An affliction of capitalism

Two and a half years after starting The Lowly Esculent series, I have hit the longest lasting creative block I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes, I’m not even sure there’s much point in continuing down the artist’s path. Progress is slow and return can be little, making art require immense amounts of discipline, dedication, and patience.

Of course, I feel that way only sometimes.

When the work you do is so tightly interwoven into your identity, how can you stop? Take a break, maybe, but to leave it behind completely would be to lose a large piece of yourself. Even in this break, I feel lost.

Personality Typing has always turned me off. How could the complex, ever-changing human condition be reduced to such simplified explanations? However, I’ve come to see the benefits in personality typing. They help you understand your coworkers’ work types; They can offer assistance in articulating your personality to others in your life. They can also just be fun.

To use one of the most simplistic personality terms, I am Type A. My self-worth and satisfaction are inextricably linked to my productivity. I take pride in my work-ethic. I require constant validation to make sure I’m doing a good job. When I know I excel at my art or at work, it elevates all other aspects of my life.

I don’t bring these traits to every job I’ve had – the job (or boss) needs to deserve such energetic input. And I certainly know the importance of rest, self-care, and time off.

Many of my fellow young progressives see such personality traits as an affliction of capitalistic inculcation, that we have been corrupted by a money-hungry socialscape that places too much emphasis on work, output, and soul-selling. There are undoubtedly many people who have fallen prey to this. Yet, why have so many people come to see ambition and diligence as negative?

I wonder what is causing my creative block and my disinterest in painting. I’ll continue my break until the desire returns to me, which I’m sure it will. In the meantime, I’ll turn my energy towards other outlets and be grateful for my introspection and contemplation.

First taste of the garden…

March is a month of tease. The beautiful, 70 degree weather on Monday was all I needed to be inspired to do some garden work. Garden prep is always time-consuming, and with such a shady garden, clearing out the leaves is a project in itself. Not many Plants are growing yet, but the Lemon Balm is eager to spread out and Nettles, of course, was already ready for a humble harvest. Foraging some invasive Garlic Mustards to add to my Nettles made for quite the delicious lunch.

I’m still not ready for big salads and smoothies. Soup weather is still all around, and I need my warming Ginger tea each morning. I stay home, wrapped in a blanket, reflecting on the opportunities presenting themselves to me. Graduate School, Herbal School, pursuing my herbal business, trying to focus on my art, reminding myself I need to exercise more… It’s been overwhelming.

Returning to my garden brought me so much clarity. Growing herbs and sharing my love for plants and food with others is my passion. When you love your work – whether it’s working outside in the soil or in the library, poured over scholarly books on Food – it doesn’t feel like work.

With my market season lined up, I know I will be overwhelmed, but I’m excited to see where this year takes me. Forgive me if I’m redundant these days – my mind is orbiting around so much potential and excitement.

What is an Herbalist?

Ever since my acceptance into NYU Steinhardt’s Food Studies MA program, I’ve been conflicted between multiple paths. Do I go back to school for my Master’s despite the price tag? Or do I stay on track and go to school for herbs? Could I possibly do both?

Everyone I ask (family, friends, and strangers included) seems to think I should do both. I’m approaching this idea with caution, as starting two extensive programs at the same time is a massive undertaking. I feel confident that my curiosity and passion will keep me going, but curiosity and passion are not always enough when one program involves regular commutes into the city (ugh).

For the next few weeks, I’m pondering over the integration of Food Studies and Herbalism. I hope that, when the time comes for these programs to start, I will be prepared to stitch them together at the seems and bring attention to the many ways they overlap. Herbalism, for me, is just a piece to a puzzle and does not demand more attention than any other plant-human relationship.

This then begs the question: What does it mean to be an Herbalist?

