A mightier sword?

One of the reasons I often feel compelled to write is for the joy and personal benefits it offers. Writing helps organize complex and abstract ideas and thoughts, it cements factual claims in our memories (at least temporarily), and it facilitates a clear articulation of opinions based on these thoughts, ideas, and, most importantly, facts.

I also often feel an urgency to write as an attempt to make some sort of difference. Typically, I feel that art and illustration are more powerful methods of relaying information and raising awareness, as they can appeal to a wider audience and require less time to digest. Art cannot do what writing can do however, and it’s important that these two tools of communication work together for the better.

It has been my intention to take my writing seriously for some time. Here and there, I’ll put in some effort, but it seems that life keeps getting in the way. This is not an excuse, however. If art and writing are such essential parts of my identity, then I need to make sure I put in the work to walk the walk.

*

This country’s agricultural system was founded on racism, exploitation, and violence. Slavery is still a reality for some marginalized farmworkers, and systemic racism remains inseparable from food production, food access, and health care. Sexual assault is a regular occurrence for roughly 80% of women in agriculture. While the social justice of agriculture has always been shameful, we’re now seeing a much greater threat to the environment from agriculture as well. Habit destruction and fragmentation have weakened the resilience of ecosystems. Species richness and abundance of pollinators, birds, mammals, and native plants has plummeted. Our crops’ genetic diversity has never been more vulnerable, and the produce we cultivate has become devoid of nutrients due to the exhaustion of soils. Food production in the U.S., and throughout the world, is playing with fire. We need legislative change. We need subsidies for small scale farmers. We need competitive markets to fight and prevent the monopolization of food production.

And, we need to fall in love with food, with cooking, with wine.

Food access and time constraints are a serious obstacle for many Americans, but I believe a cultural shift to embrace identity and sense of place through food is a key ingredient in achieving a fair food system.

So, it will be my goal to write a post once a month on or around the 15th. There is quite a lot to write about, but I think I will begin with the responses I received on the relationship between food and art. From there, we can talk about migrant farmers, pollinators, rare heirloom breeds, and beyond.

Many thanks,

M

Food & Art: A sticker for your thoughts

I am excited to begin focusing more on the written aspects of my illustrations, exploring ideas, patterns, and problems regarding our current food system, sustainability, and cultural relationships to food.
As I begin the application process for graduate studies in food systems, I’ve been thinking more and more about the relationship food and art have together, and I want your input!

In many ways, food and art can be seen as opposites. One is essential for survival whereas the other is a frivolous human anomaly. Yet, both food and art are a way of shaping and expressing culture (both national and local). They can declare social status and reflect social trends. They are sensual experiences that evoke emotion and nostalgia. Food representation in art has existed for as long as there has been art, but its representation has changed drastically over time. I want to hear your own experiences with art and food, how you see them fitting together, and what relationship they share. Does my illustration work have an impact on the way you look at food and its production? Do you think art has a role in fixing our broken food system?

Email your responses to thelowlyesculent@gmail.com with your address. All responses will be gifted a thank you card and sticker! 

Mid May mumbles…

Mid-May means that it’s been a full three years since I graduated college. Time certainly flies, but it also slowly tromps along and passes us by.

I’ve always gone back and forth on graduate school. It may be a waste of money, but I like being challenged. I like being in an environment that encourages me to learn as much as I can and to digest what I learn into new and meaningful applications. Writing, like art, is one of these applications. It can turn dense, dry writing into poetic and parsimonious commentaries. If anything, it helps the writer cement and organize complex and multifaceted subjects.

I think this Fall I will apply to graduate school. Whether I go or not will be a decision made in the Spring. For now, I need to focus on making sense of the books I read and experiences I have. I need to articulate a thesis that encompasses my interests and my creativity.

So, what is it about the food system and plant domestication that engages me so much? What do I have to offer? What can I accomplish?

Lime (Citrus spp.)

