Back in the studio today after almost a month of working from home, the holidays, an amazing trip to Taste of the South and a few (beautiful) snow days. It was a great luxury to have some time to read over the holidays and I have savored many a volume (both trash and treasure).
Wild Card Quilt by Janisse Ray is such a beautiful, soulful story of coming home. It speaks to sustainability of community, of people, and of the plants, foods and stories that tie us together. I find the stories especially moving a decade after I made the leap to come home – a move that changed my life.
This year Taste of the South featured a fantastic talk by Gary Nabhan (Coming Home to Eat – another wonderful book). Gary spoke gushingly of Janisse Ray (and read a portion of the essay below) while my dear friend Angie leaned over and said, “I just LOVE Janisse Ray.”
I adore her too.
I love the line below from page 43 of Wild Card Quilt. Anyone with a rural Southern childhood will understand:
“I heard Mr. Henry Eason say one time, with the advent of paved roads and electric lights, there ain’t near as many ghosts as there used to be…”
Don’t miss this essay from Janisse about Gulf Oysters from the Renewing America’s Food Traditions publication Food Producers and the Place-Based Foods At Risk in the Gulf Coast:
I CANNOT STOP THINKING ABOUT THE OYSTERS.
My first taste of them came when I was twenty, fresh away from the insularity and isolation of rural, southern Georgia. I left to study in the Panhandle of Florida. At the time, I had no idea what a “raw bar” was or what “on the half-shell” meant.
Soon after my move, I found myself in one of these raw joints, with friends who were ordering these creatures with a swashbuckling zealotry. Did I like oysters? They asked. I admitted that I did not know if I did or didn’t.
The first taste had marshes in it. It had the sun, coquina, fiddler crabs. I remember the very moment: the precursory tang of lemon, the memory-rich familiarity of horseradish sauce and finally, the earthy, fleshy, volcanic madcap of wild oyster itself, followed by a salty and gritty aftertaste of sea.
The Gulf of Mexico was the territory in which I came of age. There, I first saw plovers nesting on beach-sand. I saw a freshwater spring bubbling from the salty depths of the gulf. I experienced wildfire. I made my first bird list and added Oystercatcher to it. I retrieved my first scallop.
I had colossal good fortune that I arrived in Florida and became the woman that I am, underneath the Panhandle sun, in its shallow, estuarine refuges, in its voluptuous bounty. How glad I am that the first raw oyster I tasted was a wild one from Apalachicola.
Read the full essay here: