(Kim Severson, 30 April 2008) A new book, “Renewing America’s Food Traditions” by Gary Paul Nabhan, profiles 93 foods once common in American kitchens but now in danger of disappearing. Some are livestock breeds or varieties of crop plants; others are wild species such as the Carolina flying squirrel. The book organizes the foods by gastronomic regions, which are shown on the map below. (Interactive version here.)
SOME people would just as soon ignore the culinary potential of the Carolina flying squirrel or the Waldoboro green neck rutabaga. To them, the creamy Hutterite soup bean is too obscure and the Tennessee fainting goat, which keels over when startled, sounds more like a sideshow act than the centerpiece of a barbecue.
But not Gary Paul Nabhan. He has spent most of the past four years compiling a list of endangered plants and animals that were once fairly commonplace in American kitchens but are now threatened, endangered or essentially extinct in the marketplace. He has set out to save them, which often involves urging people to eat them.
Mr. Nabhan’s list, 1,080 items and growing, forms the basis of his new book, an engaging journey through the nooks and crannies of American culinary history titled “Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods” (Chelsea Green Publishing, $35).