“Nourishing the Body and Soul”: Terralingua’s Langscape Magazine Explores the Biocultural Diversity of Food

CEESP News - by TerraLingua

Being together, sharing food. More than any other activity, the preparation, and consumption of meals sets the rhythm of human life. Over thousands of years, different cultures have painstakingly fine-tuned their production of food and drink to optimize locally available gifts of the field, forest, and sea. So closely is this production tied to highly variable local environments that it serves as a prime example of biocultural diversity, the diversity of life on Earth in all its manifestations: biological, cultural, and linguistic.

The concept of biocultural diversity has become an important perspective for understanding the interrelatedness between people and the environment. The biocultural diversity of food is explored in the latest issue of the magazine Langscape, the flagship publication of Terralingua (http://www.terralingua.org), an international NGO founded in 1996 with a mission to sustain the biocultural diversity of life through research, education, policy-relevant work, and on-the-ground action.

The special issue of Langscape is titled “Nourishing Body and Soul,” and a major theme that recurs throughout is the challenge traditional (especially Indigenous) foodways face from international agribusiness and its promotion of mass-produced, highly processed, seductively convenient products. Helping local and Indigenous communities maintain or regain their food traditions has implications for local environmental sustainability, community health, stable land tenure, and cultural vitality, all of which are explored in the magazine. Of particular interest to CEESP members, almost every contribution has policy implications. Here are three examples out of the more than twenty stories in the special issue.

In “Del Monte a la Cocina: Gathering Inspiration from the Andean Araucanía of Southern Chile,” Antonia Barreau, Sonia Aliante, Susannah McCandless, Jesús Sánchez, and Rosario Valdivieso examine the push-and-pull of traditional Mapuche cuisine within today’s Chilean foodscape. On the one hand, long-time residents still gather wild edibles in abundance, but they prefer to sell them at market, where they are now trendy gourmet fare for both lifestyle migrants to the countryside and famous chefs in Chile’s cities. The authors share details of their multidisciplinary, not-for-profit research and action project that places wild foods at the center of biocultural conservation.

The capacity of the World Heritage Convention to promote traditional food production in cultural landscapes is the subject of “Safeguarding Food-Producing Cultural Landscapes: The Role of the UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize.” Mechtild Rössler, Akane Nakamura, and Roland Chih-Hung Lin share the story of how the awarding of this prize to the residents of a village in Iran has encouraged them to see their local culture, and its interactions with the surrounding landscape, in a new, more positive light. 

As a last example, Felipe Montoya-Greenheck’s essay, “Forgotten Plants of the Traditional Peasant Diet of Puriscal, Costa Rica,” considers threats to the food traditions of a rural canton that was long considered the granary that helped feed the Costa Rican capital of San José. Puriscal’s stable and productive agrarian landscape was undermined by the country’s push toward “modernization,” relegating subsistence farming, along with a host of Indigenous foods, to the margins. Today, there are organized efforts to rescue forgotten food uses of plants as part of a broader restoration of Puriscal’s local knowledge systems.

That gives you a taste (pun intended!) of the “menu” for this special issue of Langscape. Over the years, Terralingua has used the magazine to promote the idea and practice of biocultural diversity in academia, among international organizations, and in field projects all over the world. You can read a portion of the special issue at the Langscape homepage (http://www.terralinguaubuntu.org/Langscape/home.htm), or on the Medium platform (https://medium.com/langscape-magazine). You can also get info about how to purchase this or other issues (http://www.terralinguaubuntu.org/market/market) or subscribe (https://terralinguaubuntu.worldsecuresystems.com/users/subscribe).

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