At the Table with Chef John Besh


Long before I met New Orleans chef John Besh, our paths crossed several times. A handful of e-mails and a couple interviews later...a reverent admiration began to take shape. Conversations with John are deep and soulful, and leave me pondering long after they're over.

A quick two day trip brought John to Seattle. Day 1: John was cooking dinner for the folks at Amazon.com, based on his book My New Orleans. Day 2: dinner together.


Choosing a restaurant can be a tricky thing. I wanted a quiet spot where we could talk in a relaxed atmosphere...with fabulous food. Tall order. I called a few friends and quickly realized, many were tied up with another event. What to do? I threw out a request for restaurant suggestions on Twitter.

Private chef Becky Selengut heeded the call...and offered to cook. Pastry chef Dana Cree took on the dessert course. Word spread quickly and before long, we had oysters donated by Taylor Shellfish and wines delivered to our doorstep by A&B Imports.

To quell my nerves, I invited a handful of friends 'round the table. Each, in their own way, play a hand in shaping the Seattle food scene. William, owner of Bakery Nouveau, arrived with baguettes hot out of the oven, and Andy provided an array of chocolates from Theo's.

During dinner, John asked, "What is Pacific Northwest cuisine?"

This is another topic I've considered long after our conversation. Rather than being anchored by specific dishes, Pacific Northwest cuisine is ingredient-driven -- sweet Dungeness crab, briny oysters, foraged mushrooms, etc. The application of those ingredients is less about specific dishes, and more about coaxing the maximum flavor. Often it is the simplest applications that let the flavors shine.

Unlike the Pacific Northwest, New Orleans cuisine is rooted in traditional dishes...red beans & rice, crawfish ettouffee, beignets, and gumbo. It's a shared cuisine that reflects a sense of history and place.

After this dinner, I've thought about the differences between our two cuisines, and its impact on the culture. Ingredient-driven Pacific Northwest cuisine, lacking in dishes that provide a common thread, reflect our cultured yet fiercely independent spirit. While in New Orleans, debates linger over esoterics like the proper technique for roux. "When you think it's done, let it cook some more." It's a unifying component of the culture. Food's role in a culture varies greatly and juxtaposing our two cuisines was an eye-opening experience.

As an ambassador of Pacific Northwest cuisine, I was thrilled to have Cornucopia's Becky Selengut at the helm. She has a remarkable palate and I've been a longtime fan of her work. Providing the dessert course, Dana Cree is another incredible Pacific Northwest-based chef. Highly influenced by molecular gastronomy chefs Heston Blumenthall, Wylie Dufresne, and Sam Mason, her work fuses seasonal ingredients with a comfort food spin.

Ready for some food porn?


Cornucopia chef, Becky Selengut





In the kitchen with Ashlyn Forshner, Becky Selengut, and Jeanette Smith






First course: Kumamoto oyster with champagne gelee, Totten Virginica oyster with spring onion mignonette





Detail: First course (love the sea beans)





Second course: Port Madison chevre tart, port-soaked cherries, pickled red onions, lemon thyme








Third course: Dungeness crab-apple sandwich, ginger and vermouth fumet, Skagit River bacon and shiso salad





Between courses




Andrew Daday, then with boutique chocolatier Claudio Corallo, now with Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Dana Cree, pastry chef at Poppy.






Theo Chocolate's chief scientist and COO, Andy McShea








Ashlyn, pan frying nettle gnocchi. To the right, halibut smoking over tea leaves in the wok.





First of the season halibut, wok-smoked over tea leaves.






Becky, preparing the next course, plus a quick peek into her kitchen, newly restored in a circa 1910 building.




Waiting for the halibut.




Wok-smoked halibut, stinging nettle gnocchi, chanterelles, fiddleheads and fried nettles






L-R: John Besh and Erick Loos, John's sous chef at La Provence restaurant.







Fifth course: Estrella Family Creamery cheeses, rhubarb-thyme jam, miner’s lettuce salad and dandelion cracker






Sixth course: Wildberry sherbet with caraway streusel and duschelly hazelnuts






Seventh course: housemade nutterbutters






John, taking a stash of nutterbutters back to his hotel







Eighth course: Theo Chocolate plunder






John with our hosts, sommelier April Pogue and chef Becky Selengut






John with William Leaman, owner of Bakery Nouveau and captain of 2005 world champion baking team, Bread Bakers Guild Team USA.








