This morning in the New York Times, author Andrew Beahrs contributed an op-ed piece on the vanishing place of wild foods on the American holiday table. Invoking Mark Twain and the original pilgrims, he recounts the local diversity that once graced our meals and the gradual shift towards sameness and domestication. I do have a co-worker who embellishes his family’s stuffing with gathered chanterelles and locally-hunted elk, but most friends that I talk to scavenged their ingredients from a grocer’s shelves.
Twain’s ideal feast spanned the specialties of the entire nation:
“His menu celebrated the amazingly varied landscapes of an entire nation. Shad from Connecticut, mussels from San Francisco, brook trout from the Sierras and partridges from Missouri all found their place alongside apple dumplings, Southern-style egg bread, ‘American toast,’ and strawberries, which were ‘not to be doled out as if they were jewelry, but in a more liberal way.'”
Sadly, many of these foods are vanishing from our markets and our collective knowledge of how to prepare them. Beahr’s passionate call for wild foods brought to mind a recent post on the Slow Food USA blog about the importance of the Ark of Taste and RAFT projects. Both efforts are working to preserve food traditions and renew the interest in the tastes of these uniquely American products.
It might be too late for you to change this year’s Thanksgiving menu (unless you are off to do some foraging this afternoon), but the holiday season is long and stuffed with opportunities to celebrate with food. So as the season continues, search out a local Ark product or traditional American food for a cozy holiday dinner. It’s what Mark Twain would have done for his next, swanky cocktail party.
Thanks for sharing