Pictured: Erica shows us her family heirloom, a cast iron pot that has been passed down in her family for generations.
Introducing a new series celebrating America's food traditions by discovering the seeds of our ancestors! No matter who we are, we are descendants of long lines of food traditions, even if those traditions may be lost to us today. Our ancestors grew and prepared foods shaped by cultural traditions in order to keep bellies full, grow strong children and celebrate life together. These food traditions passed down over generations gave our ancestors a sense of rootedness, meaning and connection that so many of us yearn for today. This included honoring and passing down the seeds that were important to these food traditions: our ancestral seeds.
In this series we dig into, highlight, and celebrate America's ancestral seeds and stories, in this place that we call home - the Midwest. We find inspiration and guidance from the work of Valerie Kaur's Revolutionary Love Project which encourages us to build beloved community where we are. She says "In an era of great transition, we believe that we can birth a world where we see no stranger. Each of us has a role. When we lead with love, we labor with joy." In doing so we hope that you are encouraged to explore (and share with us!) your ancestral food traditions and to wonder about the stories of others so that we may share connection across divides and tend our hearts as we tend our gardens.
So here we are, starting with one of our own stories.
Recently while looking through her grandmother's posessions in Minnesota, Erica came across this cast-iron pot (pictured above). Likely, it had been used by her Norwegian ancestors, who homesteaded near Pierpont, South Dakota. Erica can imagine her great-grandmother Ingeborg Nordness working tirelessly over the wood stove to keep little bellies full through the long South Dakotan winters.
This pot begs so many questions. Holding this pot in hand, Erica thinks "What food did my ancestors cook in this pot? Did they grow/raise their own food and if so, what did they grow? What food traditions did they bring from Norway? What seeds and food traditions were passed down generation to generation and how did these traditions become lost to me?"
"Were there feasting times when my family got to celebrate life together? Did they go through hard times, hunger, starvation? What history took place which allowed my family to acquire, and indigenous people to lose, this land? Where are their descendants now? What are their stories?"
There are so many questions evoked from this one artifact, belonging to one family, of one particular ancestral lineage. May each of us start to connect with our own ancestral food traditions so that we might find a sense of meaning, rootedness and connection and, in this process, open our hearts and minds to the stories of others.
Soon, we'll be introducing a way for everyone to get involved in this work alongside us! Stay tuned!
By Grace Pernecky