Heritage Food

Ok, so I have no right to call myself a “blogger” – I don’t actually blog. I have this thing sitting here in the internet that is a space for me to put words when I remember it is here. To be honest, I really don’t like writing. But alas, I do it anyhow. It’s nice to document my life in ways other than Facebook photos. So here’s sort of a “guest blog” post. I wrote one for the Santa Cruz Heritage Food Project that I’m working on with my dear friends Jody and Sierra as well as some other fabulous women. I was tasked with this because I have Spring Break right now and have no excuse for not contributing yet. So since I wrote it all up, I figured I would just post it here. 

Quick intro to the project: It’s a future book that will focus on different foods/products local and important to the Santa Cruz area. Examples include brussels sprouts, artichokes, clams, berries, apples, eggs, wine/grapes and HOPS. Mine is on hops. We are writing about the history of the crop, cultivation in the area, interesting personal stories that go along with it, and finding recipes and photos to share. So here goes:

Santa Cruz Heritage Food Project Blog Post 4/23/14

Hello, Steph here, member of the research team and a first-time blog poster. Yesterday we spent a day at the MAH (Museum of Art and History) upstairs in their archives digging through pictures, recipes, theses, books, posters, pretty much everything you could imagine (except about hops… more on that below). One of the main reasons we were there was to look at recipes from old books and collections stored away where nobody (except us, and other dedicated researchers) would find them. There were some gems: the artichoke-clam puff among my favorite. What we realized was that culturally, in the 1950’s, using mayonnaise and packaged/frozen food was important. It was to Americans then like artisanal bread is to us now. What amazes me is that these aren’t just random cookbooks. These were recipe books that were created by people living here in Santa Cruz County, the nation’s salad bowl. These are their recipes. And for artichokes, the recipe calls for canned artichokes! This is a surprise to me, but clearly was not a concern at the time.

This led to a lively discussion later over drinks and artisanal bread about the Slow Food Ark of Taste. I will do my best to explain it here, but as our conversation revealed, it’s really not that easy to explain. Slow Food International has this campaign to put specific foods (familiar to us in the area already are the Monterey Jack Cheese and the Meyer Lemon) on this list of important foods to preserve. The argument and discussion comes when we start asking “why should the producer care?” This is a longer discussion that deserves its own blog entry (which I’m sure will be coming soon), but a discussion that was an important one to have when discussing Heritage Food in our county.

So to wrap up, I will briefly introduce myself, my crop, and why I am doing what I am doing here. I’m a UCSC transplant from Santa Clara, I have been living here since my freshman year of college in 2002. THIS is my home. As I grew up, I fell into the field of social sciences, human sciences, behavioral sciences. I love how people work, I love to help people by figuring out how they work. So I teach special education, students with autism specifically. This was a long and winding road that led me to become a behavior analyst, which I mention here not just as an autobiography reference, but as an important part of why I love projects like these. I believe – no, I know… it is a scientifically proven fact – that we don’t do things without reason. We all have motivation and drive behind our actions, even if it is unclear to us. The study of behavior analysis looks at this fact and from that the practice of applied behavior analysis reaches out to help. I believe that this practice can not only help kids with special needs, but can help people learn to eat better, feel better, be good to our planet and be good to ourselves. Saving the world starts with behavior change. And that’s why I love the concept of Slow Food.

I’m currently the board chair of the local chapter of Slow Food. The Heritage Food Project is a committee developed by members of Slow Food Santa Cruz, and is a project that falls under the philosophy that food should be “good, clean and fair.” My passion for food came from all over, but recently has manifested into a passion for home brewing (and drinking…). My husband and I have been brewing for 5 years now and by our own standards (and apparently national, we have won some awards) pretty well. So when I was asked to be a part of this project I eagerly picked the chapter on hops and local breweries. I had no idea what a challenge this would be. There is almost zero information on this industry in the area. Other crops were so well documented, but this one, not so much. So it’s been getting a bit tedious, and I have to say I have been quite jealous watching everyone around me stumble upon the “jackpot” for research, while I sit staring at my computer, looking at the same words over and over. This comes down to some interviews and I’m in the process of setting one up with the owner of Corralitos Brewing Company, Luke Taylor, who has been using and cultivating a local strain of hops for the last 12 years or so.

In short (or maybe long), that’s me, that’s our project, and that’s what we’re up to now. I am so honored to work with such a great group of fellow researchers and food lovers. I wish we could do days like this every day – but then they wouldn’t be so special would they?

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