Of all the life changes that having a baby brings on, perhaps the most pivotal is that it makes you examine what would happen to this new little being if you were suddenly gone. Our own mortality is abruptly mirrored back to us with the entrance of offspring, so some of us sign up for life insurance, talk about creating trust accounts, or set up legal documents and wills. I think that to truly take care of our children and create a stronger sense of security, separate from the paperwork and bureaucracy, parents need to take care of themselves first. And there is no better time like the fresh spring season to start. Luckily, we have Rebecca Katz’s newest book, The Longevity Kitchen , to guide us. Read more
W.H. Auden once said of legendary food writer MFK Fisher “I do not know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose.”
This is how I feel about Elissa Altman.
I am far from the first to say so. Altman was once described as “The illegitimate love child of David Sedaris and MFK Fisher,” which is also quite fitting, since she approaches her craft the way she does her life, with humor and love, and not without some occasional sarcasm.
She wields a sharp wit and an even sharper eye for detail in her new memoir, Poor Man’s Feast – A Love Story of Comfort, Desire, and the Art of Simple Cooking (Chronicle, 2013). Read more
They’ll tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case perhaps you should make an exception. In A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, April Bloomfield delivers exactly what the book’s cover implies – a straightforward approach to food from a working class Birmingham girl who found her niche.
As a child in England, Bloomfield wanted to be a Policewoman, but circumstances conspired as they so often do and she followed her sister into cooking school. Unlike her sister, though, Bloomfield found her way into the profession and on to New York, where her no-nonsense take on real food has won her accolades piled upon accolades. Read more
It was an overcast but hot and humid Sunday July afternoon when 50 volunteers arrived to clear a sizable lot of land at Phoenix Press in New Haven, Connecticut, underneath their wind turbine, that is soon to become New Haven Farms’ fifth farm site.
As a founding member of New Haven Farms, it is exciting to see our urban farm sites sprout up around the edges of Fair Haven, an historic area of New Haven and one that has been home to immigrant populations for over 100 years. The mission of New Haven Farms is to promote health and community development through urban agriculture and our goal is to establish and cultivate year-round urban farms that produce nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, in collaboration with community members who are both within 200 percent of the federal poverty level and suffering from diabetes, pre-diabetes, or have at least two risk factors for diabetes. The organization is now partnering with the Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC) to rigorously build farms in the lowest income neighborhoods of New Haven, and investigate the impact of increased exposure and consumption of fresh, local nutrient-dense foods on this underserved community’s health. Its CSA program began the first week of July–called the New Haven Farms Fresh Produce Prescription Program.
Looking at the barren, rocky site at Phoenix Press gave me a rush. It may look desolate now but I can visualize a farm here, and I can imagine all the green and luscious, nutritious produce that will rise forth out of this lot within a year’s time [with the help of a lot of compost!] So when the afternoon was over and the volunteers got back on their bus, I returned home and immediately opened Sarah Rich’s beautiful book, Urban Farms and allowed myself to be inspired and imagine what this new farm site can become. This book chronicles the urban agriculture movement through gorgeous photography and thoughtful essays that would inspire any good urbanite to pick up a shovel and find a nearby community garden. Read more
When I buy a cookbook, I am always drawn to the pictures. When I read a non-fiction book, I want a good story. American Grown, by First Lady Michelle Obama, is both–it’s an interesting hybrid of a gardening, cooking and history book, chronicling the story of the White House Garden, the importance of growing and eating fresh food. Read more
Perhaps the Fall came not in the shape of an apple, but in the form of a seed. The Fruit of Knowledge was actually a grain. When we started to cultivate the land for wheat, corn and rice, we severed our original connection to nature, and from that first act of taking ownership of the soil other ecological evils eventually sprouted. The serpent’s temptation arrived as a plow, a digging stick.
This reconfiguration of the end of Eden parable comes courtesy of Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Jackson has dedicated his life to solving what he calls “the 10,000-year-old problem of agriculture.” As readers of this website know, tilling the soil year after year comes with serious risks—release of CO2 into the atmosphere, erosion, declining fertility and, eventually, poor crop yields. Jackson has sought to address the conundrum of agriculture (today’s harvests threaten tomorrow’s) by developing perennial grains. Other researchers, including those committed to industrial agriculture, have focused on low-till and no-till methods that require little soil disturbance while still relying on annual crops. Either way, the goal is the same: To feed ourselves without cutting into the epidermis of the earth.
I was well versed in these questions of soil conservation by the time I read Masanobu Fukuoka’s classic, The One Straw Revolution, and the book hit me with the force of revelation. Read more
There are things you just don’t think about before you have kids. I am currently in the transition between a childless lifestyle and preparation for motherhood, being over 7 months pregnant with my first child. I am realizing that things are about to change, big time. My brain space is now filled not only with typical work obligations, meeting dates, business decisions, and homeowner responsibilities, but also with questions about how this little one-to-be is going to fit into the picture–how my life is going to become our life.
Of course, one of the biggest baby preparation questions is, how will we all fit? Not only are our lives about to change, but our physical space is too. I guess if you have a rambling home with multiple bedrooms, this issue isn’t as important. But we happen to reside in a tiny 700 square foot space, 100 of those as a separate bedroom that is detached from the main living room, kitchen, and bathroom.
But we do have two acres of wild and blackberry-tangled land, and the baby part of my brain is wondering how I am going to integrate our new child into this garden setting. How will we balance maintaining safety to our lovely rows of crops while ensuring that this kid gets maximum exploratory joy and pleasure from the space? And will we even have the energy to keep the garden going when we are dead tired from feeding, and changing, and adapting to becoming three?
Luckily, there is a new book about how to educate children through the lens of a garden, no matter what size, capacity, or setting. It’s aptly called “The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Outside, Dirty and Having Fun.” The authors, Whitney Cohen and John Fisher, are both parents of young kids and have worked as teachers and garden education directors for quite awhile. Much of that time was spent at Life Lab, a non-profit organization based in Santa Cruz, California which was founded in 1979 to teach people to care for themselves, each other, and the world, through farm and garden-based programs. Read more
We have our pantheon of deities in the Food Movement–the people and organizations who have had the most impact on our culinary landscape. We have discernible cuisines in this country, certainly more so than a century ago, thanks to James Beard, Julia Child, and Alice Waters. Carlo Petrini and Slow Food have helped us understand that food and pleasure must be connected to awareness and responsibility. Eric Schlosser showed us the dangers of our “fast food nation” and Michael Pollan illuminated “the omnivore’s dilemma.”
All these and very many more have helped us to start remaking the food system writ large, and while there remains much to do, perhaps none in this Hall of Heroes has had more direct, hands-on, person-to-person impact on the food decisions of individual people than Will Allen. His new book, The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities, tells the story of how a sharecropper’s son–once a professional basketball player and the first African American to play the game for the University of Miami Hurricanes–found his way back to the land in Wisconsin. Once there, he shaped–and in a very real way–saved the lives of a generation of Milwaukee’s youth. Read more