Lime is a mysterious fruit. His name refers to many species within the genus Citrus, which is partly due to the genus’s ease in hybridizing. Species cross with others successfully and make new, often tasty, fruits. His place of origin is also still unclear, though he most likely was born in Indonesia or Southeast Asia before traveling westward in 1000 CE.

All work posted here is copyrighted by The Lowly Esculent. Reproducing, using for personal or business endorsement, or the like is not allowed. Please do not share without credit! Thank you!

Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis; Ranunculaceae)

A tried and true medicine as well as colorant, Goldenseal is believed to cure ailments as diverse as muscle spasms, infection, cancer, and more. Like many other wild medicinals, Goldenseal has become endangered, her populations never recovering from mid 19th century over harvesting. While it is now illegal to harvest this Buttercup cousin on public land, there is no control of the sale of herbal products made from this herb. Sources must be carefully vetted to ensure sustainability and respect, or one should avoid use altogether 🍃

Turnip (Brassica rapa)

Turnip has been a popular root vegetable in Europe since prehistoric times. The Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder even claimed that Turnip’s use “surpassed that of any other plant.” Though still cherished by some today, this has-been Brassica is not the star he used to be.

All work posted here is copyrighted by The Lowly Esculent. Do not reproduce, use for profile pictures, or the like without my permission. ©️

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea

Cauliflower, whose name literally means “Cabbage Flower,” belongs to the species Brassica oleracea along with Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, and others. A mathematician’s favorite vegetable, Cauliflower is known for his fractal dimensions most notable in Romanesco varieties.

All work posted here is copyrighted by The Lowly Esculent. Do not reproduce, use for profile pictures, or the like without my permission. Do not share without credit ©️ 🙏🏼

Pineapple (Ananas comosus)

Flesh-eating is not a behavior reserved for zombies and maggots – even sunshiny Pineapple can devour us. Pineapple is the only known plant to produce the protein-digesting chemical bromelain. Every time your mouth burns from Pineapple’s exquisite juices, it’s him eating you back!

All work posted here is copyrighted by The Lowly Esculent. Do not reproduce, use for profile pictures, or the like without my permission. Do not share without credit ©️

Ramblings

     I’m well aware that, at this stage in my career, this website has very little traffic. The art I make and the books I read are my world, however, and that is more than enough justification I need to write out the rambling thoughts I have.

      As someone who spends the majority of her waking hours lost in thought, I find it necessary to cement my mind’s abstractions in some way. Only when one can write clearly on a matter does one fully understand that matter, and that is why I need this outlet – so I can meld the things I learn and the thoughts I have together, but with clarity and precision.

      It is my intention for this to be a place for serious thought. If you know me, you probably know how important sense of humor is to me. I have lost far too much time to depression and anxious thinking to believe that we need to be serious all of the time. Yet, there is no denying that the world is sodden with cruelty and that countless lives have been spent in desolation and suffering. We all know this, and it seems we are reminded of it everywhere we look. Cruelty is an inevitable part of human nature, but that is never an excuse to stop striving for a better world. Improving our planet is no easy task; We must constantly educate ourselves and engage in productive rhetoric if we wish to see change.

      With all of that said, it is here where I will supplement my whimsical writing of herbs and vegetables with the heavy-handed writing. Agriculture has a rich history of heirloom varieties, self-sustenance, and summertime meditations. Yet far more prominent are its associations with slavery, serfdom, and soil exhaustion. Industrial agriculture is a curse that scourges the laborers who toil away for meager wages, the animals whose entire confined lives are spent wallowing in excrement, and the wild squashes and sunflowers who are slipping into the cracks of genetic erosion.

      Food has always been inseparable from politics. Monocultures have always existed, running the soil barren until famine inevitably strikes. Now, these issues are compounded with the heavy use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that poison our waterways, our soil, and our children. Mechanization has exacerbated the habitat loss and fragmentation caused by farming,  proving to be a death sentence for our planet’s astounding biodiversity.

     Under my whit and sarcasm, my heart is always heavy with thoughts of those victimized by industrialized agriculture – human, animal, and plant alike.