Renewing America's Food Traditions
A search for forgotten delicacies.
As my imagination raced around the continent, my mouth watered. I thought about the question during a long, long pause, then replied, “I think I’d cry…” I would cry with joy at the astounding diversity of native foods we still have. And I would cry with sorrow at what we have lost and may still lose.
A century ago, when my Lebanese grandparents immigrated to the Great Lakes region, they were amazed by the country’s fertile soils, rich waters and the unfathomable diversity of foods. There were hundreds of varieties of cherries and plums being grown on neighboring farms; and lake perch, smelt and pike were abundant in the waters in front of their home in the Indiana Dunes. At the time, most U.S. households were still involved in some kind of gardening, farming, foraging or fishing and my grandfather became a fruit peddler and fishmonger. When I would visit, “Papa,” as I called him, would appear with a fresh-picked heirloom plum hidden in his fist. He would open his hand and present me with a purplish red gift ready to explode with flavor.