All my aunts on my Mom's side are forager-cooks. They proudly show off their mosquito-protection suits as if they were brand-new dresses. Aunt Emilienne sold mushrooms to a Montreal restaurant for $700. Aunt Yvonne brought gallon-bags of walnuts from France to Montreal to share with the family at our annual reunion. It took forever to shell them, but they were delicious -- crisp and oily at the same time.
The first time I had clafouti was in Quebec City. My aunt Jacqueline had just picked wild blueberries from the nearby forest. The dessert was so effortless -- just tiny softened blueberries, bound by a slightly sweet eggy custard. It's the type of dessert that you could make while camping, or if you were in the Hunger Games.
The closest I get to foraging is traveling from Union Square Greenmarket to Chelsea Market to Trader Joe's. I've foraged for mushrooms in Chinatown, which is its own brand of wilderness.
I find it amusing that when Rene Redzepi picks things from the forest, it's called foraging. And yet foraging -- harvesting, gathering -- has long been the woman's domain. When men gather, it's fodder for The Selby, a photo shoot for Freeman's. And when women hunt -- well, I suppose that's the Hunger Games.
RECIPE: In a pot, add one bag of cranberries, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup raisins, a couple drops of vanilla extract, and a glug of red wine. Simmer for 20 minutes, until cranberries burst.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Boil water for the water bath. Beat 3 eggs (or 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites) and pour into a ceramic pie pan. Spoon cranberry sauce into pie pan. Place pie pan on baking sheet and pour boiling water around it. Place baking sheet in oven and cook until the sides of the clafouti separate from the pie pan, about 10 minutes. Turn broiler on low and cook until top is browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Eat warm or at room temp.