February 22, 2015, Prescott- My paternal grandmother would have turned 116 today, a rather sobering thought. Her cooking, for a family of thirteen, depended almost entirely on organically-grown fruits, vegetables and animals. After World War II, as my father and his siblings grew up and the nest became empty, my widowed Nana went to the market and bought the freshest foods she could, paying little mind to the processed and packaged foods that were increasingly on the shelves and in the freezers. She liked the unsalted flat crackers that came in a long box, but everything else had to be frais.
We’ve slid a long ways downhill since those days. I encountered a lot of unhealthy offerings, in my recent travel across Texas and the Gulf Region. There were also several glimmers of hope, in the small artisan and organic cafes of the Panama City area, in New Orleans and in the West Texas desert. Heirloom seeds and the Ark of Taste represent sincere, concerted efforts to turn these glimmers of hope into a shining sun, with respect to diet.
The most recent issue of National Geographic Magazine makes note of the controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms, including it as one of the “War on Science” concerns, on its cover. Inside, the actual article barely mentions GMO’s, saying only that “We are asked to eat” them, and “There is no evidence that they are harmful”. This last conclusion may be true, with regard to some people, much as it’s true that not everyone dies after smoking cigarettes for five or ten years. Longitudinally, though, no one knows. Does that mean we should shuck it all, and make such foods our staples? In my opinion, no.
This evening, I helped serve a dinner, comprised of Ark of Taste food items, including Navajo Churro Lamb, wheat berries, chilipati and okra. There are over 100 items, worldwide, which have qualified for Ark of Taste. The Ark is an international effort to preserve foods and beverages whose ingredients have become endangered. It is a culinary version of the International Seed Bank, Longyearbyen, Norway. The Ark exists mainly through the efforts of growers, ranchers and culinary workers, in the areas of production. Its list of ingredients is growing, through a careful evaluation process, that emphasizes strict organic farming and animal husbandry.
Slow Food Prescott, of which I am a member, puts on this dinner every January or February. Other Slow Food groups, in several communities around the world, offer a similar meal. I believe educating oneself on the Ark of Taste is another step in overcoming the mindset of false convenience, in one’s daily diet.