Before chefs ventured into jungle patches to pick out their ingredients, there were people like the Wadandi tribe in Western Australia who lived off the land. Josh Whiteland, or 'Koomal' (bushtail possum) as his family know him, is one of the champions for his culture, founding Koomal Dreaming to get visitors acquainted with tribal basics like bush medicine, lighting fires, the food and their music. We learn more about his connection to the food of his land, and how he plans to get visitors to this year's Margaret River Gourmet Escape enlightened about Wadandi culture.
'Foraging was originally a way of life when food was not as accessible, and people had to live off the land and care for it sustainably.'
Tell us about your connection with foraging. How did you start, and why?
Foraging has always been a part of Aboriginal culture and way of life. Foraging for native foods was something I grew up doing, and my passion for foraging and cooking developed from my love of the outdoors and spending time in the countryside.
What was foraging like before the hyper-local eating movement took off?
Foraging was originally a way of life when food was not as accessible, and people had to live off the land and care for it sustainably. It used to be something that local people just did and nobody really noticed. Now foraging has become fashionable, and chefs are utilising native foods in their cuisine. There are also chefs who want to know more about Native Australian ingredients and are hungry for knowledge.
What are some of the ingredients you forage for in Australia?
I forage and hunt for all ingredients that are in season sustainably, and I use ingredients corresponding to the six Aboriginal seasons. Margaret River Gourmet Escape falls in the season we call Kambrang, which is the time of the year when crabs are in the bay, and Quondong, a tart native peach that can be used in both sweet and savoury food, are fruiting.
Tell us about your event at the Gourmet Escape. What can attendees expect?
A celebration of local food and culture, freshly foraged ingredients, and local produce prepared using traditional and contemporary techniques. Guests will be able to relax in a campfire setting and be mesmerised by a unique didgeridoo cave experience.
Catch Josh Whiteland at Kambarang – South West Aboriginal Gourmet Experience and The Didgeridoo Cave Experience (sold out), at this year's Margaret River Gourmet Escape.