indigo house

Connecting to History through the Socialization of Food: A Morning with Leni Sorensen

By Social Media

I spent the most amazing morning this weekend learning to can peaches and tomatoes. I’m fascinated by and deeply attracted to learning skills mastered by generations before me. (See my passion for homemade pie at Pie it Forward). 

Mostly these skills are related to food; growing it, cooking it, preserving it and preparing it in ways that I never learned as a child. While I was thrilled to spend the time learning a valuable method of preserving the dozens of tomatoes that are about to pour forth from our fabulous back yard vegetable garden, I was even more enthralled with my teacher, Leni Sorensen.

Dr. Leni Sorensen is the African-American Research Historian for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello. Leni is a treasure; an endless source of experience, passion for craft, thoughtful consuming, preparing and creating and a gentle, nurturing soul. She is an actual grandmother and someone you want to adopt you the minute you meet her. Leni welcomed me into her kitchen and her garden and I was immediately at home.

It may be partly the culture I live in; in Charlottesville, Va., locavores outnumber Baptists* and bring to the consuming of local foods a fervor some cultures reserve for religion. It’s counter to the culture I grew up and worked in, even five or six years ago, thinking little of the origin of my food and less still about the economy and practices required to provide me out of season produce.

Leni, through teaching students like me to can fruits and vegetables, to bake bread, to cut and freeze beef and pork, is spreading a kind of retr0-socialization, so that we may provide more sustainable lifestyles for our families.

The contrast is not lost on me that my technology-driven peers, professional women grafted to smartphones, bloggers and massive consumers of electronics who, at the same time are gardeners, knitters, crafters. We cook, shop and plan our meals around a local structure and try to reach back to a time when food was healthier; life, simpler. We find each other via social networks and learn from one another’s content online. I was introduced to Leni via a friend who is a food blogger, (who I also knew online long before we met in person) and discovered her classes via Facebook.

It’s kind of fascinating, isn’t it? Technology is bringing us together to focus and learn arts that were it not for the ability to connect in this way, would undoubtedly fade out of our consciousness. I’m grateful for people like Leni and for these tools that allow us to find our passions and connect with others that share them. You can find information about Leni’s classes and what she’s up to in her kitchen and garden on her website, The View from Indigo House.

*I’m not sure if there are actually more locavores than Baptists in Charlottesville but I will tell you this: in the five and a half years I’ve lived here I’ve met dozens of people who are confirmed and self-described locavores and have yet to meet someone who told me they are Baptist. Very scientific, I know.