New book says demand for healthy food unites factions, heals land
Sure, I like a full belly, but every now and again I crave a feast for the mind just as much. I recently found just that in the book “Food From the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities” (Island Press, $28) a new title from noted ethnobotanist and author Gary Paul Nabhan.
This book is just the ticket if you just can’t handle contemporary cultural divisiveness at the dinner table. Nabhan’s main argument is that our collective craving for healthy foods raised in a healthy way is healing those deep divides and the land we all share.
He gets into examples of how groups with seemingly opposing agendas, be it religious and scientific groups, urban and rural organizations, politically liberal and conservative factions, have all found ways to unite to advance some very specific causes to bring back natively American foods like bison, sturgeon, wild turkey, a handful of ancient grains and more.
And Nabhan has the data to back it up: he says these efforts have resulted in the number of cultivated food plant varieties jumping from 9,720 in the mid-1980s to 21,640 in the mid-2010s.
The last chapter will be particularly insightful for San Antonio readers. Nabhan was a key force behind Tucson, Arizona, being named the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2015. He was consulted in San Antonio’s application process for its own City of Gastronomy designation, which was granted in 2017.
Nabhan dedicates a dozen highly detailed pages to the many impacts the UNESCO designation has had in Tucson and how that’s providing a road map for the future of food sustainability and its impact on that community’s cohesiveness and health.
They’re big accomplishments that, with any luck, could foretell a similar shift in San Antonio.
Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen