How do I describe what a wonder my friend and co-author Ana Guadalupe Valenzuela-Zapata has been in so many of our lives? She is not only ranked among the most innovative and renowned experts on tequila and other agave spirits, she is a dynamic speaker, writer, field scientist and pod caster, but also a thought leader and inspiration to our mutual friends in many countries.
Just glance at her memoir-ish intro to our book Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History, or her revolutionary paper A New Agenda for the Blue Agave. Whether we’ve been together with Dr. Gentry in at the Desert Botanical Garden, with the Hopi on Black Mesa, with botanists in Mexico City or jimadores in Tequila itself, Ana is a lively and lovely contributor to the conversation.
Next let me praise the Protector and Promoter of Appalachian crop plant diversity, James Veteto. The first time I glanced at his thesis on Appalachian crops I knew I had a brother.
But when I had to replace the late great Bob Rhodes during Jim’s dissertation defense, and we lived through that tragedy, I knew we were brothers for good. His work demonstrates that Appalachia has more living, delicious traditional crop diversity left in it than any other region in the US, and perhaps more than all other regions combined.
On top of being a stellar ethnobotanist, he is a great activist, a poet, a lover of music and dystopian science fiction, and a hands-on expert on the BBQ Traditions of the South . Don’t try to slip some soggy, vinegar sloshy, saccharine sweet BBQ by this boy! Jim knows the REAL thing because that’s what he’s made of!