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RAFTRenewing America’s Food TraditionsSaving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods, 2008

Gary Paul Nabhan; Editor
Forwarded by: Deborah Madison
Released on: 04/01/2008

Renewing America’s Food Traditions is a beautifully illustrated dramatic call to recognize, celebrate, and conserve the great diversity of foods that gives North America its distinctive culinary identity that reflects our multicultural heritage. It offers us rich natural and cultural histories as well as recipes and folk traditions associated with the rarest food plants and animals in North America. In doing so, it reminds us that what we choose to eat can either conserve or deplete the cornucopia of our continent.

While offering a eulogy to a once-common game food that has gone extinct—the passenger pigeon—the book doesn’t dwell on tragic losses. Instead, it highlights the success stories of food recovery, habitat restoration, and market revitalization that chefs, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and foresters have recently achieved. Through such “food parables,” editor Gary Paul Nabhan and his colleagues build a persuasive argument for eater-based conservation.

Deborah Madison

Renewing America’s Food Traditions gives us a great food adventure to embark on—really no less than discovering ourselves through foods that we didn’t even know were, in some way, ours.

Arab/American: Landscape, Culture, and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts, 2008
by Gary Nabhan


The landscapes, cultures, and cuisines of deserts in the Middle East and North America have commonalities that have seldom been explored by scientists—and have hardly been celebrated by society at large. Sonoran Desert ecologist Gary Nabhan grew up around Arab grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in a family that has been emigrating to the United States and Mexico from Lebanon for more than a century, and he himself frequently travels to the deserts of the Middle East.

In an era when some Arabs and Americans have markedly distanced themselves from one another, Nabhan has been prompted to explore their common ground, historically, ecologically, linguistically, and gastronomically. Arab/American is not merely an exploration of his own multicultural roots but also a revelation of the deep cultural linkages between the inhabitants of two of the world’s great desert regions. Here, in beautifully crafted essays, Nabhan explores how these seemingly disparate cultures are bound to each other in ways we would never imagine. With an extraordinary ear for language and a truly adventurous palate, Nabhan uncovers surprising convergences between the landscape ecology, ethnogeography, agriculture, and cuisines of the Middle East and the binational Desert Southwest.

Diana Abu-Jaber

Arab/American “provides a sumptuous mosaic of personal and cultural history,” and offers “a delicious read.”

Renewing Salmon Nation’s Food Traditions, 2006
by Gary Nabhan


Renewing Salmon Nation’s Food Traditions describes a treasure trove of regional plants and species — some at risk, others recovering. We hope that it can serve as both a reference guide and a historical inventory of species that were once abundant in Salmon Nation.

At the back, this handbook also features a resource guide — a listing of nurseries and seed companies serving the region. With this information in hand, it is up to us to bring these fruits, vegetables, herbs, and shellfish back into widespread cultivation. Farmers can help by growing these varieties, and chefs and retailers can join in by featuring them on restaurant menus and at grocery store. – Debra Sohm Lawson, Director of Food and Farms Market Connections, Ecotrust

Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes and Cultural Diversity, 2004
by Gary Nabhan


Nabhan, an ethnobiologist and nutritional ecologist, examines how our ethnicity determines our digestion. He explains why modern native Americans are prone to diabetes, and why Mediterranean diets generally work best for those whose forbears came from the Mediterranean.

He urges us to learn about the foods our particular ethnic group used to stay healthy in the home country, and to apply that knowledge to the food choices we make.

Publishers Weekly

Mixing hard science with personal anecdotes, Nabhan convincingly argues that health comes from a genetically appropriate diet inextricably entwined with a healthy land and culture.

Bill McKibben
Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age

Move over Dr. Atkins–here’s someone who really understands what a body needs. In a homogenized world, it is delightful to be reminded that our cells and organs follow a much older and more complex set of instructions. Read it before you head out to the market for this week’s shopping!

Renewing America’s Food Traditions (with Ashley Rood), 2004


Where have all these heirloom vegetables and heritage breeds gone? When Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá wrote about visiting the Pueblos of New Mexico in 1598, diversity on the farm and on the table was the norm—not the exception—across most of North America.

Today, roughly four hundred years later, two-thirds of the distinctive seeds and breeds which then fed America have vanished. One in fifteen wild, edible plant and animal species on this continent has diminished to the degree that it is now considered at risk. These declines in diversity bring losses in traditional ecological and culinary knowledge as well. Consequently, we have suffered declines in the food rituals which otherwise link communities to place and cultural heritage.

Woodlands in Crisis (with Marcelle Coder and Susie Smith), 2004


In recent years, the West has suffered from unprecedented stand-replacing wildfires, and the government has invested more money in preventative forest thinning than ever before.

This forest crisis has led to much controversy over the Healthy Forests legislation passed by Congress in 2003. On the Colorado Plateau, it has also spurred heated debates regarding the degree to which thinning can truly serve to restore wooded habitats and what reference conditions and or restoration goals are needed to guide such plans.

This book offers a primer for understanding how diverse land-use histories have impacted the health of pine-dominated ecosystems in the West and points to measures for better managing them in the future.