Monday, August 27, 2012

Ethnographies of the Past

An interesting quote from David Prescott Barrows, who wrote “Ethnobotany of the Coahuilla Indians” in 1900. He was describing the territory of the Cahuilla of southern California, who lived in a land much of which was desert, but many different kinds of desert:

“There was really an abundant supply of wild food, far more than adequate, at nearly all times of the year, for the needs of the several thousand Indian inhabitants of former times, although hardly a score of white families will find a living here after all the Indians are gone.”

He goes on to say, in this elegant treatise, “And the secret of this anomaly lies in the fact that the
Indian drew his stores of food from hillsides and canons, where the white man looks for nothing and can produce nothing.”

His ethnograph is one of my favorites, if not the favorite, for his poetic and insightful writing as well as the information that is found nowhere else. If only people like Barrows had been available to write about all the different regions of California.

We’ve been working very hard on a new edition of our booklet “The Real California Cuisine,” which will be available in a few weeks. I couldn’t resist including some of my favorite quotes from ethnographies of the past. We’ve added new species, including my favorite, Yampa, Perideridia kelloggii, whose tubers are so delicious, even raw.

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