Imagine America not as we see it today, a grid of states, but the way it might have appeared to settlers centuries ago. The landscape would have been delineated by ecological and agricultural regions and the foods that flourished there. Maple forests once covered the slopes of the Appalachians, salmon were plentiful in the rivers of the Northwest, bison roamed the central prairies. These emblematic foods helped define regional cuisines. Today, many of them are vanishing.
Click on the area where you live to learn more about the disappearing foods in your area and how you can help preserve heritage and heirloom foods. See more on Renewing America's Food Traditions.
In Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods (Chelsea Green, May 2008), ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan, working with cultural anthropologist Makale Faber Cullen of Slow Food USA and three others, redraws the map of North America into a series of 13 “nations,” or “foodsheds.” They are named for emblematic heritage foods or cuisines that define them: Maple Syrup, Chile Pepper, Salmon, Gumbo, etc. “We see this as an imaginative tool to help us think about the relationships among food, place and culture,” Nabhan writes. The book also lists more than 1,000 regional foods that are in danger of being lost and calls on all of us to help preserve them.