Cure will provide cocktails. All profits will benefit @wckitchen and @southern_salt_found for continued relief efforts for Houston and Puerto Rico. Tickets available on the Coquette website.
….In the heart of the feminine nature of Seed Carriers lives the instinctual calling to be intentionally aware of the essence and influence of every thought and emotion, of each spoken word and action taken. Our personal and collective future – all that comes to be – grows out of our here and now choice-making.
So what do you want to be seeding…
…in your life?
…on the earth?
…for the generations to come?
Copyright © 2011 JoAnne Dodgson
A friend left us this week. True to her life, the news was quietly passed from friend to friend with everyone wishing they had seen her just once more and could smile at her, thereby passing joy back to her. We were flabbergasted that she was the one who was taken, as she was a healer with a very strong life force. But as she said recently in her gentle way:
We’re all going to get something.
I don’t have to be the impervious, always healthy Tai Chi teacher.
I am simply a human being.
That illness should not define her – even her passing – so I won’t focus on it except to say she handled it with courage and grace and love and used it to share her very personal but teachable moment to us all.
Marilyn Yank. That is her name. I always liked her name. It suited her: a bit formal yet graceful with a strong old-world finish.
I met Marilyn when she moved to New Orleans with her partner, Anna Maria Signorelli. Anna Maria was a New Orleanian and they moved here partly because all New Orleanians are unhappy when away from here and partly because Marilyn had taken over the care of her ailing father and the Signorelli family was here to depend on. And the weather was warm and sunny and moist most of the time and the two of them were deeply dedicated to farming the land. Maybe there were other reasons too that I am unaware of that mattered. They had come from Austin where Anna Maria had taken the helm of the Sustainable Food Center after its dynamic founder had moved to bigger work. Marilyn was working on the La Cochina Alegre project there; a team was born. I remember Marilyn told me they lived in a tent together while learning sustainable farming in Santa Cruz and once they made it through that, she knew they were partners for life.
Once back here, Anna Maria was immediately in her element. I assume that she was like that when they were in Austin too cuz she is a powerhouse especially (as Marilyn always observed) when she has a team around her. Marilyn took it slow, marveling as only she could about the intricacies of life here and her partner’s large Sicilian family’s wonderful togetherness. We met because a mutual friend, the thoughtful Max Elliot for those of you in urban agriculture here, in Austin or in Shreveport, helped them put together a small group of activists to talk about building a network for food and farming in New Orleans.
We had a few meetings in Marilyn and Anna Maria’s meditation center, AMMA, so named partly for their combined names and the word for nurse or spiritual mother. We sat cross-legged in a circle and talked about our visions and beliefs and then after a few meetings, a few of us got a little antsy and asked if we could meet in a more active space. I remember Marilyn being fascinated and bemused by the request. Her activism was rooted in her quietness and centeredness. Her idea of activism was also illustrated by a story she told me of the people in an Asian country who had firmly and publicly set the goal that they would become a society totally absent of violence – in 1000 years. So every tiny and personal step they made towards that goal now was meaningful, and to expect total success in one’s lifetime laughable.
I also remember when Marilyn asked me to coffee at the fair trade coffeehouse after those first few meetings and said to me with what I came to know was her very direct but gentle way of asking a question: ” I have been wondering about you since we met. Do you mind?”
I did not mind and we bonded. Turns out she was originally from Detroit. I thought I recognized the steel backbone of a fellow rust belter under her beloved Southeastern desert style. It didn’t really matter where she was from, as her presence came from her embrace and sharing of the small shared whatever right in front of her – moment, garden, food item, gesture, idea and linking it to the gigantic: her quiet assessment and acceptance of humanity’s and the natural world’s pace.
Her Little Sparrow urban farm was a turning point in the city, both in its description of the vision she had for it right there on the board on front and its urban market box program, the first of its kind around town. There was an open invitation for people to carefully pluck food from its constant profusion of well-tended food and beauty although she encouraged some wildness to flourish on its edges too. The tropical climate got the best of her at times as a farmer and she was justly impressed by her dear friend Macon’s skill in growing food in this brutal climate, constantly championing his patience and knowledge as a grower to anyone who would listen. Many growers directly owe their experience to her willingness to share hers as she would always credit her teachers like Macon’s willingness to share theirs.
With a group of around a dozen others (the aforementioned Max as the nucleus), she and Anna Maria built a lasting network of food and farming leaders, myself and Macon included. The work to grow this network of activists took years and could take pages here to recount my personal observations of her and Anna Maria’s resolve to see it happen. Sooner or later, just about everyone else involved in the founding either gave up or moved on to other work, except for Marilyn. She stayed in it as long as she was needed and as long as she thought she had something to offer. In some form, that entire group owes most of its interconnectedness to Marilyn directly. Most of those founders are still honored colleagues of mine and some are also close friends, but all of us certainly remain fellow travelers who gladly remember those days when we meet up again. I’d like to thank her again for her dedication to the group and the idea.
Even after I moved away from assisting directly with the work of the New Orleans Food and Farming Network that our little group had realized, she and I reconnected regularly and when we did, her stories were always of a lesson learned or a description of the path of a karmic connection that had been experienced since I had seen her last. Some were very personal and painful. I found that I easily shared more of my deepest thoughts and fears than I did with most others, maybe because of her reciprocity or because of her abilities to see without judgement, or at least to recognize the judgement and to self-correct. Or maybe because she expected kernels of truth and revelation as the unspoken agreement of friendship.
One of the best times I had with her and Anna Maria was recent: during the Louisiana floods of 2016, I wrote them because I knew they had moved to that farming area affected away from the city. She immediately wrote me back, telling me their house and property were indeed in the path of the rising water, so they were in the city until they heard. Would I have dinner with them? I did and we laughed and shared updates and drank glasses of wine and laughed some more. As we parted, the text came from their neighbors that the water had stopped rising only a few inches from the top step of their raised home so they were going to be okay. After sharing their relief, I thought about how they had been totally present and joyful all evening, never seeming to worry about their looming crisis.
As soon as I heard the news this week, I had a strong impulse to find a dandelion clock and blow its blossoms to the wind. It struck me as I explored that thought that the dandelion is a flower, but a tough little one at that. It has healing properties and is carried by the wind to the most unlikely places. Marilyn, you went far and wide and added much nourishment; carry on. I certainly will, using as much empathy and humor as I can muster in honor of Marilyn.
This Eater story is pretty good, but could use a little more context outside of the French Quarter tourist angle. Still, I am so very glad that Knapp included Rien Fertel’s analysis and research.
As a past farmers market organizer, I can tell you that the praline biz extends past the Quarter to thousands of locals who search for a particular variety that they grew up with: some look for a creamy taste, others want lots of chopped nuts and others need the sugar-free type. Most New Orleanians expect to find middle-aged African-American women as the chef behind the treat, although the Crescent City Farmers Market has most recently had genial Wayne Brown and his momma’s Crescent Creams pralines along with his of the old-timey “Nipples of Venus” concoction. Other vendors of pralines at CCFM include or have included the (white) family member of market fishing family Gerica Seafood who makes some tasty sweet treats based on a hundred-year old recipe from Raceland, and school bus driver Betty Walker who hails from New Orleans East, which remains one area of town where the homemade candies can be found on counters of all types of stores.
Additionally, the dozens of varieties sold only through churches or a daughter’s office to this day also show the resilience and creativity of this local cottage industry.
Check out this wonderful piece that covers the “mammy” stuff that Rien alludes to; that crap certainly has denigrated the art of praline making which should be deeply respected and widely encouraged.
Slow Food New Orleans is launching Vanishing Foodways as an ongoing effort to collect stories from people and regions whose foodways and cultural traditions that are at risk of vanishing. Please visit our GoFundMe campaign and become part of this initiative. The GoFundMe campaign features a fabulous video created by artist Voice Monet, who will be part of our 25-person Louisiana-Vietnam delegation to Terra Madre, the international gathering of people from 150+ countries in Italy, September 22-26.
