June 24, 2021
In the Tucson blog, Savor the Southwest: Forage, Raise, Cook, University of Arizona Press author Carolyn Niethammer asks: When drought led to famine, what did people eat in our desert?
Niethammer’s recent book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, covers more than 4,000 years of food history, from the hunter-gatherers, to the Early Agriculturalists to today’s farmers. However, to answer her question, the celebrated food writer turned to another University of Arizona author Paul Minnis and his recent title, Famine Foods: Plants We Eat to Survive.
In Famine Foods, Minnis focuses on the myriad plants that have sustained human populations throughout the course of history, unveiling those that people have consumed, and often still consume, to avoid starvation. This book offers a fascinating overview of famine foods—how they are used, who uses them, and, perhaps most importantly, why they may be critical to sustain human life in the future.
From Niethammer’s review:
“Another way Native Americans faced food shortages is what Minnis calls “social banking.” In 1939, the town chief of Acoma, a New Mexico Pueblo said, “The people of Zuni are coming. They have no crops. They are coming to work for us. Some day we might have to go to them when our crops are small.” The Tohono O’odham when facing food shortages would sometimes go visit their cousins the Akimel O’odham who had an easier time growing crops with the Gila River water. Because there were no draft animals, it was easier to move the people to the food rather than try to transport large quantities of food.”
Read the full review here.