Hello, and welcome to Wild City Kitchen, a project examining the relationship – sometimes harmonious, often conflicting – between London and the natural world. I’m setting up this blog in order to give myself a space to learn, make some connections with other nature loving Londoners, and have some good times! Whether I’m learning about horticulture, sustainability, growing fruit and veg, or how we, as humans, connect with the world around us, I want to share my knowledge here in fun and interesting ways, and also get you, good people of the Internet, involved too. Particularly with my Fancy a Walk? Project (more about this below).
Being born and raised in London has had a profound effect on my connection with the natural world. Luckily for me, I grew up with parents who loved gardening, were always taking us for walks in the woods, and who made sure we went on annual holidays to the countryside. The borough I grew up in, Waltham Forest is a particularly leafy one too (the clue’s in the name) but given the nature of urban living, there was also a of concrete, cars, and suburban sprawl. As I’ve got older, and continued to live in this city, I’ve felt increasingly ‘boxed in’ by the grey concrete around me, and tried hard to reconcile the pollution I taste in my mouth every time I walk down a main road, with my deep and profound love for this city, and the excitement, opportunities and adventures that these streets can bring. So though I love London immensely, I need to find a new way to exist here, and that needs to include new ways of connecting to the natural world within the confines of a concrete street. As capital cities go, London has actually been pretty good at providing its inhabitants with green spaces, but with the private sector increasingly encroaching on public space, it is essential we remind ourselves how important these green lungs are.
This blog then is a green and pleasant land amongst the tarmac, with a pinch of urban grit thrown in for good measure. To begin with, there’s going to be a few sections, which I’ll update as regularly as I can, so far these include:
Food for Free
Taking Richard Mabey’s seminal 1972 foraging guide, Food For Free, as inspiration, I’ll be venturing into London’s wilder green spaces in order to pick food that I can eat. Foraging is becoming more and more popular these days, and some areas are being entirely stripped of mushrooms by overenthusiastic foragers and shrewd entrepreneurs who are selling them on to high-end restaurants. In order to protect the local ecology and make sure I don’t add to the problem, I’ll only be taking very limited amounts of whatever I find, and never pulling up plants by the roots. In fact, I’ll be leaving the mushroom world well alone until I’ve had a lesson from an expert, as I’m just the type of person to end up dying a dramatic Victorian death because I accidentally ate the wrong one.
Wild City Kitchen
After foraging for food, growing it myself, or nicking something from a friend’s garden (sorry in advance), I’ll be sharing some recipes with you, and probably some disasters too. This may or may not include the odd video of me cooking (and as this usually involves me dropping whole meals on the floor, or flooding the kitchen, they’ll be entertaining at the very least). To begin with, I’m particularly keen to come up with a recipe using Stinging Nettles that my mum will actually like; she wasn’t too keen on the soup I made her…
Fancy a Walk?
A few years ago, I had a blog called Fancy a Walk? Which involved me going for a walk in one of London’s many parks and gardens and learning some of the history, writing a story, and uncovering some secrets – such as the story of the Blackheath Mole Man. Now, I’d like to expand upon this idea and get other people involved too. Every few weeks I’ll be announcing a walk idea, and putting a call-out for someone to join me. Whether you’re a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger, I’d like to go for a walk with you, on a one-to-one basis. I’ll bring the tea and biscuits, you bring your walking boots and we’ll learn something about the space together, have some interesting conversation, and at the very least get some fresh air. Then, if you’re willing to be featured on the blog, there’ll be some questions about your experiences of living/visiting London and its green spaces, before I write it all up for everyone to enjoy. If you don’t fancy featuring though, you can remain anonymous, it’s totally up to you. Obviously, if I’m meeting total strangers, they’ll be some safety mechanisms in place and I’ll need to know some details about you first, but given London’s overcrowded nature, meeting strangers in busy parks shouldn’t be a risky business for either of us. More info on the first walk soon.
Just as you’d bring conkers, pinecones and acorns into school to add to the communal nature display, this is the corner of the Internet where I’ll share what I’ve been learning lately. From the deadly history of a particular plant, to the reason why tree trunks spiral, I’ll share what I’ve discovered recently, along with some photos, videos, doodles and general musings on the history of plants, parks and woodland in the capital.
The Things That Sustain Us
These days, more and more people are getting on board the sustainability train. Whether it’s recycling household waste, taking things to the charity shop, or cutting down on food waste on an individual or national level, slowly but surely people are realising it might be wise to take more care of the planet. Well, some people anyway. In this section, I’ll be looking at sustainability schemes kicking off across the capital and hopefully talking to some people about what sustainability means to them. From Veganism to Food Assemblies, how can we live more sustainable lives, and what are we willing to give up to do so?
Wild City Songs
I’m addicted to making playlists. It’s my favourite form of procrastination. Themed by colour, season, emotion, or musical genre, I can sub-categorise with the best of them. As this is a nature blog though, I’ll be posting a weekly Wild City Song, which connects to the natural world in some way; let’s see how tenuous the link becomes!
That’s everything for now, but more sections might crop up in the future, depending on how the site evolves. Watch this space.
Nichola Daunton x