Food Icons

Our personal connections to food

Each collaborator in the Earth to Tables Legacies project has a unique story, sense of place, and connection to food sovereignty.

Each of us chose a food-related icon (plant, animal, insect, container) that we identify with. These choices reveal personal passions, histories, and personalities. And they also highlight the interrelation between people and food sources: how people shape food, and food shapes people.

“On our farm in Quebec, we have goats, which are like part of our family. We milk them daily, and cook with the milk. Anna makes yoghurt and cheese.”

“The Monkey Pot fruit is a symbol of resilience, fragility, beauty and healing. It grows on trees along the sidewalks in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia. One of my first childhood memories was playing by the river, mixing wild herbs and flowers in the woody fruit pot. The seeds of the fruit are highly nutritious, medicinal, and antagonistic to cancer.”

“I have a fond memory of planting thyme at Dianne’s farm when I first worked there. Twenty years later, it has become a huge field of thyme.”

“The owl (tunkilunchu in Mayan) represents the transition to another life. My hahwal or spirit is Kimi – representing life and death, which is not the end of our existence. Like corn, we are planted in this world, when we die, we begin to rise again.”

“Haudenosaunee white corn as my icon, but I most enjoy preparing it and feeding it to other people. Every single time I prepare it, I’m reminded of the creation story and that corn that I love to prepare is older than time as we know it, and it never gets old for me.”


When I was a kid, I wouldn’t touch beets, and planting beets was the hardest job on the farm. As an adult, I love beets, and I’ve found a more efficient way to grow them through the paper pot planter.

“My name means “bee” in Hebrew. I like the connotation of being a pollinator, bringing people together and pollinating ideas.”

“My icon is lettuce. Canadians eat lettuce all year around, and I love lettuce. Muskoka’s a perfect place to grow lettuce, we have lots of lakes so every morning there’s heavy dew. And lettuce have this wonderful morphology, that their leaves catch the dew, and the dew goes to the heart of the plant and into the roots. Just engineered for success.”

“My icon is kale, a hearty green vegetable. I taught urban residents to grow it in Guadalajara, and now I’m training farmers to produce kale for healthy dried snacks.”

“My plant icon is lichen. One reason is that they represent a symbiosis between different beings. Another reason is the spiritual connection lichens have with other forms of life.”

“I chose lamb’s quarters, because I love watching it grow up voluntarily in my rooftop garden. Even though some consider it a weed, it is very nutritious and edible. It came to America with the Europeans, colonizing the farmers’ fields, as did the colonizers.”

“My Ukrainian ancestors grew corn on the Canadian prairies; eventually with the industrialization of agriculture corn became part of monocultural production. Then I studied the movements to defend maiz in Mexico. Since then, I’ve been interested in the agency of corn, how it shapes and reshape of landscapes over time.”

“My dad is from the aguna clan in Ghana; aguna is a tiger. So my icon is a tiger.”

“My icon is the lavender. It is medicinal, helps us relax, and makes us feel good.”

“The Mother Earth offers her nutritious and medicinal bounty in a great dish from which we can all share. She asks us to only take what we need to feed and
heal ourselves; leave something in the dish for others; and show our gratitude by keeping the dish clean and not wasting what she has provided. Thus the Dish With One Spoon is how such gifts make their way from the earth to our tables.”

“I collect old heritage beans. I love breaking them open and seeing how beautiful they are. I love that they’re a power food and you can save them over time. I started with 25 Haudenosaunnee varieties and now have about 75 different varieties.”

“In Mayan, maiz or corn, literally means ‘women’s breast’. Corn is the being that first loves you and feeds you. The challenge to growing corn in the Yucatán is that it is planted in the middle of our rocky soil, which actually maintains humidity.”