Conservation has achieved lexical supremacy lately, and this week was no different with frenzied rumors of rice shortages crossing U.S. boarders, reports of anemic fertilizer productions,
forecasts on the federal rebate and the continuous saga of increasing fuel prices.
For Gary Paul Nabhan, conservation has been four years of research and resurrection throughout North America’s hillsides and valleys to compile a list of 93 ingredients that have succumbed near extinction from the continent’s culinary heritage.
In his book, “Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods”, which was released early last month (Chelsea Press), Nabhan promotes the utilization of endangered plants and animals that were at one time common in American recipes. It may seem counterproductive to proselytize the consumption of diminishing plant and animal life, but his efforts to raise interest in these forgotten foods from farmers, breeders and chefs, would in turn save them from extinction.
Items like the Black Sphinx date, the American eel, the Tennessee fainting goat and Seneca hominy flint corn made it onto Nabhan’s list, but like he told the New York Times Friday, it’s not purely about being edible.
“This is not just about the genetics of the seeds and breeds… If we save a vegetable but we don’t save the recipes and the farmers don’t benefit because no one eats it, then we haven’t done our work.”
The book catalogues, along with stories of the fleeting ingredients, the recipes pertinent in maintaining the use of the food, which Nabhan documented from interviews across the country.
“The daunting thing is that so much about American traditional foods comes out of people’s heads and isn’t in any book.”
These recipes and methods, dependent on local harvesting, have come at odds with evolving agricultural times and farmers who seek innovative engineering opposed to preservation. With the globalization of the food market, and the crisis we face now, the dilemmas lay on whether or not this reversion to local production is a fad or the future.