I met Pascal Baudar at a semi-wild park on the edge of the San Fernando Valley. I was there to learn how to make beer from wild plants. Baudar immediately drew me in with stories of elementary school in Belgium where beer was served at lunchtime. Before making the beer, Baudar took us on a plant identification walk and tasting. We walked through a landscape I grew up in and knew well, Southern California’s dry chaparral. But, I had never seen it like Pascal sees it. The ubiquitous mustard, often attacked as an invasive weed, became a tangy snack. The white flowers of the yucca were silky treats. The thistle that I have learned to keep away from has a tender stem when young. After the walk we went to some picnic tables and made beer.
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine was released years after that class and represents a lifetime of not just snacking on the plants of Southern California but exploring their full potential. This book is not a survivalist plant identification guide or a cookbook. Rather, it is a tribute to our local plants, an exploration of their full potential, an invitation for us all to contribute to a new California cuisine.
Even if you do not live in California this book is worth owning. The recipes and techniques can be applied to any location. Through descriptive writing and inspiring photos, Baudar teaches hot-sauces, beers, vinegars, infusions and more with a variety of plants. The first recipe is a ‘Forest Floor and Herb Blend.’ In this recipe, Pascal mixes fallen leaves, mushrooms, and other foraged items to create a seasoning for cooking meat and fruit in. The recipe is a framework that invites you to bring your own ecosystem, rather it is forest, desert, mountain or ocean, into the kitchen.
As the class I took with Baudar ended, he invited us to sample some of his wild foraged beers. I remember a mugwort beer that had the balanced bitterness of an IPA with an earthiness I had never tasted in a beer. Ultimately, this is Baudar’s goal, finding a cuisine that is not local in the farmer’s market sense but local in the wild sense. A cuisine that tastes like the places we cherish.
Get a copy of The New Wildcrafted Cuisine by clicking the below image.