That Which is Ordered Becomes Chaotic

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year is progressing. It’s been almost a month since returning to school, and though I’ve only had a couple weeks of a full class schedule, I already feel I have learned so much.

This week, I’m taking a couple steps back from the incessant reading. I have a lot of catching up to do with replenishing inventory, but I also need to let my mind make new connections between my diverging interests.

I still believe food studies and herbalism fit together, but they do butt heads at time. Last week had a focus on medicine and science. Specifically, a sociological approach to medicine and science. While I was excited for this theme, I found it lacking. To frame the disciplines of science and medicine in a social light is nothing new to me, and having received an undergraduate education in science from a liberal arts institution has proven to be more wholesome and applicable than I first realized. As a fellow biology student introgressed the sociopolitical coproduction of punctuated gradualist and mutationist theories of evolution into his genetic work on fish, I framed my understanding of plant secondary metabolism and chemical ecology with ethnopharmacology, ethnobotany, and pharmacognosy. We learned the things that scientists must learn: That every peer-reviewed paper is simply one nugget of information in a vast ocean of corroborating and contradicting information, and drawing conclusions from this ocean must be done with caution and skepticism. Finding causation in correlation is a long and easily-contested journey. Every question that is answered unlocks new questions. Every new question answered may make us question the old question’s answer. Equally vital, we learned that science can never be truly isolated from the social realm. 

My formal studies in herbalism began in the chemistry classroom but naturally progressed into the philosophical realm out of necessity. Philosophy, I have learned, is a much more intuitive teacher than science.

I will still place my convictions in science, but as a professional discipline, it can never be unfettered from social, economic, and political spheres. Like every other subject, science and medicine can be weaponized to define, devalue, and disparage the Other. They can be an outlet for corruption and hate as much as religion.

In the 19th century, Western Medicine was forming its modern identity, and to acquire full domain over the medical sphere, it leveraged preexisting notions of race and gender to disparage traditional and lay medicine. White, antebellum doctors dismissed Indigenous and African American healing work as “magic” and “superstition”, and such terms have unfortunately persisted to this day. As scientific evidence for empirical healing methodologies grows, some medicine cannot be clinically tested. Spirituality offers its own form of medicine that may operate through placebo but also through building sense of community and networks of support. It is noteworthy to add that modern rises in witchcraft (however the term is interpreted) is correlated with social or economical instability as well as disenfranchisement, particularly of women, from medical establishments.

To methodize science is essential for producing clear data, and it is no simple feat in an infinitely complex world. Science must always be understood as one piece to a much greater, if not incomprehensible, puzzle. We must trust science to guide us into the future, but we should never let this supersede other, more traditional facets of Humanity which, I argue, may be more authentic to the human condition than science.

Sept 5 (I’ll get around to titles, because they matter. Just not yet.)

“After earning a BFA, [Judy Brady] wanted to pursue a master’s degree. To do so, she had to go before a committee who would recommend her to further her studies. At the meeting, the all-male committee told her that she had the talent but that there wasn’t much purpose in going for a master’s — because no university would hire a woman.” – ‘Why I want a Wife’: The overwhelmed working mom who pined for a wife 50 years ago, New York Times

Artists go through periods of stagnant production. I have mentioned this numerous times throughout this year, partly as a consolation for the months of apathy towards my art. I have taken breaks, taken art classes, then breaks again. I have mixed up media and subject matter. From meditation to artist documentaries, nothing has made creativity feel anything other than heavy. At times, I wondered if it was time to pack up my art, to focus on a career path that isn’t quite so fruitless.

But then I was reminded of how hard women have fought for the freedom to pursue our dreams. Women achieve fewer awards for creative accomplishments, and not because we don’t deserve them. We are constantly belittled and so often transformed into the subjects rather than creators.

To this day, men’s creativity is seen as more impressive. It is more valued.

I honor the women who were courageous enough to pursue their intellect and art. Who joined convents to find freedom, who published books and sold paintings under male names. I remember the women who lived lives with dreams unfulfilled.

It is my duty to the suffragists and feminists to do my art.

2 Sept 2020

Keeping up with a blog is difficult. Not necessarily because writing is hard — in fact, I feel there is so much content to cover. so many ideas to discuss and dissect. Instead, writing into the void feels vain.

Now that grad school has officially started, my consumption of food rhetoric and herbal texts has quadrupled. I believe writing is the best way to fully comprehend a subject, to learn how to articulate ideas, and to organize thought. Truthfully, I miss writing dearly, and I want it to be a regular part of my life just as art should be (though creativity is still on hold).

Maybe it’s vain, maybe it’s fruitless, but I’ll try my best to write here regularly. Maybe someone will read this and enjoy it. Who knows.

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.

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.

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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. ©️