Quote of the Day
Making a literal difference, metaphoricallyBo Burnham, “Comedy”, Inside
I had thoughts that I would go backward in making this blog, filling in links and ideas that I’ve found and recorded before I started. But I’m realizing that’s impossible–it’s not how information works in this Information Age. There’s nothing to do but keep going, and to keep trying to catch you up as we go. To that end:
This Is Going To Be A Lot of Work, But I Really Want To Do It
“I’ve been a seed saver for about 30 years,” Swentzell told Pasatiempo, “and I’ve been very aware of how crops are adapted to their environment. I had read an article that said it takes 20 generations for any species to adapt to an environment. Given that thought, I was fascinated with the idea that we humans, being like seeds, also adapt to our environments. And the way we move around nowadays, our bodies are constantly having to adapt to a new environment. Then I realized that Pueblo people are a very special case in that we are one of the few tribes that were not relocated. That means that we still have our genetic code to our environment intact. But the problem is we are not eating our local food; so even though we have location intact, our food is like we are living in a foreign country all the time. And our health is struggling. So I wanted to see if I could experiment with eating our traditional foods, foods we evolved with for more than 20 generations in the same location, and see what it would do for us.”
The experiment proved, beyond a doubt, that returning to a pre-contact diet — free of dairy products, refined sugar and carbohydrates, and other highly processed foods — had a positive effect on all the volunteers…
“Granted, we were all suffering from some kind of health issues, but because the diet was based on a cultural identity — this is the food our people used to eat — there was also a reconnecting that none of us realized would happen. It was so strong. It’s hard to even put words to it because it was something we all felt, a connection to something that was very, very old in ourselves, like we went home in a deep, deep sense. It was not a fad or a diet,” she said. “This was a belonging. This was an empowerment event.”…
Non-Native readers who are interested in the Pueblo Food Experience and want to improve their physical and mental health should think about their own ancestors, Swentzell said. “Where were your genes in one place for 20 generations?” she asked. “Find out what foods were there then. Everybody has an indigenous food base — and it would probably fit your body better than any other foods.”
I read this and immediately wanted to do it. First because I’ve been struggling with IBS and food intolerances for years. But also because I have such a varied ancestral background that I often feel appropriative in trying to claim any parts of it (feeling like I’m “not enough” of anything). But food–food is so safe to claim! No one gets mad or uncomfortable with you for eating tasty food. It feels like an incredibly low-stakes, inviting way to take on some of my heritages while still being deeply satisfying and potentially healthful.
Of course, Roxanne Swentzell doesn’t seem to be mixed race, so what foods are going to work for me aren’t nearly as clear cut. But trying things out will just have to be part of the process. Here’s my cultural identity list that I will need to go through:
- Irish (not sure where exactly, but I think my mom knows)
- English (same)
- West African (need to try to narrow that down)
- Narragansett Indian
- Ashkenazi Jewish
I’m tackling Narragansett cuisine first, because I grew up in Rhode Island / New England, so I feel like those are the foods my system might be extra familiar with. Genes + experience, I guess.