“I know who you are. And I know the rampant antics your Mommy and Daddies went through to make you. And who was left to feed you after you were born. Yes, I know who you are. You are a dunnock. And I found you in triumph in my bird book. You are a hedge sparrow, and if you persist in trying to eat that daisy you won’t succeed, no matter how hard you work at it. You’re supposed to be on the ground looking for grubs in the rain-drenched lawn.”
Yes, that was a direct quote from me that morning after days of following the UK Wildlife Trust’s Wild June – 30 days of finding something new in nature each day. I couldn’t resist the nature challenge, a field I have only gleaned tidbits through hearsay. But I didn’t know the strength of its effect. I was hooked! The more I learned, the more I discovered how little I knew, and the more I wanted to know. But the triumphs along the way expanded the pride within me. The Persians would say I am walking around with a watermelon under each arm:
Buying a tent, sleeping in it overnight, and then, TaDAH! Learning how to fold it up again, defying the store woman’s ageist comment: “get your grandson to do it for you”.
Learning from Leonardo da Vinci how to watch rain drop from the point of a leaf.
Comparing an airplane to an albatross.
Finding nature in unexpected places, like right under a flight path at Heathrow Terminal 5.
Knowing the names of trees I’ve been passing by each day on my walks.
Discovering that both wood pigeons and jackdaws can identify an individual human face. Wood pigeons actually make milk in their crop to feed their young. And jackdaws are very very smart.
Why beautiful Queen Anne’s Lace had been given such an ugly name – cow parsley – in Britain. (Because it wasn’t supposed to be eaten instead of real parsley.) (Though it is edible.)
American robins and British robins — the American is of the thrush family, and was misnamed when early settlers saw the red breast.
And 30 days of more!
It has been a wonderful journey. A realization that, before this, I hadn’t learned anything new in a long time, and how important it was to do so. A chance to be openly stupid. I now use cup and card to remove any insect from the house in order to save the planet, and sit glazed-eyed wondering how far a bird can swivel its neck before turning around. If you’re not interested in nature, stay away from me for awhile, until I once again become well-grounded in the mundane.
Mushroom and Lovage Paté
Jet lag had seized me after a quick trip across the Atlantic to a family birthday party (more about this next month). I wandered around the kitchen looking for some kind of vegetable paté to spread on a cracker. Here’s one I’ve never tried before. Shall we do it together? Adapted from Hann’s Herbs, a sheaf of notes I was given when attending Judith Hann’s herb workshop long ago.
3 big field mushrooms, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 large garlic cloves, 1 slice wholemeal bread made into crumbs, 40 lovage leaves or celery leaves, 300g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia), black pepper (I added salt).
Remove stems from mushrooms, break stems up with garlic cloves. Put all in a pan. Drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes in moderate oven. Turn large mushrooms over, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Cool. The juices will be absorbed back into the mushrooms.
Now grind them up using food processor or stick blender, then add the cream cheese. Mix smoothly, adding bread crumbs, a bit at a time until it’s thick enough to spread. (The mixture will firm up when cold) Tastes better the next day.
The Omnivore addition: one or two slices of streaky bacon fried slowly until crisp, and added to the mixture. But be careful not to add salt until after you’ve tasted it.
My thoughts: The bacon paté, of course, is a bit sturdier, but neither lost its mushroom-lovage taste. My lovage leaves were small and new, and I probably should have used more of them. This is a light paté that would go well with vegetable bases, like cucumber slices, celery, or wrapped in lettuce.
Comments please, always welcome.