There was a time when what people ate was as definitive as a global positioning system (GPS) in identifying where they lived. Cuisines carved from unique climates, terrain and traditions defined regional identities from the Clambake Nation (New England) through the Wild Rice Nation (Midwest), the Bison Nation (the Rocky Mountains) and the Chile Pepper Nation (the Southwest).
Slow Food, an international organization founded in 1986 “to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of fast food and life,” is creating culinary maps that identify these “nations” through the endangered foods that once defined them. The project, called Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT), celebrates foods such as the Marshall strawberry in the Northwest; salmon-hued, pear-shaped Seminole pumpkins in the Everglades; and the smooth, sweet American chestnut from the Northeast. Unlike other lists that dissuade use of endangered species, the RAFT program encourages food preservation through promotion and conservation. For a list of RAFT foods, go to www.SlowFoodUSA.org/raft.