A captivating and lyrical journey into our ancestral past, through what and how we eat.
Mo Wilde made a quiet but radical pledge: to live only off free, foraged food for an entire year. In a world disconnected from its roots, eating wild food is both culinary and healing, social and political. Ultimately, it is an act of love and community. Over the course of the year, using her expert knowledge of botany and mycology, Mo follows the seasons to find nutritious food from hundreds of species of plants, fungi and seaweeds. In the process she discovers an even deeper connection with the earth, and learns not only how to survive, but how to thrive, nourishing her body and mind.
Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Sometimes, a book comes along that shifts your entire perspective and changes your approach to how you live life; for me, The Wilderness Cure was such a book. I went into it with curiosity about foraging and wild foods, but no real knowledge of it and its history, and I came out of it with my world-view changed. Mo Wilde – forager, research herbalist, author, and ethnobotanist – decides, prompted in part by the consumerist excess of Black Friday, to live only on a wild food diet for an entire year, starting on 27th November. What follows is an account of that year, in which Wilde documents the foods available, the places and ways in which she forages, and the ways her body is affected during her seasonal diet.
The Wilderness Cure is so much more than just diary entires about eating habits; it is a history lesson, an invitation to reconnect with nature, an introduction to even the most unassuming of plants, and an ode to our planet. The planet that has nurtured us and driven our development for so much of our history, and which we are tearing down in thanks. This book made me both joyful and sad, as most nature books do these days. It’s like looking at old photographs, knowing that those times are gone and cannot come back, but it also nurtures a hope for the future and an encouragement for all of us to appreciate the natural world just a little more.
I know that not many people will be able to do what Wilde does during this wild year, because not many people have the access to countryside, the time, or the knowledge, but Wilde is not writing to suggest everyone adopt this lifestyle, but to show how much more vast the world of food is. Now, whenever I go on walks, even in my relatively urban neighbourhood, I find myself looking at all the vegetation I see, from flowers to trees to grasses, and wondering what they are and what properties they may have. It’s given me the desire to learn the art of foraging and wild cooking, and I think it would be very hard for anyone to read this book and not want to do so. As a writer and reader of fantasy, I must admit that it has also opened up more possibilities in my mind of how food can function in a society, and has given me a greater desire to research ways in which our ancestors lived and ate.
I would recommend The Wilderness Cure to anyone, because it’s such an easy one to pick up and put down, with it’s clearly divided sections, and I think – especially for people living in the British Isles – it provides a connection back into the murky depths of history to a time when our ancestors were much closer with the land, and that made me feel incredibly grounded. I have a feeling this is a book I will reread and reference frequently, and will definitely be a favourite for this year.
Published: 23rd June 2022 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: non-fiction, nature writing
Format read: eARC