Renewing America’s Food Traditions

Posted by on December 16, 2005

[posted from Community Food Security listserv]


Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Bringing cultural and culinary mainstays from the past into the new millennium
Edited by Gary Paul Nabhan and Ashley Rood

>From the introduction by Gary Paul Nabhan:

?[These peoples of America are] much inclined To cultivate the earth and steward the same. They harvest beans, corn, and squashes, Melons and rich sloes of Castile, And grapes in quantity throughout their landscape? They harvest the red wheat and garden fare Such as lettuce and cabbage, green beans and peas, Cilantro, carrots, turnips, garlic, Onions, artichokes, radishes and cucumbers.
They have pleasing herds of turkeys In abundance and fowl of Castile, too,
Beside sheep and cattle and goats.?

~Gaspar P?rez de Villagr?, 1598

Where have all these heirloom vegetables and heritage breeds gone? When Gaspar P?rez de Villagr? wrote about visiting the Pueblos of New Mexico in 1598, diversity on the farm and on the table was the norm?not the exception?across most of North America. Today, roughly four hundred years later, two-thirds of the distinctive seeds and breeds which then fed America have vanished. One in fifteen wild, edible plant and animal species on this continent has diminished to the degree that it is now considered at risk. These declines in diversity bring losses in traditional ecological and culinary knowledge as well. Consequently, we have suffered declines in the food rituals which otherwise link communities to place and cultural heritage.

To reverse such devastating trends and to save and revitalize what remains, the RAFT Coalition formed in the fall of 2003 to develop and support strategies for Renewing America?s Food Traditions. The coalition is dedicated to documenting, celebrating, and safeguarding the unique foods of North America?not as museum specimens, but as elements of living cultures and regional cuisines. The coalition members have a proven track record for providing promotional, technical, and marketing assistance to food producers? collectives and micro-enterprises across the country. The RAFT campaign will explore novel means to support traditional ethnic communities that are striving to make these foods once again part of their diets, ceremonies, and local economies. In short, we aim to protect and restore vitality to the remaining culinary riches unique to this continent, and support those who are reintegrating them into the diversity of cultures that are rooted in the American soil.

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