Novemver 2020


From the editor

Andrea Gyorody

This past summer, in the rural Ohio town where I live, we were invaded by fungi. Everywhere we went, we stumbled on white and brown caps in various stages of growth, in spots where the day before there had been nothing but dirt or grass. What might have been quite magical in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way was instead, for us, a hellscape of terror for the simple fact that we have a young toddler who gets acquainted with objects by popping them in his mouth. His newfound mobility directly coincided with an explosion of mushrooms all over our town, requiring me, in the role of paranoid mother, to quickly become a reluctant amateur mycologist.

After contending with mushrooms every day for months, I was bemused to see the publication of a new book on John Cage and his mycological adventures, and delighted that Jonathan Griffin proposed writing about it for this issue of Digest. (My mushroom fears were vindicated in reading that Cage, despite his incredible expertise, had once had to have his stomach pumped.) Cage's obsession inspired us to seek out other contributions focused on a single ingredient—African rice, in a passionately informative essay by Amethyst Ganaway; honey (and the life of bees) in a poem by Veronique d'Entremont; and saffron, as chronicled in an 18th-century volume from the collection of Ben Kinmont.

In her poem, d'Entremont evocatively describes how a drop of honey touches many mouths before coming to our own. Her observation reminded me that the ingredients we forage, farm, cultivate, buy, prepare, and eat similarly connect us—intimately and in ways that we only barely realize—to other people, to history, and to nature. It's easy to ignore that profound connectedness when most people (myself included) consume food about as indiscriminately as my toddler. But that endless chain of interdependence, like everything else precarious and meaningful in our world, demands thoughtful care if we want to create a healthier and more just world. Those are the values I desperately hope will guide us, all of us, as we enter into 2021.

—Andrea Gyorody

Active Cultures is a cultural organization that explores the convergence of food and art in contemporary life.