“Our Rocks Are Alive”

On Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4
Featuring Alicia Potts
Singing by Chanse Adams-Zavalla
Photo by Alicia Potts
Co-produced by Michelle Macklem, Alicia Potts and Zoe Tennant
Edited by Andrea Rangecraft

Each autumn, when the oak branches shake off their acorns, Alicia Adams Potts gathers the nuts. Alicia, who’s from the Maidu tribe in northern California, grinds the acorns into a silky white flour using a stone mortar and pestle that belonged to her grandmother, and to her grandmother’s grandmother before her. Alicia’s sister grinds her acorns in a Vitamix, but Alicia likes to keep it old school, she likes to hold the same pestle that her ancestors’ hands held. Alicia often gets texts and calls from other Indigenous folks about how to prepare acorn -- she’s known as the go-to acorn person. Alicia, like the Maidu women before her, uses the flour to make acorn bread and acorn soup.

For Indigenous tribes in California, like Alicia’s, acorn is more than food. Acorn was, and still is, at the centre of everything.

Acorn was at the heart of Indigenous social and economic systems, and at the centre of their story. That story became buried, though, in the wake of colonization. But today, Indigenous people like Alicia are bringing the acorn back into focus.

“Our grinding rocks are all over the state of California. Our creation stories start here, we are created here. We believe our rocks are alive,” Alicia told us.

“Gow Gei”

On Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4
Featuring Jess Ho, Denny and Ophelia
Co-produced by Jess Ho and Michelle Macklem,
Edited by Eleanor McDowall

Jess’s Dad has always told her that she have the palate of an old man because she loves bitter flavours, and old-school, traditional Cantoense dishes. As long as she can remember, Jess loved this herbal soup her dad made for her as a kid. Because her parents didn't know how to translate gow gei into English, she grew up calling it 'leaf soup’. Her Dad is extremely protective of the leaves used to make the soup, and his elusive tactics have left her searching for the truth behind the recipe.

You’ll hear from Jess Ho’s parents, Denny and Ophelia, and of course, Jess as they head out to the garden to try and find some answers. Jess translates her parents’ conversational Cantonese into English.

© Michelle Macklem 2024