If you are also a reader of Magpie Eats, you know there's been lots of activity there this summer. I've spent nearly every day in the kitchen, making jam, preparing fruit for the freezer or the dehydrator, or slow cooking tomato sauce for the coming winter. I am regularly making yogurt, cheese, and kombucha and have even given roasting my own coffee beans a go. You may or may not be interested in the details of my kitchen life but what really interests me is how that part of my life seems to be gaining in importance.
I haven't done much else in recent months. There's been surprisingly little knitting and I don't think I've touched the sewing machine since the rickrack sundress back in late June. My garden pretty much runs itself now and was doing beautifully until the evil heat wave struck. My once-thriving tomatoes are just sulking now.
What I am doing is reading, lots of reading, and I thought I'd share a couple of titles with you. I just finished Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of my Stuff by Fred Pearce in which the author traces his stuff (food, clothing, electronics, and more) back to its origins which are always far from home. It's rarely a pretty picture which is exactly why I am grateful Pearce did the digging and shared his findings. From the gold mines of South Africa to the prawn fisheries in the Bay of Bengal, our need for cheap stuff is filled by exploited workers and decimated ecosystems. I am sure we have all had our suspicions, but Pearce rips the lid off a host of social, environmental, and economic disasters and encourages us to take a good hard look. This book was a huge eye-opener for me, but surprisingly not all gloom and doom which made it that much more powerful.
I first learned about Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front from Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen. I have tried to read other books on peak oil, the climate crisis, and economic meltdown but never finished. Usually I start out with the best of intentions and quickly end up putting the book aside and looking for something that will calm my racing heart and allow me to sleep. I have a pretty low threshold for confronting the coming disasters but Astyk's book, read in small bits, kept me reading and, more importantly, thinking. Somehow, even though she is unflinching in addressing the numerous enormous challenges ahead, she manages to present her information in a non-hysterical manner, making it possible for me to read and learn and not fling the book to the floor in a panic. That is no small thing, and I am grateful for her skill. For a taste of her writing, you can visit her blog.
I'll just add one more book, a work of fiction that sucked me in at page one and held me in its richly detailed world for days after I finished it. The Hungry Tide was my second Amitav Ghosh novel and it captivated me even more than the first. Ghosh describes the fascinating world of people who live by the tides in the Sundarbans. Politics, natural history, caste and identity, plus dolphins and tigers made this novel a page turner for me.