Vanishing Feast

The intent of Vanishing Feast is to bridge the gap between society today and the history and tradition of heirloom gardening. The focus will be on food sources that are endangered, and specifically on fruits and vegetables, and bring awareness to the tradition of seeds and or plants as family heirlooms.

In the last 50 to 75 years there has been a remarkable shift into a suburbian and big box lifestyle. The subdivisons that have replaced farms, and the large supermarkets and big box retailing model have created a gap that has engulfed may local lifestyles and traditions, including the tradition of seed saving  as family heirlooms.

With a focus on heirloom seeds and heirlooms plants as heirlooms, and my own example as guide, Vanishing Feast will demonstrate how to reclaim this tradition as your own. In the process of doing so, not only will endangered food sources be kept by disappearing, a legacy will be created that will allow thr common experience of taste, texture and aroma to be shared across generations.

While you may never know your future relatives, they will know something about you when you pass seeds along. They will know that  you helped save plants from extinction, and kept a tradition alive while sharing the delights of your senses and soul.

Jeff Quattrone aka Millineryman

No one sets out to become a storytelling milliner. It just happens. Or at least it happened to me. I didn’t even set out to become an artist. Despite winning a first prize for a sculpture I did in the sixth grade, art never crossed my mind as career choice. I was determined to become the best middle-level manager the world has ever seen. Misdirected and misunderstanding come to mind about that.

Although I wore out the arts and crafts volume in the set of Childcraft books my parents had, it wasn’t until three weeks before I started college that the notion of art and being and artist came into my life. I started out as business major at a community college because I can’t take standardized tests, which meant my SAT scores were bad. If two trains leave the same station in opposite directions, and one is going slower then other, I say let them take their individual routes, arrive at the destination when they do, and not worry about it.

Anyway, while at community college, I had a salesmanship course. A lot it was based on Dress for Success by John T. Molloy. The college bookstore didn’t carry it, so I had to go the mall and to buy it. I walked into the bookstore, and prominently displayed was Born to Run; The Bruce Springsteen Story by Dave Marsh. Being from Jersey, a Bruce fanatic, and not digging the notion of dressing for success, I bought the Dave Marsh book instead. The next day I cut my class, sat at the community college and read Bruce’s story.

I figured if an average guy from NJ could go and do his thing, then so could I. I went to my counselor’s office, asked about Radio/TV production, and a program was suggested at a state college in NJ.

I applied. I got accepted thanks to the classes at the community college I was taking and doing well, the SAT’s scores got taken down a couple of notches. HA! I was on my way.

When I got the letter that one day in August everything seemed fine. It was hot and humid, the tasty Jersey tomatoes were coming in full blast, and I was tan from going to the beach. Then, I opened the letter. This letter told me the story of budget cuts and how my Radio/TV Production program got consolidated with the Visual Arts program. I was a now a fine arts major, with an emphasis on photography and film.

I was undaunted. I was young, naive and full of hope about this whole new experience. I figured I would go for it. I had signed the loans papers, the financial aid was in place so I thought I would see where it would lead me.

When I got into the program I was enamored by this visual language that I had no idea existed. I loved it, along with Art History. I almost majored in History. I was accepted at another college as a History major, but thinking that was not as golden of a career path as middle management, I passed on that, only to end up with fine art degree. I sold it to myself as it’s education, not job training. I guess if I had stayed in the salesmanship course I could’ve sold myself a better line.

After college I tried being the fine artist. I had lost access to a darkroom after I graduated, and started to paint. Quite frankly I got tired of thinking about the meaning of every brush stroke. I found it very frustrating, and moved onto crafts as way to express myself. It was less rigid, which for my creative process works well.

One year at Christmas, my sister- in-law made these coiling baskets, and gave them as gifts. I was fascinated by them, and soon started making them to sell at craft shows. Again, perhaps the salesmanship course might have come in handy because none of them sold.

One night while showing them to a friend who is a maven of the visual arts, my friend suggested that I put one on my head. She insisted that they looked like hats. One never to doubt a maven, and always looking to be creative, I put the one in my hand on my head. I looked in a mirror. It did look like a hat. So with that I went off to making hats.

I found that I had this ability to make some really cool and funky hats, even though I had never sewn anything before in my life. Just as I started as a art major with no reference to the history or tradition of art, circumstance lead me to started cutting my own hat patterns and sewing them together.

I won a first and third prize at the NJ State Fair in 1996, and an original design was published in Sewing A Travel Wardrobe in 1999. I self-produced some millinery shows, did some custom work, and created a theatrical play for kids using hats.

In between all of this I carved out a career as a Art Director for printed marketing collateral. One cookbook I designed worn won awards in 2008, and I was awarded numerous service and design awards along the way. You can view my photography here. And there’s the props master work I’ve done. In 2010 I was the only person in the state of New Jersey who worked on the both best productions awarded by NJACT, New Jersey Association of Community Theaters. It’s important to note since it’s not written anywhere but here, and without this notation, this fact would be tossed into the dustbin of obscurity.

Now, I’m taking all of this and becoming an advocate to save endangered heirloom plants. I sometimes wonder what the story of that long, lost middle manager would be. Something akin to The Office I suppose.

So that’s my story up to now. The ending is still being written. I invite you along to be a part of it. With your support we could write a ending that will create a legacy for generations to come.


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