FERN’s Friday Feed: The soul of the kitchen

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Black women are the backbone of Southern food

Southern Foodways Alliance (video)

This short film, by Kat Hernandez, shows how Juneteenth is celebrated in Natchez, Mississippi, following three generations of women who carry on the tradition of passing recipes down orally, rather than in writing.

In Minnesota, Somali immigrants took on Pilgrim’s Pride over Covid-19—and won

Quartz Africa

When Covid-19 tore through a Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Cold Spring, Minnesota, where some 80 percent of the 1,100 employees are Somali immigrants, the community joined the workers in a walkout, and eventually forced the company to implement measures to keep workers safe.

How Navajo ranchers, with federal help, built a premium beef brand

High Country News

Over the last decade, a federally-backed project has turned once devalued Navajo beef cattle into a sought-after premium brand, creating a bloom of economic hope in Navajo Nation, which stretches across 27,000 square miles of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. But with the federal office overseeing the project set to close, the ranchers must figure out a way forward.

The pandemic got our attention; nature, taking advantage, flashes a warning

The New York Times

In the fields and the barn, life can seem oblivious to the global pandemic. But as Daryln Brewer Hoffstot notes, “Nature is not just carrying on. Chimney swifts, which roost every summer in our 19th-century chimney, have declined by 72 percent. The emerald ash borer kills hundreds of our ash trees … The ‘100-year flood’ has come about five times in the last 12 years. Nearby, water is contaminated by fracking … In my small slice of the world, I see a neon sign, flashing red, and I wonder how long can we go on without seeing, and without listening — to the bats, the bugs, the bees, the birds, the trees, the land?”

The story of palm oil you haven’t heard


“If you are concerned about issues within our food system — exploitation of labor, land rights, water rights, deforestation, habitat destruction, to name just a few — the production of the palm oil primarily consumed outside of West Africa involves all of these,” writes Yewande Komolafe. But for West Africans, “[u]nrefined red palm oil … from the fleshy fruit of the oil palm tree … is a nutrient-rich oil that has found its way into the foods of many cultures and has lent its culinary benefits to staples of my cuisine.”