GROWING FLAVOR - PAST & PRESENT, CHEF DAVE SMOKE MCCLUSKEY's CORN MAFIA
This week we explore some farmer and seasonal food connections with Chef Dave Smoke McCluskey, founder of Corn Mafia, and grower/producer of Longhouse brand traditional food goods hominy, masa and grits. Based in South Carolina Dave is an Indigenous foods educator and member of the Mohawk Nation, who “invited us all to think about the history of the Ingredients in our food, including those originating from the Native American lands we in the US live on.
I spoke with Dave as the Pleiades rose in the night sky early in the year, and I am happy to share his journey story with you in this season of saving and preserving and savoring our growing seasons’ riches in this time of harvest and holidays.
Dave researches and recreates and re-envisions the flavorful past of Indigenous foodways. He sees intimate connections between foraging and farming, saying that "foraging is a little like fishing, sometimes you come back with out fish, but you always have a good day in the woods."
An early member of Chefs Collaborative in Boston in the 1990s, Dave has long advocated strongly for the link between good farming and good food in restaurants. In that early experience in Boston, Dave saw that as the high-end restaurants bought specialty organic or naturally grown crops, it gave farmers confidence to move in that direction creating a whole new circular economy, and therefore system. The fuller flavor from well grown, locally sourced produce was a key.
In our conversation, Dave shares more about the nature of flavor from several perspectives – primarily that of a chef and grower, but also thoughtful historian. His belief in the power of flavorful real food stems from a very basic curiosity about his Indigenous ancestors’ culinary past and trying to determine not only “What has been lost?” but actively working to to re-envision and recreate a more flavorful, accurate - and probable - culinary narrative.
Photos in this week's show notes are courtesy of Chef Dave and Corn Mafia.
You can follow Dave's work online at cornmafia.com and on Instagram @cornmafia
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JOIN US again next week, when we take another historical journey this time (in time for all day of the dead and hallow’s eve) exploring the horticultural lessons and sacred space of Mount Auburn Cemetery of Boston Massachusetts in conversation with recently retired President of Mt.Auburn, Dave Barnett. Listen in!
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Thinking out loud this week:
I'm sure you’ve all heard me say this before - I am not much of a cook. But in this season – the harvest, the autumn, the return of cool nights and the hope of stormy weather has even me thinking about food. I think as gardeners we – by which I really mean I – often forget that our gardening – our growing efforts in the world – go far beyond our garden gates. This conversation with Chef Dave has me thinking about food – how not only what we grow in our gardens but what we buy – from seeds, to groceries, to what we order in restaurants - has real implications and meaning in how the world at large grows and is grown.
As we enter the front edge of fall and winter foods and festivals, this is a good time to remember that in many ways every decision we make is a kind of gardening…..
Now into the final quarter of 2021, the October full moon last night, we have our first seasonal rains in the forecast here where I live.
I'm thinking about Chef Dave’s full focus on the flavors of the foods of his ancestor’s – his rejection of a narrative of blandness, his imaginative and observant re-envisioning of flavor and bringing that into the present with what he grows, eats, what he offers out to others.
I like this flavorful approach to a gardening life, I feel like we could all add more flavor to our gardening mindsets as we lean into the remainder of this year and intentionally cultivate what comes next.
May it be full of flavor.
And yes, I really love grits. :)
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