A little less than a month ago, I wrote a post about how history has a pesky tendency to provide a key to what the present and future may look like. 1918 is proving to be quite insistent.
Ms. Johanna came upon the vacant lot on one of her walkabouts after she retired. Bamboo and trashed choked, it seemed a perfect place to park her considerable energy. She brought a machete the next time she came around. By summer’s end, the soil had been replenished and mulched Four raised beds overflowed with herbs, some beans, corn and berry bushes. That was twenty-two years ago. Now 82, she’s still working this portion of earth pretty much by herself.
Sheila Ferguson’s book, Soul Food, is, in great part, a memoir to impart to her daughters the vastness of their heritage. One family, rooted in the history of America, generations braided together in surviving horrible pain and adversity, all the while playing a part in one of the world’s great cuisines.
I inherited a bunch of community cookbooks from Mom and bought a couple more in thrift stores. The recipes in them are anchored in the character of the region where they were collected, the products of local PTAs, church groups and ethnic societies. They’re also a fine guide to food fads.
Maybe it’s that we’ve learned how to accept life now. Maybe, in some manner, we’re figuring out how to patch together a shade of what was once our daily routines. Or maybe it’s this, from the philosopher Jeff Goldblum. Whatever has happened, small moments of grace have surfaced–some of wonder and others of blessed normalcy.
Spring is here and it’s time to rejuvenate our bodies and spirits in the form of historical tonic recipes.
I had to get out of the house today and, lucky enough to have a car, drove twenty blocks to the edge of Brooklyn.
If the current powers-that-be do look to the Works Progress Administration for inspiring a way out of our mess, we should all insist they hitch the Art programs to it.
To help us through this difficult time, let’s gather a shred of historical perspective by leafing through a couple of old cookbooks written during difficult times.
Tom lives to photograph. I’m nothing if I can’t untangle lives that went before us. I think for us both, Dead Horse Beach is a portrait of brutal carelessness, giving up its ghosts with each low tide. That it draws so many to it–Tom and me, for instance–in wonder of its past and what it teaches us today is a reason to celebrate all the ugliness strewn across the sand.