The day before our official South African lockdown, with no holidays or roadtrips in sight, I picked a bunch of wild garlic, Carissa berries and wild mint to use with kelp, regular garlic, sweet spices and horseradish for making a wild flavored vinegar. This would steep, soak and eventually be strained and mixed with honey to create an oxymel, which is a time old traditional recipe, many cultures seeming to have their own blend.
Oxymel translates directly to Acid (oxy) and Honey (mel) and is a rich healing tonic, used to treat coughs, colds, sore throats, respiratory ailments and as a natural immune booster. Herbs are infused into vinegar over a few weeks to a month, after which the acidic tonic is then strained, honey is added and blended.The healing properties of the herbs and ingredients used remain amplified in the vinegar and the sweetness of the honey balances the acid beautifully. This health giving tonic can be used in both culinary preparations (salad dressing, sauces, marinade etc) or a spoonful as a daily medicinal dose.
It’s an incredibly surreal time living in a world with Corona virus. Everyone is experiencing this change globally. We are all in the same sea of crisis together, but riding the storm in different boats, on different waves. The tide pulls and pushes wildly and we have to learn to go with the flow, giving over to a shift in feeling, thinking and doing. Now is a time for both exciting innovation and pensive introspection.
Personally this is a time of a dramatic slowing down. But life carries on – the sun continues to rise and set, the seasons change ‐ nature can be relied on. The last of the sourfigs need to be picked and preserved. Acorns to leach and roast. Weeds to be picked for soups. Flowers for health and happiness.
Inside my house, as the weather cools and the food gets warmer, the levels of dried seaweeds collected in the summer and stored in glass jars in my pantry shelves lower. Soups, broths and stews are served up on the old wooden table that I had in my childhood home, in the kitchen my husband grew up in. Old recipes books and photo albums are unearthed from previously dusty book shelves in bursts of re arranging the house. Food memories are triggered and suppertime becomes a history lesson.
Today I ran up the mountain. As soon as I’m out in the wild, my labels of mother, wife, and work float off and away like petals of an old dusty rose. The higher I climb, more free I feel, my usual worries diminishing as I shrink smaller into the vast open space.
There is a large flat rock in hues of mottled grey that has sucked up the afternoon sun and makes the perfect spot to sit on. I like it here and start to feel relaxed and sleepy, so I lie down and close my eyes. I try to meditate but little thoughts keep slipping into my mind. Eventually I let in an everyday question that everyone usually has at some point in the day…what should we eat for supper? My surroundings nudge me towards a kelpy broth with herbs, wild greens and veg. Something warming and nourishing, just like lying here.
I open my eyes and look out across the valley. Storm clouds are building in the sky to the south, the Atlantic peeps out from between the mountains in the East, a gentle breeze starts up from the North.
It’s going to rain. But without rain, there will be no flowers.