Good Seeds (Hardcover)
A Menominee Indian Food Memoir
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 9780870207716, 124pp.
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
In this food memoir, named for the manoomin or wild rice that also gives the Menominee tribe its name, tribal member Thomas Pecore Weso takes readers on a cook’s journey through Wisconsin’s northern woods. He connects each food—beaver, trout, blackberry, wild rice, maple sugar, partridge—with colorful individuals who taught him Indigenous values. Cooks will learn from his authentic recipes. Amateur and professional historians will appreciate firsthand stories about reservation life during the mid-twentieth century, when many elders, fluent in the Algonquian language, practiced the old ways.
Weso’s grandfather Moon was considered a medicine man, and his morning prayers were the foundation for all the day’s meals. Weso’s grandmother Jennie "made fire" each morning in a wood-burning stove, and oversaw huge breakfasts of wild game, fish, and fruit pies. As Weso grew up, his uncles taught him to hunt bear, deer, squirrels, raccoons, and even skunks for the daily larder. He remembers foods served at the Menominee fair and the excitement of "sugar bush," maple sugar gatherings that included dances as well as hard work.
Weso uses humor to tell his own story as a boy learning to thrive in a land of icy winters and summer swamps. With his rare perspective as a Native anthropologist and artist, he tells a poignant personal story in this unique book.
About the Author
Praise For Good Seeds: A Menominee Indian Food Memoir…
"Weso tells his tale of Menominee history that began with his family in a house that had been an Indian service jail. There is necessary information here- diesel fuel gels at 40 below. Pines burst at 20 below.
The whole Wisconsin winter he knew begins to thaw in Good Seeds. Weso says his grandmother used to stsrt the fire each morning. I want to say, it is Weso who starts the fire, but the fire he builds is for the written word. it is language that sparks this work to life.(Diane Glancy, poet, playwright, and author of Pushing the Bear: After the Trail of Tears)
This is how I understand cooking, as part of a family process that includes spirit, the forest environment and fuel for cooking — all before the meal can be prepared.” Sentences like this elegantly express the author’s multiple perspectives as anthropologist, artist, Menominee Indian, family member, cook. Raised in the big, multigenerational home of his matriarch grandmother and medicine-man grandfather, Tom Weso grew up eating (and hunting, gathering and growing) traditional foods along with modern fare. The book is organized by ingredient — beaver, wild rice, maple syrup, etc. — with chapters and recipes on German beer, Wisconsin diner meals and the concession foods at county and tribal fairs. But Weso’s stories are much more than culinary tales or instruction. Plain-spoken and occasionally hilarious, Weso sparks understanding and connection. As a contemporary of Weso who grew up less than an hour away from the Menominee reservation, I learned more about tribal food, culture and family life reading this single slender book than I did in more than two decades as his regional neighbor. Good Seeds is a poignant, important book. (Terese Allen, Isthmus Magazine, 2016)
One grasps at once that Good Seeds, rooted in the Midwest, at the same time transcends the region with its strong transnational focus. The book is local, state, regional, and international history.
...Good Seeds provides an important study of foodways in the upper Midwest, treatment that others might well extend to Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. Indeed, remarking about his residence in Kansas, Weso trains his eye on foodways of the lower Midwest so that a balanced treatment emerges. Given the centrality of the potato and corn to the diets of the Menominee, one wonders whether similar patterns emerge in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. In these ways, Good Seeds should command the attention of many scholars. (Christopher Cumo, The Annals of Iowa, July 2017)