About CSE
 News Archives

CSE's Publications

Renewing America's Food Traditions:
Bringing cultural and culinary mainstays from the past into the new millennium

Edited by Gary Paul Nabhan and Ashley Rood

From the introduction by Gary Paul Nabhan:

“[These peoples of America are] much inclined
To cultivate the earth and steward the same.
They harvest beans, corn, and squashes,
Melons and rich sloes of Castile,
And grapes in quantity throughout their landscape…
They harvest the red wheat and garden fare
Such as lettuce and cabbage, green beans and peas,
Cilantro, carrots, turnips, garlic,
Onions, artichokes, radishes and cucumbers.
They have pleasing herds of turkeys
In abundance and fowl of Castile, too,
Beside sheep and cattle and goats.”

~Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá, 1598

Where have all these heirloom vegetables and heritage breeds gone? When Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá wrote about visiting the Pueblos of New Mexico in 1598, diversity on the farm and on the table was the norm—not the exception—across most of North America. Today, roughly four hundred years later, two-thirds of the distinctive seeds and breeds which then fed America have vanished. One in fifteen wild, edible plant and animal species on this continent has diminished to the degree that it is now considered at risk. These declines in diversity bring losses in traditional ecological and culinary knowledge as well. Consequently, we have suffered declines in the food rituals which otherwise link communities to place and cultural heritage.

To reverse such devastating trends and to save and revitalize what remains, the RAFT Coalition formed in the fall of 2003 to develop and support strategies for Renewing America’s Food Traditions. The coalition is dedicated to documenting, celebrating, and safeguarding the unique foods of North America—not as museum specimens, but as elements of living cultures and regional cuisines. The coalition members have a proven track record for providing promotional, technical, and marketing assistance to food producers’ collectives and micro-enterprises across the country. The RAFT campaign will explore novel means to support traditional ethnic communities that are striving to make these foods once again part of their diets, ceremonies, and local economies. In short, we aim to protect and restore vitality to the remaining culinary riches unique to this continent, and support those who are reintegrating them into the diversity of cultures that are rooted in the American soil.

To advance this work, the Coalition is proud to present to you the List of America’s Endangered Foods, as well as profiles of America’s Top Ten Endangered Foods and Top Ten Success Stories of advancing food recovery. Our hope is that by viewing and studying this diverse inventory, you will be inspired by these profiles, and encouraged to strengthen efforts to rescue, maintain, restore or promote these distinctively American contributions to global cuisine. The List includes the culinary mainstays of the last three millennia on this continent, both cultivated and wild. It celebrates the diversity of native and heirloom vegetables and fruits, heritage livestock breeds, wild roots, herbs and seeds, as well as fish and shellfish, wild game birds, mammals and reptiles. More than 700 distinctively American foods are now listed, including many from ancient and indigenous cultures such as Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa, Seminole, Iroquois, Cherokee, Sahaptin, Chumash, O’odham, Cocopa, Quechan, Hopi, Navajo, Santo Domingo, and Taos. Foods from place-based immigrant cultures are also included, such as Amish, Mennonite, Hutterite, Cajun, Creole, Hispanic, Connecticut Yankee, Florida Cracker, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Appalachian Scots-Irish.

Designed by Michelle Laughter
Photos copyrighted by David Cavagnaro

Published and copyrighted by the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University on behalf of the RAFT Coalition and its founding organizations, with generous support from the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, C.S. Fund, and Cedar Tree Foundation. This information may not be incorporated into other publications or used on other websites without express written permission.

Renewing America's Food Traditions - RAFT    Inside the book:
    An introduction by Gary Paul Nabhan 
    America's Top Ten Endangered Foods
    America's Top Ten Success Stories
    The List of America's Endangered Foods

    Download the entire RAFT book (PDF, ~375k)
Download the Press Release for the RAFT book

    Buy it from the NAU Bookstore
On the left, click Books, then Environment
Or call 800-426-7674.

If you would like to purchase copies to sell in your bookstore, please contact Julye Evans at Julye.Evans@nau.edu or (928) 523-0602.



About CSE | Contact Us | Collaborators | Research | Food | Water | Resources | Education | Publications | Events | News Archives | Home

 Add your name to our email list for notification of upcoming events!

Center for Sustainable Environments
at Northern Arizona University
PO Box 5765
Flagstaff, AZ 86011
Phone: (928) 523-0637
Fax (928) 523-8223
We are part of the
College of Engineering and Natural Sciences

Last updated January 16, 2007