Gary Paul Nabhan: Renewing America's Food Traditions

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gary paul nabhanFor about as long as I have been talking about eating food from local farmers, I have been talking about Gary Paul Nabhan. He is the author of a book called Coming Home to Eat which definitively changed my life's course and really made me focus on talking about eating local food.

Gary Paul Nabhan spoke at a CUESA-sponsored event last week, and I cleared my calendar to go hear him speak. I'd never seen him in person, and was excited to do so. I was running late and starving, so I grabbed a quick salami sandwich from Boccalone and dashed upstairs at the Ferry Building to get a seat.

I have a tiny aside here that I need to mention before I go on: I am pretty shy socially. Around my friends, I'm brave and slightly irreverent. But when I have to introduce myself to strangers, or have to speak or represent myself, I'm pretty shy.

That's why it's remarkable that halfway between scarfing down my salami sandwich and settling in my seat, Mr. Nabhan walked over and I casually introduced myself and we chatted about the Eat Local Challenge. He and I had emailed last year (when he submitted a post for the Eat Local Challenge site), so I was pretty safe in introducing myself, but I'm still a little stunned that I was able to calmly chat with one of my heroes like he was a friend of mine. It was a thrill.

Mr. Nabhan was speaking in conjunction with Ashley Rood about their book Renewing America's Food Traditions which highlights the endangered foods in America. Mr. Nabhan is a proponent of Eater-Based Conservation -- the idea that if you want to save a particular food, you have to eat it. He says that without a demand for a unique food or varietal, a farmer will never make room on their farm for it. We have many examples of endangered foods here in California. I talked about Santa Maria Pinquitos a few weeks ago, and they are highlighted in the book along with the Sierra Beauty apple, white abalone, and other native foods.


Mr. Nabhan and Ms. Rood had wonderful stories of foods around the country that have been revived through this project -- from the Marshall Strawberry to the Makah Ozette potato which can be found in the Northwest and is now more widely available.

The CUESA staff recorded this discussion and will be posting it at CUESA Listen & Learn when the recording is ready -- it's worth a listen.