29 May 2008

Renewing America's Food Traditions

This new book from Chelsea Green Publishing presents a fascinating approach to preserving traditional foods: Get them back into the foodchain.

Not all the foods discussed by the authors are plentiful enough to eat but many are. The extinct or nearly extinct ones such as flying squirrel have to be brought back off the edge before they can return to the table.

Chelsea Green publishes books for people who care: Their titles include the politics and practice of sustainable living, renewable energy, green building, organic gardening, eco-cuisine, and simple living.

"Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods" has an overview of the history and decline of specific foods for each area of the U.S.

The sections of the country (and the book's chapters) are named Bison Nation, Chestnut Nation, Chile Pepper Nation, etc.

Northeast Oklahoma covers two areas: Cornbread Nation and Bison Nation.

Some of the foods that are in danger of disappearing or have already disappeared from use are Yellow Hickory King Dent Corn, Tennessee Fainting Goat, Chicasaw Plum, Southern Queen Yam, Osage Red Flint Corn, Sibley Pike's Peak Squash, Free-Ranging American Bison, etc.

To illustrate, the Cornbread Nation extends from northeast Texas and Oklahoma, through Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, parts of several other states.

Each food is described and illustrated in photographs. Recipes and an outbox of Further Readings accompanies each one. The Forward and Introduction to the book are worth reading as well.

It is an interesting read with a call to action. While some of us are less interested in the hog, goat and fish selections being brought back to the table, many gardeners would take great pleasure in helping grow obscure vegetables.

Slow Food USA as well as forward looking chefs in the Chef's Collaborative are actively involved with editor Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan and his organization
The Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University. Their goals are shared by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Seed Savers Exchange, Native Seeds/SEARCH, and Cultural Conservancy.

"Renewing America's Food Traditions" is a serious book that is also a great read for anyone who is interested in the history of food and sustainability. It reflects a cultural movement that deserves more attention.

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