We live in an extraordinary part of the world.
We are less than thirty minutes from braided fishing rivers to both the north and the south. One of only three estuaries in our large region is about twenty minutes down the road.
One of the most abundant and bountiful ocean spots in the country is a mere forty-five minute drive to the north.
We can be hunting the foothills of the Southern Alps within forty minutes of stepping outside the door.
We are literally surrounded by fields, farms, truffieres, wild roadside verges and vineyards all of which offer a huge variety of wild and cultivated food and wine.
We are ‘lucky people’ in one of the truest, most connected uses of that phrase.
It’s not something we take for granted.
We live it in every day, my friends and I. We feel the pain of a twenty-month drought and the weariness of a late spring frost, but we also feel the joy of summer rains and the beauty of the subsequent soft, green environment. We grow grapes for a living, food for the satisfaction, and we forage for the thrill of the hunt.
And we’ve created the opportunity to share that experience with people through the Forage North Canterbury event. Eight teams with a chef assigned hunt the hills, fish the rivers, dive the ocean, forage the seashore, fields, farms, estuary and vineyards. The haul is bought back to Pegasus Bay restaurant by 2pm and the chefs then have only four hours to come up with a dish for sixty hungry collectors.
It’s an amazing thing to watch people as they find food. It seems to speak to a very ancient part of us, and for some people it creates an acute sense of meaningfulness.
There were so many stories from this event that it’s hard to capture them all, so here are just a few of my favourites….. I hope you enjoy them!
The above picture is of my husband, ‘The Vine Tender’. This is one of my all time favourite photos of him. I know him well enough to know what would have been going through his mind. He had just shot a 250lb boar and had to get it out of the bottom of the gully with the help of his hunting team which included a corporate wine director from China, a sommelier from Melbourne, a wine magazine owner from Sydney, and a wine buyer from the USA. He realised the importance of showing it could be done and led from the front. The result was an epic team effort, some very tired and sore bodies, and a group of disparate people who all contributed to an extraordinary experience.
This is what Yang Lv carried out of that gorge on his shoulder. It was incredibly heavy. The corporate wine director for the Shangri-La Hotel in China had virtually leapt from his vehicle the night before in his eagerness to be included in the hunting group. I’m not sure what he thought it might be like, but he forever gets to be the head-bearer of a trophy pig in the South Island of New Zealand!
These fish are infinitely smaller than that pig, but the chances of catching them was probably as unlikely. The seashore group had a tough gig. High tide that morning, and rough weather in the lead-up to the day meant their chances of collecting much was slim. A friend and foraging legend Kate McMillan lead the group, and had warned us that plans to throw net in the mouth of the Motunau River would likely prove fruitless because of the volume of water. So up stepped Liam O’Brien, sommelier from Cutler & Co in Melbourne. He’d never thrown a net in his life, but despite this proved a natural and totally came up with the goods. Enough mullet for a starter for the evening!
There are so many other stories, the Mayor of the Hurunui District galloping down an embarkment after we all discovered he was an expert forager and mushroom hunter, the salmon that got away, the shark the size of the boat, the mind-blowing conversations about bio-dynamics and connectivity, the resonance it created for people and the final dish it inspired.
We were all there because of the wine, but it’s what else we ALL put on that table that day that connected us, and this incredible place we get to call home. Here’s a video of the day: