Labor Day is a great time to give reverence to where our food comes from and how it gets to our tables.
Pictured is The Food We Eat: Favorite Recipes from Friends of the United Farm Workers (1976). The group who produced this cookbook was based out of both Seattle, Washington and Keene, California, but the work of the United Farm Workers Union affects the entire nation. California alone produces nearly half of all US-grown fruit, nuts, and vegetables, according to the USDA.
This cookbook was published to raise funds for the UFW. The Introduction elaborates that the union, “ever since it was formed 14 years ago, has had to wage a constant struggle for survival. Its organizers have been harassed and beaten, its picket lines have been attacked by armed goon squads, and its strikes have been broken with court injunctions. Yet because of the determination of farm workers to build their own union, along with support from people all over the world who have responded to the union’s call for boycotts, the UFW has made significant gains in its drive to build a union that can represent the interests of farm-workers throughout the county… A UFW contract doesn’t just mean higher wages. It means a medical plan, day care centers and seniority rights as well. It also means clean, cool drinking water in the fields, credit unions… protection against job hazards, [and] grievance procedures… Si se Puede… Yes, it can be done! ”
Founded in the 1960s by a group of organizers including leaders Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Gilbert Padilla, the UFW is the country’s largest farm workers union. In the early years, other American labor unions often withheld their support due to the race, as California farm workers were mostly non-white, primiarly oft Mexican, Japanese, and Filipino decent. Today, farmworkers are still not protected under the National Labor Relations Act and many California workers are undocumented immigrants and therefore aren’t afforded other protections as well.
Against this backdrop, UFW continues to be incredibly active today. Just last week, the union was instrumental in getting AB 2183 passed in the California State Assembly. If signed by Governor Newsom, the law will give workers extended access to union voting, including by mail. See the UFW website for more!
To celebrate Labor Day, I cooked Meg Peñalver’s recipes for “Red Chile Sauce” (pictured) using California dried chiles. The recipe recommends using the delicious sauce for enchiladas, and I highly recommend it!
Other recipes in the cookbook include Cashew and Carrot Soup, Rutabaga Souffle, Sweet Anise Buns from Mexico, Norwegian Kringlar, Pasticcio, and Chorizo.
The cookbook’s cover and additional pictured artwork are by Kay Klovstad. The cookbook’s protest and community photos are by Mark Aalfs. Text calligraphy is by Richard Thompson.