There is something exhausting about the restless search for the latest faddish flavour of the month. It used to be drugs, now all trendy folk seem to go on about is kimchi and bone-broth (unless you live in LA where vaginal steam cleansing with mugwort is the real deal).
Fine, but I’m worried about the obsession for wild foods; chefs enthusing about some foraged delicacy in their kitchens. What used to be eccentric hedgerow pickings jarred by demented spinsters are now on every neo-nordic menu. Creatures once only served up to crumbly dukes are the new grail of the food lover.
I’ve seen wild chanterelles and wood sorrel, snipe and hare on menus this week and not among dining finery but on the eastern, hipstery fringes. Regardless of that much over-used sustainability word, why anyone would want to eat a hare is beyond me. Witnessing their March madness; a tangled craze of out-sized limbs, boxing and leaping among the early crops, is too rare a delight. And you know, when we’ve become so clever with food and all, with so many advances in our culinary repertoire, surely we can leave this most elusive of our indigenous mammals to his own devices. Hearing the peel of a snipe from a moorland ditch is a celebration of life, a confirmation that we haven’t destroyed the planet completely. It leaves me bewildered as to why the hell you would want to slice the beaky little thing in two and serve it, brains and guts and all, on toast? A pointless exercise in killing, for too little reward.
Game dealers claim they only sell wild animals from reputable sources and most wild food gatherers do so exclusively as part of a personal culinary adventure. But the countryside, just like the city, is a murderous place. Gamekeepers frequently poison rare birds of prey to protect their game for the big money guns; organised gangs of fish raiders net vast quantities of sea-trout as they swim into the estuaries of the north-east; poaching thugs use high beam spotlights to daze roe deer at night and then loose bloodthirsty lurchers on them, only to have their throats ripped out before turning up as wild venison on someone’s table.
We should beware of creating demand that results in unscrupulous lines of supply; herds of foodies spilling into finely balanced habitats, greedily gorging on rediscovered delicacies, or getting others to kill wild game to satisfy their curious palates. This is not a good thing. Sure wild garlic and elderflowers are unlikely to become extinct, hares will roam and teal will fly but letting people troop about harvesting the lot for fancy pants restaurants might, one day, come back to bite us.
Wild is cool man, but selling wild is a slippery path.