L-R: Erick Loos, April Pogue, William Leaman, Becky Selengut, Ashlyn Forshner, John Besh, Andy McShea, Jeanette Smith, and Andrew Daday.

***

If you're drooling over these dishes, Becky's book on sustainable seafood will be released March 2011. With any luck, it will include my favorite...course #3.

Facing My Convictions

Longtime family friends have a wedding on the horizon. Picture a large grassy knoll overlooking snow-capped mountains and sweeping views of the water. An intimate wedding at their island home, for fifty people.

Would I do the food?

I'm honored...and quickly agreed.

Over a series of e-mails, we hammered out the menu and now, a month before the wedding, I headed up to the island to see the space. Second refrigerator? Check. Coolers for ice? Check. Platters, bowls, the tent has been ordered...how 'bout flowers in these mint julep cups? (Goodwill fetish strikes again!)



Other than the usual home improvements gearing up for an event this size, there was just one obstacle: rabbits.

The resident coyote population hasn't been heard from in years, and without a dominant predator, rabbits were taking over the island! Father of the bride was experiencing a frustration on par with Caddyshack. Efforts to keep the budding rabbit population in check failed. Their landscaping was nibbled to shreds.

We watched as a family of rabbits came and went. The dog sat, unmoved. Father of the bride lowered his voice and confessed, "I shot two rabbits earlier today."

"What?"

"Right off the patio." He pointed 30 feet out. "Spotted them with my morning coffee and grabbed my gun..."

In less than an hour, I watched no less than a dozen rabbits graze on the yard. It's debatable whether his efforts would have any impact but I had to know, "Did you eat them?"

"No, they're full of worms." He thought for a moment and said, "I suppose that's why the eagles don't eat them either. They hunt fish, mostly."

Over the past several months, I've been trying to reconcile my animal lover vs. omnivore eating habits. Emboldened with a pioneering food movement spirit, I ask myself, "How can I eat meat, if I'm not willing to kill it?"

As a kid, my father hunted deer, pheasant, and quail. He'd arrive with his haul and line up the kids in front of the plunder for a photo. I have vivid memories of him polishing his riffle at the kitchen table, and even then my aversion was clear. You'd find me...inching into the other room.

For years, our freezer brimmed with fish and venison. Avoiding any "Bambi" protests at dinner, Mom supplied us with her customary white lie, "It's beef."





So here I am. Rabbits all around us and a willing hunter by my side. As if on cue, I spot two rabbits several yards away. Father of the bride says, "I can't shoot them."

"Why not?"

"The gun I'd need is too loud. The neighbors would be upset."

Ah, the neighbors! The lots were large, but yes, neighbors were clearly visible.

Minutes later, another rabbit approached the deck. With little encouragement, father of the bride dashed off to get his gun. I had handgun in mind, but what he produced was a long 22 riffle with a scope mounted to the top. A modern-era Daniel Boone, he gently opened the sliding screen door, splayed himself on the dining room floor and measured his shot.

Mother of the bride turned her back, but I forced myself to look on. Other than fish, this was the first creature I've ever seen killed.


A quick "pop" resonated through the air. It was a clean hit to the heart, right above the forelegs. But the rabbit didn't die. It scooted across the lawn in an erratic fashion, as if to scrape off the offender, and slid under the hedge.

I felt sick.

I thought it would die immediately, but nooooo! Cautiously, I approached the hedge. I laid on my stomach, trying to spot the rabbit hiding in the lurch, while father of the bride ran on the other side. By the time he caught up to it, the rabbit had mercifully died. He held it by the back two legs and I took a look. Oddly, it was the same size as my cat.





He laid the rabbit in the grass and riggor quickly set in. No longer like flesh, it was stiff...and fluffy. I took a couple photos and then the discussion began. What to do with the bodies? The current rabbit count was three. Dumpster at work? Burry them? What's the protocol?

The rabbits were bagged in a garbage bin. A decision about what to do with them...would wait for another day.

In the meantime, I wanted to know. What's it like to hold a gun? Without the magazine of bullets, father of the bride showed me how to raise the gun, and nestle the butt end just above my arm pit. Through the office window, I lined up the cross sight (+) on the taillight of his truck in the driveway.


I quickly learned, a steady shot with a gun is a lot like shooting photos with a long lens. The slightest movement makes a difference. He coached me on breathing. "Take two steady, deep breaths. Then another half-breath and hold it. Now take your aim."