While ruminating over the possibility of pursuing both graduate study and intensive herbal studies, I reached out to two individuals who had taken the Herbalism course. These conversations were exceptionally insightful, but I couldn’t help but mull over a remark one individual had said. In reference to Herbalists who do not treat the body as a whole, he declared, “I don’t even consider them to be real Herbalists.”

I won’t deny that there are some real quacks who call themselves “herbalists.” This certainly gives a bad reputation to those who take their practice very seriously, but every field has its quacks. To me, an Herbalist is anyone who studies herbs and practices Herbalism, even if in small ways or only in their personal life. The home Herbalist (our mothers, grandmothers, friendly neighbors) who may only treat minor issues such as cuts, scrapes, and upset tummies are just as deserving of respect as the Clinical Herbalist healing asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. (Perhaps it’s my own bias having been raised by a Nurse, but I will always place nurses above doctors and mothers above clinical practitioners).

If we are to achieve a successful, healthy, sustainable future, we must welcome and include everyone at all stages of their studies. Some must be experts who offer a resource of information and support. Others must make connections between Herbalism and peripheral and opposing fields of study. And some should simply do what they can do in their own lives.

Food, Art, Culture, Science: An interdisciplinary approach to health and sustainability. (introductory rambles)

It takes a bit of thought to create a cohesive website that fits together the interdisciplinary fields of art, plant science, and food. I believe that weaving together western science, traditional belief systems, and human culture is essential to a future that is sustainable in every sense of the word, and this is what I think about through my illustration and art. To be of authority to speak on a subject, I feel it is essential to be very well-read on said subject. Like with everything in life, the more I learn, the less I know.

Education is the best thing we can do for our minds and our nation. Formal academia is not for everyone, but for some, like me, it brings a unique sense of joy and satisfaction. As an herbalist and aspiring scholar on food, I feel compelled to once again head down the rabbit hole of dedicated study. Now I am faced with a choice: do I study herbalism in a 2-year program? Do I enroll in NYU to study food systems through the lens of an artist? And is it possible to do both? (I hope it is!)

These are the thoughts that I am mulling over today as I read through Annemarie Colbin’s Food and Healing. Though a little outdated, this book offers its readers wisdom on balance and individualized approach to food. As I will say over and over again, no one diet fits all. Similarly, what works in the summer may not work in the winter. Food and herbs are intrinsically linked. While Colbin does not go into discourse on the role art and media play in public perception of food and food production, these are the connections that I make as I read through her writing.

Well, I’ll be back in a week with another book crossed off my to-read list and, perhaps, a better sense of which path I should pursue during this exciting time.

And, maybe, my website will be fully updated too! (but don’t count on it 😉 )

January 2020

January 2020: the beginning of a new decade. It is as significant as we decide it to be, and I, for one, want it to be significant. I am faced with many questions this year. Do I go back to school? If yes, then how do I afford it without magnifying my present debt? If no, then where to next? What job could I enjoy as much as I enjoy art? And do I even enjoy art, or is it the autonomy of a sole-proprietress that I truly seek?

Like all small businesses, pursuing a career in art requires considerable sacrifice. It takes years to build yourself, and the discipline and patience necessary for success makes a typical nine-to-five job very appealing. No financial security can replace the thrill of pursuing one’s passion, however, and how can you mollify the obsessions that demand so much of your attention? So it seems I will continue to make these sacrifices.

Today is the first day of my first full week as a full time artist. This is experimental, and I am still lined up for a full season of garden work. However, these next few months will be dedicated to building The Lowly Esculent and, finally, broadening its scope into written work.

I encourage you to sign up for my Newsletter. This week will be spent planning my year out, finishing some illustrations, and working on my website. Let’s see how far things go!

Forbidden Fruits

The appetite for tropical and Mediterranean crops among Northerners rapidly expanded into culinary obsession over the last 100 or so years. Their wide-scale cultivation is highly destructive to lowland rainforests, and their high demand for water can be obscene. Despite this, many who live outside the habitat range of these foreign fruits think that access to these crops is a right.

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. ©️