Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

September 29, 2010

Gary Nabhan on Food Traditions

One of the Keynote speakers during the Mother Earth News Fair last week in PA, is a pioneer in the effort to restore the Food Traditions in America, an ecologist, ethnobotanist, farmer and author Gary Nabhan. He was one of the speakers that I was really looking forward to having the chance to hear more from. I wasn't disappointed. I had first heard Mr Nabhan speak on my local NPR radio show. I was really impressed. He's been working for decades now to bring attention to the foods that we ate for centuries prior to our "Green" Revolution in a hope that we can bring some of those foods back from the precipice of extinction and begin to re-localize our food stream.

It's known from history, that food scarcity and/or high prices can cause chaos and food riots. It may be something that we generally associate with the "third world" countries, but it's really something that we are every bit as susceptible to as well. In this time that we are living in, with the possibility of dramatic economic and climatic change looming, it is greatly in our best interest to work to learn about and work to restore our local food traditions.

What do I mean by that? Well, local food traditions are kind of like local holiday traditions. Just like people living in Minnesota may go out building snowmen or something and people in Florida may put lights on their boats and cruise the harbour, so too will people in Maine perhaps enjoy some chestnuts roasted over an open fire while in San Diego they may have fish taco's on the beach. All things are perhaps possible in both locations, but I think it would require some serious inputs in the form of heat in Maine to sit around any beach, as well as some serious inputs of gasoline miles in order to get chestnuts to San Diego. The food traditions of our localities may have some items in common, but in many cases they have far more differences. Embracing those traditions will help us to become familiar with foods that are easily produced, with the least inputs, locally to where we consume them.

If we accept, and I know that this is a topic for an entirely separate conversation, but if we accept that at some point in the future we will either have used up or seriously depleted our allotted reserves of oil, then we have to accept that local food will be the only food we will be able to get too. That condition being accepted, we then have to think of the types of food that we will be able to produce in that location with the least amount of inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. (You do know that those two key components of the green revolution are based almost exclusively on oil to produce them right?) The logical choice to turn to will be the foods that were naturally selected over thousands of years of evolution to grow and produce in those conditions. And therein lies our dilemma.

Because our climate is changing, and whether you want to believe that that's because of the natural cycles of the earth or because we are changing it by our behavior, it is changing and some of our local foods will no longer be able to survive. These valuable genetic antiques of our culinary past will be gone. Compound that by the fact that industrial agriculture is selecting only a very very selectively small cross-section of the available foods to focus on and is slowly helping the antique and heirloom varieties to disappear and you will understand why it is so imperative that we learn to grow, eat and sustain these local foods. I think the best reason to preserve these varieties is because most times they taste far superior. They may not have been selected for shelf life or shippability, but their flavor is amazing.

To sustain ourselves in the future we will need to rely on the biological wisdom that has evolved over the millennium. To preserve that biological wisdom, we will need to cultivate and maintain our cultural wisdom. The most important thing is to buy, grow and eat these items though. As Poppy Tooker from Lousianna has said, we must "Eat it to Save it!". Meaning that if we don't buy these local foods and support our local food traditions, then they will be selected out.

So, what can you do?
• Check into RAFT (Renewing Americas Food Traditions) and see what you can do to spread the word and to practice in your own home.

• Know where your food comes from.

• Participate in heirloom seed and scion wood exchanges in order to propagate the species.

• Talk, share and bring attention to this issue with folks you know.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am lecturing myself here as much as I am to anyone else. I've been much better at this in the past, but have been terrible at it lately. How about we all try just a little harder so we can all have more to share in the future.

Till Next time...

1 comment:

Damn The Broccoli said...

Whether the climate is changing or not really doesn't figure in this one to me. Even the naysayers can't argue the fact that we are now dependant on far to few food sources. America is particularly dependant on Corn. It is in something like 80% of porducts, from food to batteries amazingly!

If the oil runs out an awful lot is going to disappear very quickly.