Like a tripod mount, he explained the need to stabilize your shot. The gun was heavier than I expected and keeping it steady was difficult. What would I do in a life or death situation? "You could use a tree limb, or rock...anything will work."

And then he explained, "Most people think you squeeze the trigger, but you don't. The trick," he demonstrated with his palm facing me, "Is to squeeze your whole hand." (It sounded vaguely like Scott Bourne's photography tip: don't press the camera's shutter button, roll your finger across it.)

Lesson over, I crawled into bed with much on my mind. It's a shame the rabbits weren't worth eating and I found myself wondering, "What happened to the local coyote population?" Like anything without it's natural predator, the population was clearly exploding. I wrestled with uneasy sleep. Against all my previous convictions, today I had held a gun today AND witnessed the death of an animal. I came to plan a wedding!

Carpe diem?

Interview with Documentary Photographer Ivan Lo


Random link?

A Twitter follow?

I can't tell you how I first met Ivan Lo, but his documentary photography moved me from the beginning. His searing images, captured in the world's most dangerous hot spots, have resonated with me for days. (View his portfolio here.)

Ivan identifies himself as a humanitarian, travel, and street photographer. From arid hill top towns in Afghanistan to monsoon-flooded plains in Cambodia, his work reveals the human side of complex issues. Battles are fought and won over precious resources, geographical boundaries shift, and ethnic rivals clash, but what remains--no matter what the conflict--are the citizens who must carry on. In spite of their circumstances, Ivan's subjects reflect candor and grace.




an elderly couple waits as a new well is drilled in their slum - Patna, India




[November, 2009]


Traca: Tell me about your career. Did you study photography in college?

Ivan: I started out as a business major, but then I realized I didn't want to live my life that way. My university's sister school had a photojournalism program but unfortunately, I didn't get in. So I stayed at my school (University of Illinois, Chicago) and switched my major to fine art photography. I thought it wouldn't be that far off from photojournalism, which was obviously a big mistake on my part. I finished the program in about 3 years.

Traca: Technique in fine art photography vs. photojournalism is totally different. No elaborate light set ups in photojournalism!

Ivan: The only thing I really learned was how to process my own b/w film, which is something I could have just looked up. The rest of my classes were basically bullshit. They would put up a photograph of something silly like a dog on a table and the class would discuss it. Somebody with thin jeans and a bad haircut would say things like, "This is a commentary on communism in America during the Cold War."

Traca: Seriously?

Ivan: Yeah, it was absolutely brutal. I frequently butted heads with my professors because I thought their classes were a waste of time.




children at play outside the royal tomb - Kabul, Afghanistan






Ivan: I began my career while still in college, shooting during summer break.

Traca: For newspapers?

Ivan: No, just on my own. By the time I graduated--1 year late--in 2007, I had already worked in the Dominican Republic and Afghanistan.

Traca: Summer break in Afghanistan?

Ivan: I worked for several NGOs there.

Traca: I bet your parents were thrilled.

Ivan: My mother was convinced that I would be kidnapped.

Traca: Did you make money or do it for the experience?

Ivan: For the experience. Humanitarian photography doesn't really pay, although I did get to travel for free.



children walking through the bazaar - Kabul, Afghanistan






Traca: Did you approach NGO's before leaving the U.S....or line something up when you hit the ground?

Ivan:
I established connections with the NGOs beforehand and they covered my expenses. For Afghanistan, I worked with a team of friends that I met in college. We offered our professional expertise to NGOs. Most of the other guys were software developers.

So for instance, one of our biggest clients in Afghanistan was an airline that flew aid workers around the country. They were running flight operations out of Excel spreadsheets, which is about as primitive as it gets without pen and paper. So we stepped in and wrote flight scheduling/tracking/booking software for them from scratch.

While the rest of the guys were in an office writing code, I went into the field and took photos.

Traca: And you were able to move around the country because you were working with the airline?

Ivan: Precisely. Basically, my clients would line things up for me. For instance, if I was working for NGO X one day, they'd take me around to visit their project sites...and then the next day, I'd be working with NGO Y.

Traca: Got it. So they took care of your on the ground expenses?

Ivan: Yes, that and we established our own NGO. Fundraising pays for the expenses our clients don't cover.






Maasai women at a village meeting - Maasailand, Kenya






Traca: What kind of fundraising?

