Tuesday, June 26, 2007


On the way home from my (aborted attempt at an) honest day's labour yesterday I popped into Borders at Parramatta to find something to read. I normally prefer to shop at the small independent booksellers, but Parramatta is pretty short on those and I needed something for the ride home.

The upside of shopping at Borders is that they seem to be having some pretty agressive sales on some interesting new books these days. A week or so ago I had flicked through a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver in a bookshop in Newtown. I put it back down again though when I decided that as interesting at seemed I didn't want to pay the $29.95 paperback price at that time. So I was especially pleased to see that Borders had dropped the price by $10 to $19.95!

Does that make me sound cheap? Tight? I hope not, but with the rate I churn through books it can get to be an expensive habit when you buy lots of books around the $30 mark.

Anyhoo. I was really intrigued by the idea behind the book. Barbara and her family relocated to a small farm, and took this as an opportunity to try and spend a year only eating food that was seasonal, locally produced, or at least whose provinence they could vouch for. Basically eating the way recent generations ate, and much of this planet still does. What they couldn't produce themselves they would source from local growers.

Along the way Kingsolver examines how the industrialised food production system works, the phenomenal amount of resources expended and cost added in trucking out of season produce across the world, obesity and processed food, and how out of touch most consumers are with really fresh good produce. It's fascinating stuff, and just starting to read it has made me want to seek out local growers' markets and think more about the value of a really good in season tomato. Or apple. It's kind of sobering to think about just how old some of this stuff is by the time it arrives in the supermarket, how little the grower receives and how much of the value of the item is made up in petrol and freight.

It's an interesting read, full of the personal as well as the political. There is a website associated with the book, where you can read more about it and even print off some of the recipes that are in the book.

Food for thought. (Sorry, had to.)


Lara said...

Have you read "The Ethics of What We Eat" by Peter Singer and some other chap? Explores similar ideas, by juxtaposing three different diets, and examining the impact on a whole range of things, from fair employment practices to overfishing and water use.

The Other Andrew said...

No I haven't, but this topic is so interesting to me that I might have to add that to the reading list. Thanks for the heads up!

Mindy said...

I discovered that Nabisco biscuits are made in China the other day, so I don't buy them anymore.

Mikey (TLE) said...

On a related, though perhaps lighter take, I've recently been watching "French Leave" and "Return of the Chef" on DVD. Both centre around 2 michelin star chef, John Burton-Race. The first sees him uprooting his family from London to spend a year in rural France to "reconnect" with food. Like Kingslover, the family sources all their food from the local farms (or grows their own) and Burton-Race uses the time to wean his kids off junk food and onto real (and highly skilled) cooking. The second series show him moving to Devon and running a restaurant which does the same thing, sourcing all its produce from the surrounding farms etc.

One of the best aspects of both series is the sense of connectedness with the natural order and world you get from sourcing food and eating that way.

I make an effort to buy food fresh every couple of days, organic and local if possible. It costs me a bit more (for some perverse reason which must be stamped out) but I like the idea of actual dirt on my flat leaf parsley and zucchini (or courgette depending from where you are from).

Michael said...

I'll have to read this. This is just another example of how industrialization of our food production is costing us in both our internal and external environments. I love having healthy and handy produce at the market, but if it's devoid of nutrient value and costly to the environment in its production and transport? Hmmmm, not so much.

Some will argue that they've outgrown (forgotten?) their mission, but this was the idea behind the Whole Foods chain. Do you have them there? Here in rural Ohio, farmer's markets and even just roadside stands are plentiful, but the seasons can be short. I utilize the LOCAL when it's available, and you actually can't beat the cost or the quality.

It's the same (or worse) story with the MEAT industry. If you weren't already a vegetarian, you'd quickly turn if you peeked into a chicken house (said the man who had a plump white breast with chipotle sauce last night).

Ur-spo said...

that does sound like good reading
thank you for the recommendation.

nash said...

Sounds like the discovery of the week to me. I've just added this title to the top of my to-read list. Thanks for the tip!

thombeau said...

I don't read a lot of novels, but Barbara Kingsolver wrote one of my favorite ones---The Poisonwood Bible. Highly recommended!

The Other Andrew said...

Hey, you're welcome guys! I'm really enjoying it so far... and I've made a date to go to the next Pyrmont growers' market!

Thom, I had heard of that novel but never read it. I'll seek it out.