In 2021, the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions (CWCT) embarked on a statewide exploration of food traditions. Our goal as to document food practices and practitioners in this state, but also to explore the ways foodways interacts with other important social processes. Foodways are traditional art forms shaped by the interaction between individuals, societies, and the physical environment. They are creative manifestations of the complex webs of relationships generated by communities as they traverse new and old worlds. A study of foodways can illuminate community histories, migratory patterns, political engagement, economics, labor relations, and more.
We conceptualized this project in early 2020, mere weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the world. Pandemic related lockdowns transformed our social life and had far reaching consequences for our global food culture. As such, I was not sure whether we could execute this project as planned, or at all for that matter. Like the rest of the world, we tried to be as resilient as possible. Thankfully, we were able to pull it off with quite a bit of shifting and pivoting. This debut issue of Rites of Green is the result of this work.
The Center’s core programs facilitated the production of several pieces in this issue. Center-affiliated folklorists developed essays, videos, and audio stories as part of our Cultural Traditions Survey, a deep fieldwork and preservation initiative. This issue also includes projects from our Cultural Documentation Field School, a free fieldwork training program for community members. In addition, we received several submissions from community members unaffiliated with these initiatives. I want to thank all of our contributors for their efforts to document, investigate and celebrate our states dynamic food traditions.
I also want to thank you all for taking time to check out our work. I hope this issue inspires genuine emotion, deep reflections, and further curiosity. To that end, please consider ways to further support the practitioners and traditions included here as well as our statewide food landscape in general. Our foodways are the building blocks of our collective life and it is going to take a collective effort to ensure their future vitality.
-Langston Collin Wilkins
Director, Center for Washington Cultural Traditions
*Our 2021 Cultural Traditions Survey: Foodways work was completed thanks to the gracious support of the National Endowment for the Arts.