Ivan: We don't hold fundraising events, per se. We basically get on our hands and knees and beg people we know for money. We tell them it's for a good cause, that our work is helping to rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure, etc. Things will become much more official once we really get our NGO off the ground. Right now it's a very small operation.

Traca: So you want to go back to Afghanistan?

Ivan: Definitely. I've been there three times already. I was supposed to go back again this year but the Taliban really stepped things up. Most of our clients fled the country, so if all goes well, I'll be there again sometime next year.

Traca: What are you doing now?

Ivan: Looking for work, as always. I was in Cambodia for the month of September shooting for another NGO. Now that I'm back, there's not much going on.



children play as a new well is drilled in their slum - Patna, India






Traca: Can you talk about making the shift from fine art photography to documentary work?

Ivan: There wasn't much of a shift, actually. I was never really a 'fine art photographer'. I've taken some abstract photos here and there, but most of my serious stuff is documentary.

Traca: I chatted with another documentary photographer and they talked about the importance of "being in the moment and out of the moment at the same time." And after watching The War Photographer, I'm curious about that. How to you approach the situation and get people to relax? I'm looking at your 'Life in Kabul' image with the vendor crouched on top of his street cart. Was that shot at a long distance?

Ivan: No, I was right next to him. I guess the trick is to not look suspicious. People tend to relax when they see that you're not hiding anything. I don't think about much when I'm taking photos. Overthinking kills it for me. For instance, if I'm shooting something, I'll typically take more than one shot...sometimes even more than a few, but the first images are almost always the best out of the bunch.

Traca: I think I need a faster lens. I just have the kit lens that came with my camera.

Ivan: I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Most of my best shots were made with pretty slow lenses (3.5-5.6).

Traca: Chase Jarvis says the best camera is the one you have...and learning how to use it properly.

Ivan: I'm definitely with him on that. A lot of people pay far too much attention to their equipment and they end up wasting time that could've been spent actually taking photographs.

A lot of people call themselves photographers when they're actually just camera collectors, you know?

Traca: I'm frustrated because I spend a lot of time delving into the big picture--conceptual stuff when I really should focus on the technical side of things.

Ivan: Having a good grasp on the technical side of things in definitely important. As long as it doesn't get in the way of actual photography. Cameras these days are pretty intelligent. I usually just leave my camera on full auto, and let it do the grunt work for me.

Traca: Really?

Ivan: When I first started out, I used my dad's old camera, a heavy Nikon from the 70's. manual everything.

Traca: I was in a photo seminar recently and learned how to shoot manual. I'm thinking, for quick shots--like documentary work--manual is a pain in the ass!

Ivan: It definitely is. When I finally got my first DSLR, I spent the first year or so shooting it on full manual until I realized that it was a bit silly. I spent so much money on an intelligent camera. Why not let it do what it was designed to do?




two brothers outside their father's shop - Kabul, Afghanistan








Traca: Your brother is a photographer too?

Ivan: Yeah, my brother is a motorsport photographer. My father used to be a photographer as well, as a young man in Hong Kong, but he gave it up when us kids came along.

Traca: So, do you talk about photography together?

Ivan: My brother and I do sometimes. I tag along with him to a race every once in a while. I borrow one of his enormous lenses and try to do what he does, but it never turns out nearly as good.

Traca: I hosted Scott Bourne for a lecture recently. He shoots nature with those big lenses.
Scott says most people never really learn how to press the button to shoot. You should roll your finger across the button vs. pressing it directly--because with a long focal length, every movement makes a difference.

He also talked about studying all the factors of nature. He used an example of wanting to shoot an image in the mist. Scott said, "Wouldn't it make sense if you actually knew what conditions created mist?"

Ivan: I really admire nature photographers. It takes a lot of patience to do what they do.





a mother waits patiently for her husband - Kabul, Afghanistan






Traca:
You mentioned admiring James Nachtwey's work. Who else do you admire?

Ivan: It may come as a bit of a surprise but I don't spend very much time looking at photos--other than my own, that is.

So far, James Nachtwey has been the only photographer whose work has really got me going--and not just his photographs but his attitude toward his work. I really admire that.

Traca: He strikes me as a man who's singularly dedicated. I get the feeling that he lives for his work.

Ivan: I get that impression of him as well.



children play as a new well is drilled in their slum - Patna, India



Ivan: Actually, there is another photographer that has been catching my interest recently http://vivianmaier.blogspot..com/. Her work was only discovered after her death.


