General · 14th January 2012
If you like to read about food almost as much as you like to eat it, or grow it, then I’d like to suggest a few books that are well worth sinking your teeth into.
Full Moon Feast, Food and the Hunger for Connection
Full Moon Feast, Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice is gentle, persuasive storytelling about the meaning of live, nutrient-dense food using the thirteen lunar cycles of the agrarian calendar. Prentice is a chef and food activist in the San Francisco Bay area who founded Wise Food Ways and co-founded Locavores.
Her impressive research draws on both indigenous and western food traditions. She makes use of it skillfully to spice up the book with flavorful factoids and folklore about our terribly important relationship with food. The Hunger Moon, the Corm Moon, The Sap and the Milk, it is no accident that they bear the name of the precious cycle of nourishment over which they shine. The book is a spiritual beating of the drum that joins in the communal celebration of the incomprehensible abundance of Mother Nature.
Where our Food Comes From:Retracing Nicolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Hunger
Gary Paul Nabhan
This is a perfect book for armchair ethno-botanists and scientific explorers who like to double dip. Nabhan, himself an accomplished scientist, guides the reader through two ambitious expeditions at once. They are both to the very same centers of bio-diversity, hot-spots on the planet where the ancient seeds from some of our most valued food crops originated. It’s just that the journeys are 100 years apart on the calendar of time, circa 1908 and circa 2008 (perfect for the armchair time –traveler, too).
In the early 1900’s Russian plant science Nicolay Vavilov began decades of field expeditions to places like the Pamir Highlands, the Magreb Dessert, and the Po Valley, often by mule packs . His self directed mission was to collect traditional knowledge and to catalogue the seeds of resilience from the world’s ancient, original cultivars of apples, wheat, grains, and leafy greens. His noble hope was that science could achieve the end of that most violent and ignoble of all enemies, world hunger. He had many allies in this goal.
Hunger back then was a moral scourge in a world of plenty, a pressing problem for those going hungry, just as it is today for the billion or so people on this Earth who have lost access to their food supply.
Using Vavilov’s extensive and meticulous field notes, Nabhan returns to some of these hot-spots, a modern land rover replacing the mule, with an eye to documenting what has transpired to the world’s crucial bread baskets since then. With a deft literary passion, Nahban renders these places breathtakingly beautiful, sacred, majestic, vulnerable, and politically charged.
Natural bio-diversity and local control of the food production seem to figure prominently as solutions in the war to end all hunger, according to both these expedition leaders.
Unfortunately, as the book painstakingly posits, hunger is more a political construct than anything else. Systemic hunger is a concept entirely foreign to Mother Nature. In order for the rot of hunger to take root in a healthy ecosystem, it has to be forcibly introduced from the outside. Thus Vavilov was not successful in his quest. As if to underscore this point with his very own life, Vavilov was apprehended by Stalin’s henchmen during one of his local expeditions and never seen or heard from again. It was later learned he spent the last 18 months of his life starving to death in prison, at what should have been the peak of his life and his career.
Not on the Label
Early in her career as a journalist, Gloria Steinem went undercover and got a job as a playboy bunny to expose the manner in which the porn industry turns the female body into a product for market consumption. In her book, Not on the Label, Felicity Lawrence goes undercover and gets a job on the chicken line at a meat processing factory to expose how chickens past their “best by” date are repackaged to extend their marketable lives beyond the legal limit. She hitches a ride on the produce trucks to explain how an apple that is grown on a farm just a few miles down the road from the retail supermarket chain that will sell it, actually travels thousands of miles to get there.
Lawrence is an investigative journalist with UK The Guardian. Over the course of three years she was part of an ongoing consumer affairs team investigating the corporate practices that bring food to market. This book is a result of that work.
Do you want to know how the profit motive took the wonder out of bread, even whole wheat, or the joy out of bananas?
You won’t find these stories on the label of the food you buy.
© Francesca Gesualdi, 2012
Thanks to all of you who attended our yogurt making workshop. There are a few more home made yogurt zones on Quadra now!!
We will be hosting several more workshops in the near future. If you want to be notified directly of our upcoming workshops, please email me at pantryfoodwisdom.ca.