The Real California Cuisine:
Cooking from the Wild Food Garden
by Judith Larner Lowry
Currently being revised and re-printed; Spring 2019
Here is our expanded and revised new version of last year’s popular "The Real California Cuisine; A Treatise on California Native Plant Foods, Including Recipes." In our new 45-page booklet, we ask: Why is there no "Real California Cuisine" in California Cuisine? In a state with 52 different tribes and the largest indigenous population in the country, why are so few native species included in this regional cuisine? To help answer the question and redress this omission, we have again revised and reprinted the 6th member of our "Notes on Natives" series. We first published this "Notes" in 1991, to surprisingly little interest. Our revision and expansion twenty years later was met with great interest, and this new version is even better.
In the last twenty years, I spent many hours in the pleasurable investigation of numerous ethnographies and interviews for those rare jewels of information that illuminate the way Californians ate for the last 12,000 years, and how the land was managed during that time. The technologies of food preparation were intricate and varied. Learning about them deepens our sense of connection to the land and its previous inhabitants beyond that which we experience through merely growing native plants.
Though information from the past sets the intriguing context, the focus of our booklet is on incorporating these foods into a modern diet. We include a mouthwatering recipe for acorn meal biscuits created by Elizabeth Barnet, (Project Coordinator, West Marin Commons Ethnobotany Study Group), our famous wildflower seed cookies, our blue wildrye gomassio, my favorite California breakfast, the California cracker, and others. We hope you'll be caught by the fascination of this whole ethnobotanical endeavour. And experience as well the sorrow for the loss of so much finely-honed information from indigenous Californians, alongside gratitude for what remains.
As ethnobotanist David Barrows said of the Cahuilla in 1900, "Many of the trails once trodden in quest of food are now abandoned; great stones filled with mortar holes remain along the pine ridges and in the canons of oaks, where no Indians ever come now to gather and grind their seeds."
Maybe in your kitchen, a few or a lot of these traditions could continue.