Traca: What about her work resonates with you?

Ivan: Her street photography is extraordinary. There's a depth of feeling, of connection in her photographs even though most of her subjects might have been complete strangers to her. Plus, it's Chicago, which strikes a very personal chord with me.

Traca: Can you tell me...how does your illness affect your work?

Ivan: Currently, I'm suffering from avascular necrosis, which is a byproduct of the leukemia. In other words, my left hip is dead. There's partial bone collapse and I usually have to use crutches to get around. This is a pretty new development--it set in only within the past year or so.

When I was in Cambodia, I was on painkillers pretty much the entire time because the only thing more annoying than walking with crutches, is trying to shoot with crutches. So yeah, my medical condition really does get in the way, but I try my best not to let it affect me.

Traca: I really admire people who do it anyway.

Ivan: The way I see it, I'm living on borrowed time. Two years ago, when I was first being treated, I faced death on a daily basis. I wasn't sure how much longer I had to live. They put me on medication to help control my blood cell counts, but it ended up wiping out my immune system. I was in medical quarantine for about a month because I was totally vulnerable to even the most common of germs. I had to have my temperature taken constantly to make sure I wasn't running a fever.

Traca: Is that why you graduated a year later?

Ivan: No, this happened after I finished school. In fact, it happened right after I spent 3 months abroad shooting. I was out there, you know? I was having afternoon tea with security forces out in the mountains of and then I came back to Chicago only to be hit with this illness. My life completely flipped upside down. From intense travel to medical quarantine in a matter of weeks.



Maasai children at their newly built school - Massailand, Kenya







Traca: And how are you dealing with it?

Ivan: My confidence was completely shattered. I became very depressed until things became stable and I was able to resume my life. That was when I realized that I was living on borrowed time and that, really, I should be dead right now. So why not take the chance and try to do some good.

Traca: What's the long term outlook? Do they know?

Ivan: I have an extremely rare form of leukemia (chronic eosinophilic). The drug that helps control it was only introduced in 2001 so absolutely nobody has had the chance to live with this disease until now. Long term outlook is a complete unknown. Me and the 25 other people in the US that have CEL are writing history, so to speak. Doctors will most likely be keeping a very close eye on me for the rest of my life.


Traca: We talked about my Life List. What's on your "life list" now?

Ivan: I used to have a life list before I was diagnosed but I've discarded it now.

Traca: Time to write a new one?

Ivan: I've already made my peace with God. I'm ready to die anytime. My only goal is to use the rest of my life to help people (hopefully through photography) which is why i'm still doing humanitarian work despite it paying next to nothing.



***
Interview update: At the time of this post, Ivan was on crutches with a collapsing, degenerative hip bone. He just returned from assignment in India.

Poppy Tooker's Mission: Rebuilding the Food System

New Orleans-based Poppy Tooker opened Seattle's 2010 Farmer-Fisher-Chef-Connection with a compelling and thought-provoking keynote.

Take a trip to New Orleans and you will quickly learn, the citizens of that great city have a shared identity, bound together through food. Legendary New Orleans dishes like jambalaya, red beans and rice, beignets, and Creole cream cheese, have had a tremendous cultural impact, and resonate with the flavors of “home.”

But in a post-hurricane Katrina world, the citizens of New Orleans are asking themselves some tough questions. While the nightly news coverage featured devastating images from hurricane Katrina, when the camera crews packed up and went home, what remained was an equally compelling story about basic survival: How do you save the food system?

In the days following hurricane Katrina, Poppy began to assess the damage. Taking up residence at her sister-in-law’s home in Baton Rouge, Poppy was the sole remaining person from New Orleans’ Crescent City Farmer’s Market still in Louisiana. The mandatory evacuations had scattered residents across the country, and basic communication--phone service, internet and even mail was disrupted for months. (Some residents were without phone service until February 2006, six months after the hurricane hit shore.)

From her southern outpost, Poppy sleuthed together the puzzle: What happened to the farmer’s market vendors?

Assessing the damage, she embarked on a mission to determine the impact on the vendors: What was their current situation? Their loss? And did they have anything left to sell?

An e-mail from a shrimp fisherman, dated September 15, 2005 painted a grim picture:

Hi y’all.

Things could definitely be better. We have lost everything. The boat
has sunk. We are at the hands of scalpers to rent a barge, a crane, a cherry
picker, and $5/gallon gasoline.

