©Phil and Kathy Dahl-Bredine, Judith Cooper Haden Photography
Hope for a Beleaguered Planet....
Our book Milpa: From Seed to Salsa - Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future explores through a blend of essays, recipes and documentary photography how the ancient agricultural knowledge and the wealth of 1000 year-old seeds and planting practices still in use among the Mixtec peoples of southern Mexico can help us to meet the ecological and food crises of today.
The essays, written in conjunction with campesino farmers, serve as a warning about the complicated dangerous effects inherent in the rapidly expanding distribution of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Mexico, the birthplace of corn. Our documentary cookbook discusses alternatives for campesino farmers across the world and gardeners and consumers who care about food safety. Using the example of the Milpa planting system in the Mixteca Alta region of Southern Mexico just north of Oazaxa City, the book supports recent studies by UN investigators that show that small plots of land, heritage seeds and sustainable practices can in fact feed the world while enriching the soils on which we all depend for life…….
Milpa contains the traditional recipes lovingly shared by the local indigenous Mixtec women, allowing readers to re-create the culinary magic that flows from this ancient agricultural system. Recipes are painstakingly tested and photographed in traditional indigenous kitchens as well as in a professional modern test kitchen. Please purchase the book, below.....
All Rights Reserved: © Phil-Dahl Bredine, © Kathy Dahl-Bredine © Judith Cooper Haden Photography, © Susana Trilling SOMH.
Monday, April 30, 2012
©Phil and Kathy Dahl-Bredine, Judith Cooper Haden Photography
Monday, April 9, 2012
In the villages of the Mixteca Alta there is a special kind of native corn that should give pause to the sometimes overweening pride of our modern scientific era and to its scorn for the ignorance of previous “less scientific” ages. It is commonly called “cajete” from the form in which it is planted in small indentations or “cajetes” in the dry fields. It is a very ancient corn in a land whose indigenous scientists invented corn from a parent plant called “teocintle” around 10,000 years ago. That feat alone, which accomplished an unequaled botanical leap from a wild plant with no cob or husk to “modern” corn with no apparent intermediary species, should humble our scientific hubris.
In each indentation planters drop 3 to 4 seeds of corn, a native bean seed and the seed for native squash. By June the cajete Milpa is complete with its complementary planted varieties and the spontaneous edible plants called quelites that will grow between the rows. A full food system for both Mixtec families and native soils.
© Phil Dahl-Bredine
© Photographs Judith Cooper Haden
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Traditional kitchens in the Mixteca are seductive. They have no relationship with what we are used to in the United States. Inside, they are smoky, dark and wonderful. Cleanly dampened and swept dirt floors. No windows but light manages to creep in between the bamboo-like stick walls, and in the small space between the tin or thatched ceiling and the walls. If outside, they are usually covered and open to the air. The smells of freshly made masa from corn grown just outside the door being toasted into a tortilla on a huge clay comal is an unforgettable aroma. And once you taste a real tortilla...well, it's hard to see the relationship between that, and what we are served here at home.
|Francisca Garcia Ferrer|
|Manual corn grinder|
rodent police, garbage collector -- and are actually bought and sold, cats fetch 30-40 pesos -- $2.50-4$! They are not attributed with feelings or needs; it takes a while to get used to the treatment of these domestic creatures. (I remember receiving a letter from home while while in the Peace Corps in El Salvador; my Dad knew our beloved beagle was really sick when he refused a large portion of roast beef....I read this after coming back from the wake of a baby who died in essence from dehydration and starvation..... we don't know how lucky we have it.)
This was the first picture I took at the very beginning of this project, over a year ago. We all felt it had special significance.....and still do!
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Photographs ©Judith Cooper Haden unless otherwise noted.
The House of the Milpa museum tells the story of the form of planting developed uniquely in Mesoamerica that one expert has called “perhaps one of the most successful inventions of humankind.” Planting corn, beans, squash, amaranth, tomatillo, together in the same plot and allowing the wild edible plants to grow among them yields high production of one of the healthiest diets on the planet and a soil treatment and weed and insect control which have made it sustainable for millennia. In some areas here the current version of the milpa has been improved with careful seed selection to the point that it has tripled production. The math is interesting: 60-70% of the world’s food is still produced by small farmers. Industrial agriculture, which accounts for the remaining production, can only expect a few percentage points of improvement in the future. Doubling or tripling the production of the 60-70% of small farmers has much greater potential for feeding the world than Archer Daniels Midland and its corporate cohorts.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
|© Phil Dahl-Bredine|
- Food produced this way is energy cheap. Here, and 50 years ago in the U.S., one calorie of energy input yielded 7 calories of food on the table, where our modern food system needs 10 calories of energy to get one calorie on the table. (Uncertain Peril, Claire Hope Cumming)
- Local small scale production is environmentally cheap. Industrial agriculture creates almost 14% of the excess greenhouse gases that are affecting our climate, including nitrous oxides and CO2. In contrast, small sustainable farming that takes time to create soils rich in organic matter can sequester more excess CO2 than a forest. (“A Message for Climate Change Negotiators”, Annie Shattuck)
- Large commercial feed lots produce vast quantities of the greenhouse gas, methane, while incorporating animal manure into soils on small scale plots actually helps soils to sequester more CO2.
- In spite of the extreme efforts of agribusiness conglomerates to take control of the food systems of the world, small farmers still feed over 70% of the world’s people. (Who Will Feed Us?, ETC Group)
|Susana Trilling with the chefs of Quilitongo|
FROM Susana Trilling's Food Diary.......Tacos de Izote (Yucca Blossom Tacos)!
"The indigenous vision: the purpose of human life is ultimately to create harmony within the human community and with the natural world....."
Photographs © Judith Cooper Haden