Thursday, July 18, 2013

Towards Cascadian Food (Cascadia exists #3)

Some people are thinking about what food makes Cascadia:
The northwest corner of the USA/southwest corner of Canada region has a lot of wonderful food and drink but it’s difficult for people outside this region to articulate what the region’s food and drink actually are. Many simply don’t know. The term “Pacific Northwest” doesn’t mean a lot in the food world, and it’s also geographically incorrect when you consider southwestern Canada.
A lot of this does ring true for me. Cascadia (including parts of Canada, but maybe not as far east as Idaho) really does have a regional food culture. Like a lot of aspects of Cascadia (politics, literature), we need to do a better job putting focus on this portion of our culture.

From there, we can take two directions to take this, I think. Either we have a regional food identity (we just have to recognize it) or we have yet to develop a real one.

For the simpler later position, you have delano's comment on a reddit thread on Cascadian food:

But it's still the early days. It takes a long time to develop strong, regional identities. If you look at the older parts of North America, you can get an idea of the various stages of food identity. From cajun to creole in the south to the several specific types of BBQ sauce from the Carolinas to the eponymous hot wings from Buffalo).
For the former, Cascadia may seem very new compared to Dixie or New England, but in a lot of ways, it is very very old. Take one of the common threads in the regional food discussion on reddit linked above. A lot of people mentioned salmon or a particular species of salmon as a regional food.

But, when you take a look around, it just isn't salmon as a food that we have available. Another regional food someone mentioned was the geoduck clam.

But, if you take a look at the work of Elise Krohn and Valerie Segrest, you can see really how deep our food culture can go. Both Krohn and Segrest recently took on nettles, for example.


This year my hunger for nettles is acute.  After having been sick for weeks with the sinus and lung crud, I need some lively plant medicine to help rebuild my strength.  An elder once told me that if you drink about 3 cups of nettle tea per day for two weeks it will change your blood chemistry.  I believe it.  Spinach is considered the most nutritious green on the market – but pales in comparison to nettles.   Nettles are 29 times higher in calcium, 8 times higher in magnesium, 3 times higher in potassium, and almost double in their potassium content!  Nettles are also exceptionally high in the trace minerals chromium, cobalt, zinc, and manganese.  They are a super food and a potent medicine.  Nettles support our liver and kidneys so they can flush waste products and function at an optimal level.


I began to visit nettle in the woods near my house, at school, in the park.  I read everything I could on the plant, I drew it, I sat with it, I stung myself with it, I harvested and ate it, bathed and washed my hair with its juices.  I had never felt so strong, energized, and healthy.  And then I thought of all the other plants right outside the door and wondered what edifying teachings they had to offer.  Once again, I was hungry for more.  My work is now guided by the plants.  They are my teachers, companions, friends and all due to this enlightening experience.
Nettles are almost a perfect metaphor for this sort of Cascadian food thought. They are very simple to find this time of year, literally everywhere. They're so easy to find that in fact they're easy to miss. And, in turn, you miss their application in a regional diet or food. It may feel like someone is suggesting you eat a weed, but they are as crucial to our regional food thinking as steelhead or geoduck.

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