The Louisiana-Vietnam delegation to Terra Madre is the beginning of the the cross-cultural connections that the Vanishing Foodways seeks to create. The Louisiana Coast and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta are two of the most abundant food producing regions in the world, yet are also two of the world’s most rapidly disappearing regions. Vanishing Foodways will video-document the Louisiana-Vietnam delegation’s experience at Terra Madre along with collecting stories from Terra Madre delegates representing regions that are experiencing the disappearance of their traditional and cultural foodways.By collecting and sharing these stories, Vanishing Foodways aims to; 1) educate people that endangered foodways are not simply someone else’s problem, 2) engage people in the shared plight of all of our foodways & 3) empower people with simple daily choices that each of us can make to move the world towards reclaiming and preserving our vital cultural foodways that sustainably feed the world.
Refashionista/writer/fairy godmother of flea (markets) Cree McCree wrote so well about the most recent Greek Fest on Bayou St. John, I don’t feel the need to embellish it. In her review, she describes an event that shares its culture graciously, has good logistics for getting all of the food/drink, and with a open invitation to join in on the dancing (or toga-wearing) fun. Just click the link below and be transported into a camp chair while she (in her unmistakable lilting/gravelly voice), her super-smart husband Donald and their tribe debate any number of subjects, as you do your best to keep up verbally and beverage-wise.
What I DO want to add is an exhortation for locals to consider the record of this festival hosted by a single church on and around its grounds in order to simply support its community’s historic life in our city. And one done without co-opting any other group’s culture or adding more stages or more tents ’til the space is positively unsafe and then unable to serve the musicians or vendors or attendees well. That may it serve as a good example of how not every event has to have VIP tents, to outsource every inch of space around its commercial interior or to run roughshod over people relaxing at the edges there just to soak up good ol’ New Orleans togetherness, aka good vibes.
In other words, wannabe Quint Davises: if you really want to know how to do it, check your ego and your greed at the parish line and bring a chair next year to some of these neighborhood or church deals to learn about what works. And look for Cree; she’ll give you some good intel.
(Update 2016: the girls are no longer slinging oysters at St. Roch Mkt.)
I drove in a serpentine fashion uptown to get to Riverbend, or maybe it was more like playing Pacman- right turn! no, go back, hurry! 2 left turns…. forward forward get it GET IT…..Ugh Uptown folks, I feel for ya these days.
Did that to retrieve visiting Greg R, so we could catch up downtown at St. Roch Market. Not sure what I think of St. Roch yet. Maybe you know me and you suspect I have a dozen or so theories and just-formed opinions about St. Roch and you’d be right. I know I like the oysters at Effie and Melissa’s stand: had East Coast (1), West Coast (1), and Gulf Coast (6) oysters.
Yes, these two women are longtime pals of mine, buddies from the farmers market/Festivus/White Boot Brigade trenches, but even so, they know their food and hosting, friends of mine or not. The GC were from a St. Bernard oysterman and so robust in flavor and huge that it’s hard to fully appreciate the others. Effie told me specifics about his business and his oysters, (which I then later thought might be good for everyone to see when they come, maybe on a chalkboard?) That level of detail, along with their Cajun authenticity, are important for people to know, I think. The pickled shrimp was really good- the sauce is fresh and sweet and clean. Next “door” the rum drink was nice, as was the bite of the dirty mac with crawfish and tasso from the other end of the hall. Greg bought some sheepshead, kale, garlic (acted like it was a market or something) to make his hosts some non-JF dinner. We discussed the Koreole vendor (which looked inviting especially on a cold winter day, not so much right now oops) and how Asian food in the last 20 years or so keeps expanding. Is it because Americans have become more comfortable with the different nationalities and cultures so we see more breaking away from calling all Asian restaurants Chinese? Or is this about successive generations feeling more comfortable staking their claim in the restaurant business, serving what is authentic and yet Americanized as an experience?
We decided to leave the hall to get a slice at Pizza Delicious and for the first time for me, not another eater was in there. I’m sure it’s a temporary lull, but let’s remember that it remains one of the best slices in town (I hear salads are top notch too, but I’ll probably never know) with charming service. As we went in, the Piety Ironworks was abuzz with a party- seemed to be a film thing as, oddly, the actor who played Red Forman in The 70s Show (or Robocop character ______ someone else pointed out) was standing in the middle of the street, seemingly waiting for either a ride (Greg said waiting for his Uber) or maybe he was hoping for a second line. In any case he graciously allowed those who asked to take a pic with him, which seemed an appropriate end to this new set of experiences. Who says non- JazzFest days are off days?