A Moveable Feast

Foraging with Karoline Kristen

The back door gives onto Newlands forest; her first memories are from atop her father’s shoulders, climbing, searching, foraging after the first rains. The forest is very much a part of her, its pathways run deep through her veins.

A few years ago these memories seemed a distant blur; Karoline Kristen was living in Berlin and working as a translator and editor for various publishing houses and newspapers. It was work, your typical nine to five. Then something shifted. “I went to a food workshop in Berlin led by a South African vegan chef, Parusha Naidoo. I stayed afterwards and asked her how she got into it, and when she told me she was a graphic designer with no chef experience and that she’d just taken a blind leap of faith - it was like lightning had struck, I thought: if she can do it, I can do it.”

Two weeks later Karoline held her first plant-based pop-up.

Her life is now dedicated to creating edible works of art. She spends her days painstakingly working on conceptualising recipes that take modest, wholesome ingredients and transform them into masterpieces,

“I just love playing with people’s perceptions, creating immersive experiences in which I present them with flavours, textures and visuals that go against everything they think they know about vegan food.”

First image credit: Claudia Goedke

Second image credit: Karoline Kristen

Third image credit: Lana Kenney

Karoline’s experiences teach people to engage with their surroundings as if for the first time, opening your eyes and reigniting that child-like sense of wonder that comes with seeing things anew. They range from pop-ups to workshops, private dinners to forage and feast escapades.

I was lucky enough to be taken on one such an experience: a forage and feast hike up Table Mountain.

The day starts with coffee at Karoline’s home; I meet my fellow hikers, we’re each given bits and bobs to carry and we’re quickly on our way. We exit through the back as she explains the three part journey: the forest, the contour paths and Skeleton Gorge.

As we march in single file down winding paths she begins to point to small details: hidden corners where you’re likely to find mushrooms and blackberry bushes heavy with fruit. She stops at a fork to explain the maze of crisscrossing tracks: where they lead, what to look out for, what to be weary of…she notices some dandelions and picks them, then spots some wood sorrel: edible leaves that look like little clovers; they’re citrusy and tart. She takes out a Tupperware and fills it.

We reach the contour paths: a network of parallel dirt tracks that lead up the mountain. Below us in the distance is Kirstenbosch gardens and up ahead the vast green ravine of Skeleton Gorge. We meander through tunnels canopied by lush trees, up staircases, over wooden bridges and across dried up streams that run fierce during winter rains.

We reach the sign post for Skeleton Gorge and Karoline veers left for a quick break at her favourite rest stop: a picturesque waterfall bordered by tall trees with tiny leaves that paint dappled light over the rocks.

We each find a perch as Karoline opens her goody bag to reveal handmade granola bars. We munch away as she tells us stories about the mountain water, its deep brown hue a result of the tannins in the surrounding plant matter – it’s soft and earthy. We fill up our water bottles and I delight in scooping handfuls of water over the back of my neck.

It’s time to tackle the gorge. The higher you get, the steeper the climb becomes and the scenery begins to shift: it becomes rockier, almost vertical so ladders are provided adjacent to trickling waterfalls. It’s cool and lush, thick with green and wonderfully overgrown…and then it slowly transforms again; the vertical ascent subsides somewhat and we begin to veer left until the trees part and we’re met with the most spectacular urban vista.

We venture up the last of the ascent and then the strangest thing: beach sand giving way under my feet…then vast open skies and the magnificence of the Hely-Hutchinson dam. (The rules say you’re not supposed to swim, but people do, because when you see it you just can’t help yourself.)

Karoline tells us to take our shoes off and get comfy before the food magic begins. She serves us virgin GnT’s and busies herself opening countless containers and assembling elaborate vegan canapés: carrot lox blinis with aquafaba mayonnaise, beetroot caviar and dill followed by watermelon ‘tuna’ rice crisps with avocado, sriracha mayo, black sesame seeds and edible flowers from the hike…We can’t help but laugh as we try to make sense of the incredibly rich canvas of flavours.

She then puts the finishing touches to the open sandwiches with wild greens pesto, smashed peas, pickled radishes, pistachio salt and the sorrel we foraged along the way. And then to finish, her pièce de résistance: vegan malva pudding truffles.

As we feast, Karoline explains that the beach is a result of the erosion of the soft sandstone at the peak of the rock formation and talks us through the paths that trace across and down the mountain.

We all take the opportunity to doze at the water’s edge, basking in the splendour of our surrounds, in awe of the feast that we’ve just devoured… I look over at Karoline, smiling quietly as she gazes across the water, and I understand her passion, I understand her fascination and fixation with nature – the pleasure in cultivating joy with the simplest of life’s treasures.

To find out more about Karoline’s events follow her on Instagram.

And book for her workshops here.

Words and images by: Kate Liquorish,
unless otherwise credited