We’ve just about exhausted our savings. I just received my $2,000 from FEMA, and $1,500 is going to the crane operator.

Well, there are some good Samaritans. Ray has nowhere to stay, and the Vietnamese fishermen have taken him in on their boat. They’re helping him, for free. There is a silver lining for everything.

Our home still has 3-4 feet of sludge sitting in it. The only good thing is, I still have some insurance. However, if they bull doze the house like the parish official said in Baton Rouge yesterday, it won’t be enough to cover the mortgage and rebuild. I guess we should have revamped our insurance when real estate soared. Oh well. At this point I can only push forward and I do have beautiful memories of my parents, grandparents, and children.

There is nothing left to our business but a fish cutting room and the cooking rig. I’m sure the Lord is trying somehow to guide me, but I just need to find the path. It will be hard to rebuild the business and the boat, when neither one had any insurance.

I’m wondering how I could possibly get work? Maybe cooking for the workers who are rebuilding everything? I’ve never been afraid of work. I’m willing to do anything to save my family and my husband’s heritage.

I hope that maybe any one of you could shed some light on this grim, grim subject.

Thank you for thinking of me. Words of hope from good friends are
worth their weight in gold. Our home is in Shreveport until my nephew kicks me
out.

I know you’ve all faced tragedy from Katrina and I wish you all the
best in the rebuilding process.

Love,
Kay, a.k.a The Shrimp Girl – this girl will be back!


They quickly learned, desperate times call for basic solutions.

Eventually, Poppy identified the few farmers who had crops left, and cobbled together a 19th century distribution system. Farmers took turns driving produce to a cooking school where there was a working walk-in cooler. The first chefs to return to New Orleans after the hurricane—like John Besh—bought whatever the farmers could supply. An envelope with cash would be left for the farmer, and retrieved on his next trip into town.

As you can tell, Poppy Tooker is a woman who gets things done. In 1999, she founded the New Orleans chapter of Slow Food and is Vice President of the Crescent City Farmers Market. Raised in a food culture with deep traditions, her quest is in preserving both foods and traditions quintessential to their culture.

Through Slow Food’s Arc of Taste and her own “Eat it to Save It” mission, Poppy focuses on regional foods that are often crowded out of the marketplace. Ever heard of Creole cream cheese? A throwback to her childhood, Creole cream cheese was delivered weekly by the milk man. As Poppy puts it, nostalgically, “It was like solid mama’s milk.”

When the local dairies folded, the larger, industrial corporations supplied their dairy from out of state. They didn’t understand this local product. Without a supplier, Creole cream cheese was nearly driven to extinction.

At a Slow Food meeting, Poppy posed the question, “What local food needs to be saved?” The response was unanimous.

Enter the Creole cream cheese revival.

Next question: “How do you save something?” If you can’t buy it, teach people how to make it themselves.

A demonstration at the Crescent City Farmers Market began the Creole cream cheese crusade. Within weeks, dozens of people were making it at home. Add some news coverage and few well-placed articles and eventually, and an artisan Creole cream cheese market was launched. The first product available at the farmers market drew over 200 people. That day, 500 units of Creole cream cheese were completely sold out by 10 AM. “This created a craze like you cannot believe!”

As Poppy tells it, “Today, Creole cream cheese is commonplace again in New Orleans.”

Weaving together survival stories from hurricane Katrina and the urgent need to preserve our food culture, Poppy is quick to note, “Preserving our food traditions, lies not only in an awareness, but a market demand for culturally-rich foods.” Here in the Pacific Northwest, we too have a thriving local food tradition—Olympia Oysters, Shuksan strawberries, etc. Without market demand, these indiginous regional foods could be pushed to extinction.

Poppy’s mission reminds us that food—local food—is an important cultural link. And behind her message is bold-faced call to action: to preserve local food traditions, you must “Eat it to Save It.”

The challenge we are left with is great.

Under the presence of a catastrophic event, like hurricane Katrina, what three things would you preserve? Fundamental to our local way of life, what seeds would you save? Build an ark. What native animals would you include? Consider that during hurricane Katrina, thousands of people lost their entire recipe collection. The displaced citizens of New Orleans, attempting to recreate local dishes were without recipes to guide them back to the flavors of home. In an evacuation situation, what recipes would you bring?

This is your food heritage.

What would you preserve?