards.
How had we lost this deep connection to the earth?
This sense of being homesick for the past has taken on new meaning since COVID-19. How we long for a time before this global pandemic and all the suffering it has brought! And yet, I have found new meaning in being home. I spent many years traveling to research my book — from the far flung rainforests of Borneo, to the wild game markets of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and even a thrilling excursion to an island off the coast of Maine. During the past few months, I have been forced to be home in New Mexico where I grew up, rerooted in a place I rarely visited long enough to do laundry.
Unable to travel, my first feeling was one of being stuck, static, confined. I yearned for an adventure.
But as the days passed, I found a new sense of being grounded.
I learned to ferment foods, something I had never had the patience to do before. I reconnected with family and friends, and found joy in such simple pleasures as waking up before sunrise to watch the day begin with a steaming cup of coffee and a good book. As the sky turned pink then blue with a flourish of colors I had never noticed, I found pleasure in the feeling of just being here, now, in this moment.
Ironically, staying home has made me appreciate the edible weeds in my backyard, not as a nuisance but as little gifts. Reminders that the past is always with us.
Although sometimes long gone days might appear sweeter, we possess the capacity to imagine and create a brighter future, today.
The feelings of nostalgia and homesickness are transformed by rediscovering the delicious moments that have been here with us all along.
You may also enjoy reading Off the Mat, Into the Kitchen: Bringing Mindfulness to Our Plate, by Tamal and Victoria Dodge