“When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. How can they know one another if they have forgotten or never learned one another’s stories? If they do not know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover, they fear one another.” (Wendell Berry, What Are People For)
I just finished an interesting book. It was given to me by Dr. Neal Lester, Dean of the School of Humanities at Arizona State University. Not for Profit is an essay on why the humanities are important for democracy. I have to admit it was some pretty heady stuff and somewhat alarmist at times. But, as I have found over the last year and half, the humanities are often hard to describe. I liked this definition in particular which the author describes as the spirit of the humanities: “searching critical thought, daring imagination, empathetic understanding of human experiences of many different kinds, and understanding of the complexity of the world we live in”. I believe that is what Wendell Berry is conveying in his comment.
Later this week, I’ll have the privilege of traveling to hear Dr. Gary Nabhan speak. Gary’s book, Coming Home to Eat, changed my life and it will be my first opportunity to meet him. As conservation scientist, his work has been dedicated to preserving seed diversity and to recovering native food traditions. Said another way, he’s telling and preserving our stories.
From that perspective, Gary’s work and the idea of preserving food traditions makes the humanities easier to wrap my head around. After all, food is a large part of our stories. Visiting the farm where our table crops are grown, knowing the lady who owns the chickens that produce our eggs and shaking hands with a fishing guide who will take us to a catch all become parts of the story. The holiday meals, the recipes, the cookbooks with ink scratch in the margins are parts of the story too. Frankly, they’re a part of my story that I want to capture, record and share for my children and for others who may have an interest. And if food allows us, in a simple way, to create an understanding of different kinds of human experiences, then why wouldn’t we start there?
What is your story and how will you convey it to others?
Elsie’s Cranberry Frappé
A Holiday Tradition handed down over the years
- 1 package of cranberries
- 4 cups of water (split half for cooking and half for blending)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp grated orange rind
- 1/4 of a mashed banana (this can be omitted depending upon taste)
- 2 cups cold Carnation milk
Cook cranberries in 2 cups of water until the skins are broken. Rub them through a sieve. Stir in next 5 ingredients. Pour into a tray and put into freeze. Stir two or three times after frozen. Serve as an interim course to cleanse the palate during a holiday meal.