These days, the closest I get to foraging for food is wandering up and down the lanes at the supermarket without a shopping list. Even growing up on our farm, we never foraged. Food was farmed or hunted, whether it was meat, fish or the vegetables grown in our large garden. And so I was intrigued with Lali’s experience of foraging for mushrooms and lambs’ quarters.
And then I remembered. Next to my host family’s house in Thailand was a large vacant section, one of only a few in the wealthy, gated community. As with any vacant space in Thailand, it was lush and green. The plants grew profusely – but looked like (and probably were) weeds. One day I looked out my bedroom window and saw my Thai mother, and one of the drivers, wandering through the section looking for something. I called in my sister, and asked her what they were doing.
“Getting dinner,” Dao said, matter-of-factly. I was appalled. What on earth did she mean? The lot was full of weeds that to my foreign mind all looked as if they’d be poisonous. The only other things out there would be some impossibly large and creepy insects – not appetising at all – snakes (argh!), and maybe even some ubiquitous rats. “Vegetables,” said Dao, sighing at the ignorant farang.
Yes, my Thai mother and a helper would regularly forage through this area to find greenery to be thrown into the wok. I have no idea what she found. I never knew whether the vegetables I was eating came from the market, or the vacant lot. So even upper-class wives of senators in a gated community in Thailand forage. With some Help, of course.