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Georgia Patton - Kansas Folk Art

Food Preservation

Georgia Patton and her daughter, NedRa Bonds, live in Kansas City, Kansas. Although members of the African American community, the family's ethnic heritage can also be traced to American Indian ancestry. NedRa considers herself "a little bit of everything," including African American, American Indian, and Irish. Georgia tells stories about her Great Aunt Pocahontas, who, according to family legend, was named in honor of the family's Indian heritage. Georgia, who is knowledgeable in the use of wild plants, suspects that her knowledge was passed down from her American Indian ancestors.

Growing up in rural north central Missouri, Georgia learned from her family about gathering and preparing food. As a child, her family had no refrigeration, but her father had a smokehouse where they preserved meat. The family kept a garden and raised pigs, and food was also found in the wild.

I [gathered food] with my grandmother. There was no TV, no radio. You went to the woods in the summer. You put your [fishing] line in the creek and just wandered around in the woods until you found the berries. . . . When we went into the woods it was for dual purposes—to fish—to get the berries and fruit. Whenever we went fishing everyone had their gallon pail and we filled them up.—Georgia Patton

Georgia continues to gather food in the areas around Kansas City but she gives credit to her family for her knowledge. "Everything I know how to do I learned from my grandmother and my mama," Georgia said. "Because this is what we did every year." Georgia goes fishing regularly and while she is waiting for the fish to bite she looks for fruit trees. "You have to know where to go. . . . I know the time of the year when the fruit's ready," she said. "The wild grape, the wild plum—I got everything but elderberry and the birds got all the elderberry this year. But I got wild plum, wild crabapple, wild grape, and I did get some cherries."

Wild greens are familiar to Georgia and she is proud to claim knowledge of 25 different kinds of greens she finds near her home. "It's that mingling of all of that taste, that's what's good. . . . when you have done it, you know the right amount," she explained. She has passed the knowledge of greens on to her older son. however, she has passed her knowledge of food preparation on to all of her children. According to NedRa, "If I had a quarter for all the applesauce I made!"

From Kansas Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program © KSHS 1989

Entry: Patton, Georgia - Kansas Folk Art

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2011

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.