Saturday, February 18, 2012

Knapsack 2-23

Notes From My Knapsack 2-23-12

Jeff Gill


The Ancient Ohio Trail goes through Granville



Ohio's landscape is inscribed with some of the most remarkable earthworks and remnants of ancient sites in the world. Visitors and scholars have been coming for decades to see and experience this amazing Native American architecture, and new technology allows any visitor at any time to have a world-class experience on and around these sites.


From the 2,000-plus year old mounds and geometric enclosures, to comfortable guest accommodations & amenities today, you can find yourself lost in the many roads and paths through Ohio's antiquity.


My unique opportunity these last few years has been to work with the Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historic and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS) at the University of Cincinnati, as they are partners with the Newark Earthworks Center of OSU's Newark Campus, and director Richard Shiels and associate director Marti Chaatsmith (who is Comanche). They are partners in a National Endowment for the Humanities' grant which funds something called the "Ancient Ohio Trail" and this coming Ancient Ohio Summer of 2012.


Our goal is to help you use the Ancient Ohio Trail (AOT) website and downloads to find your own personal trail that connects up as much of our history and culture as you have time to enjoy.


This coming "Ancient Ohio Summer" takes the already existing website,, and completes the toolbox with apps, podcasts, and short videos, all available on your own smart phone, tablet, or personal computer. We have four "keystone" sites and over 50 additional locations, along with the tourism resources of nearby communities, which gives you a broad network to move within.


For the Ancient Ohio Summer, our programming will include a series of events particularly targeted at rolling out these new downloads and apps for site interpretation & education. While many other ongoing events at our partner sites can also be places for you to visit and use the website's tools, these events will all have Ancient Ohio Trail team members present to help guide and enhance your use of these tools to understand the sites.


May 5th is our "launch event," part of an ongoing series of Newark Earthworks Days. Based at the Newark Campus of The Ohio State University (OSU), the Reese Center will host a series of presenters, including a keynote from Gerard Baker, a Mandan-Hidatsa and former assistant director of the National Park Service, and who served as superintendent at Little Bighorn National Battlefield and Mount Rushmore.


May 5th will also include presentations from other Native American voices, and archaeologists like Brad Lepper & Jarrod Burks showing us some of the most current field work going on in Ohio in 2012; the day will wrap up with a chance for the entire audience to work with the technology on their own or AOT's devices. John Hancock, director of CERHAS will offer a presentation as well.


I am incredibly excited, not only at what I am telling you now, but at a number of other events that are going to happen here in Licking County that are still not quite ready to take out of the oven. But I want all of you to mark some of these events on your calendar today! You'll hear more, I promise . . . and soon!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's also working for the Newark Earthworks Center this year! Ask him about the AOT at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Faith Works 2-18

Faith Works 2-18-12

Jeff Gill


Dreaming of dinner, one entrée at a time



For Christianity, "the table" is an important place. That goes from the elaborated, ceremonial "altar" to saying grace while holding hands around the family table. As Dom Crossan points out so effectively in his writing on the early church, the question "who is invited to the table" has significance which can shake empires, let alone households.


And combined with who is gathered 'round is the question of what's set upon the table. In our day, food choices have a more apparent ethical context than they once did; you can make that a cause for anxiety, or simply use it as a teaching tool.


Teaching the Lad a few new recipes in our home, I'm reminded as we chop and stir that most "authentic" cuisine of various cultures is based on a single, central principle: stretching.


Just to clarify, Chinese food in China isn't large quantities of deep-fried meat with a few scraps of largely ornamental and uneaten cabbage and carrots; Mexican food in Mexico does not center on large dollops of sour cream and a thick coating of cheese. Et cetera.


There are for various places on the globe what are called "staples," rice in Asia, pasta in Italy, rotting fish sauce in ancient Rome (and now you know what happened to their empire). Somewhere south of the Rio Grande I'm sure refried beans are relatively common, even if not to Taco Bell levels.


But the rest of what is the traditional set of recipes is usually based around taking an often scant amount of protein, whether meat or eggs (or legumes for the vegans out there), and making a filling meal with a bit, enough of the protein getting to each of the many people around the family table.


So fajitas were a way to take a cut of meat, and along with tortillas and peppers and onions, make sure everyone got some. Egg rolls took a single serving of pork, minced it fine, rolled it up with a bunch of cabbage and a wonton wrapper, and along with some oil (sure, deep frying isn't all bad) got a sense of heft into everyone's belly. And so on.


Northern Europe liked more meat when they could get it (and who doesn't? Sorry, vegans), and when they came over and carved out their homesteads in the New World, they didn't recognize the plant foods other than nuts, and it took a while to open up garden plots, let alone learn what vegetables they could grow. Meanwhile, deer and bear and turkey meat was plentiful, so much so that in pioneer accounts, a mere piece of fresh bread was a dessert-level delicacy, and a sandwich was often a piece of deer meat between two slices of bear meat. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.


So we got used to a very meat-centric diet; as immigrants came to this land of milk and meat, they adapted into the plenty formerly only known in palaces with obvious glee. In fact, I can recall as a kid that pasta wasn't considered a decent meal, which you would hear older folks say was because you went back to a plate of pasta for dinner when money was tight: a successful man had meat on the table for his family every night.


Times, indeed, have changed. It's helpful to know they changed to get us here, too. I'm not a vegetarian, but a meal without meat in our house isn't a sign of either poverty or that someone forgot to go to the store.


Most dieticians, and Michael Pollan with other sustainability advocates, all ask us to think about meat as more of a garnish than as the weighty center of a meal. Big chunks of meat, whole or processed, go through our physical selves and internal systems differently when we spend our day as a steelworker or farmer, as opposed to when we sit all week at work.


Two generations back and more, meat meant a big part of the American dream was fulfilled right there on the dinner table. We can celebrate successes and live a happy life, maybe happier, if we look back at some of the elegant original recipes in our history that bring a bit more of the field and farm to the table than the stockyard.


How does your faith community talk about food as a moral and ethical opportunity? You could talk about it at your next potluck . . .


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he likes to grill steaks in the summer, right next to the sweet corn in the husk. Tell him your dinnertime dreams at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.