I have a long time obsession with French cuisine. It’s not just that it tastes so decadent and ranges from exquisitely beautiful to charmingly rustic. But, it’s got history and a sense of place, two things that seem hard to come by in a country dominated by transience. French food is not driven by a food pyramid (or whatever shape it comes in these days) or by marketing hype.
In France, in the face of increasing competition from cheap foreign imports, farmers fight back by shutting down major roadways and letting live pigs loose in grocery stores. I’m not making this up, it really happened. I don’t know if it will keep the wolves at bay long term, but I hope they can keep up the fight until the rest of us to reclaim our food heritage and put an end to globalizing something that should be localized.
The things I love about French food exist in America too. We have a food culture. Every time I pick up a seed catalog, I am reassured of this fact. Like our country, our food culture is a wonderful eclectic mix. Because this is who we are. We are the mixing bowl. We are really good at appreciating what is best about all other cultures. We gather seeds from the best Italian tomatoes, the most delicious French carrots, the most pliable and sweet South American flour corn, and the surprisingly satisfying Israeli spinach. Then we plant them in our soil and make them ours too.
When I plant my garden with heirloom seeds collected from around the world and cultivated over long histories, or when I add a few French Black Copper Marans or German Lakenvelders to my chicken flock, I am participating in this culture of diversity. I am sharing in a history that crosses oceans and eras. And that is only possible because we have open doors welcome to receive the good from wherever it hails.
The importance of other cultures to American cultures is on my mind as I order my seeds and increase my chicken flock this year and reflect on recent events in American history, which I learned about today after ending my news sabbatical. I hope that like the French farmers who fight desperately and unfailingly for their livelihoods and traditions, that we too can cling to our eclectic and welcoming culture in the face of the disturbing challenges to our values and our ways of living.