Renewing America's Food Traditions is continuing to echo throughout the food world. Check out this blog post in the NYT.
RAFT was my initiation--into the world of food biodiversity, into the cult of food history addicts, and into a lifetime of food storytelling and delectable feasts of local foods. Working side by side with my mentor Gary Nabhan, and other amazing food advocates like Kevin Dahl of Native Seed/SEARCH, Kent Whealy co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange, Erika Lesser and Makale Cullen of Slow Food and Don Bixby of American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, I learned about the world of heirloom breeds and seeds. I learned about the importance of saving the biodiversity of our food--not just for the irresistible, infinitude of tastes, but for sustaining our rich cultural history, our dying farmlands and promoting sustainable agriculture.
I uncovered the stories of exquisite berries too fragile to ship on the brink of extinction (read more here.) I cataloged lists of endangered foods with names themselves filled with stories: lazy housewife bean (the first string less bean), amish paste and hungarian heart tomatoes, moon & stars watermelon. I found communities dedicated to revitalizing their food traditions in the name of cultural preservation and health prevention. A life-changing experience in every way.
But before I go full steam ahead off of the cliff of digression--one last word about the NYT article...it highlights the often ignored heirloom breeds. You may well know the heirloom turkeys that have become a hot item on Thanksgiving tables, but there is a whole world of breeds from Rhode Island chickens to Navajo churro sheep and the precious Ossabaw Island Pig I saw at Mount Vernon just a few months ago. These breeds have cultural and ecological history that when sustained, will not only allow for place-based sustainable food production but tasty meals indeed (and this, coming from a self-ascribed aquatarian).
So go eat some heirlooms to save them.