Feeding my face and feeding my brain are two of my favourite past-times. Here’s some of the food books & food podcasts I’m currently enjoying.
I’m a greedy girl, but not only with food. I love to read and, if I had my way, I’d spend most days lolling on the sofa with cake in one hand and a book in the other. While the cake aspect of that scenario would soon have pretty disastrous results, there’s nothing at all wrong with stuffing as much information into your brain as possible. When I can’t read I also like to listen to podcasts – especially in the car when driving up and down the hill. And they have the added advantage of being free! In the spirit of sharing the joy and the knowledge, I though I’d share some of my favourite, recently read food books and food podcasts with you.
I’m always keen to find out where our food has come from, so US historian Mark Essig’s book “Lesser Beasts”, about the history of pigs was bound to catch my eye. Pigs actively sought us out, have lived in close proximity to people for millennia and are happily devoured by a large proportion of us, while at the same time being the subject of some pretty pejorative epithets and, lately, some simply ghastly methods of production. Essig’s book traces the history of this tasty beast and explains the importance of it’s place in the story of our civilisation, from the domestic, but doomed, household pet to the great swine drives in the US (true story) – fascinating stuff for a foodie.
In the same vein, but not such a recent read, is “Cattle – An Informal social History”. I can’t even remember where I first saw this slightly obscure volume, but it is another book about where our food comes from that I thoroughly enjoyed. (My kids roll their eyes when they see me reading these things, but I know I’m preaching to the choir with you, dear reader.) Again, cattle have lived side by side with us for thousands of years and the ownership of cattle herds was one of the criteria which led to the development of social orders, the growth of communities and the resulting systems of social rules. This book looks at the role of beef in historical food taint scandals, the story of cows in medicine (smallpox), eugenics and the link between women and cattle. Again, much food for thought.
Food security is a huge contemporary issue, but only for anyone who eats, and there is no shortage of books around about the issues. One of the guests at Adelaide’s Writers Week this year was Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. Barber looks beyond the ‘farm-to-table’ movement and explores the solution of an integrated system of vegetable, cereal, and livestock production by looking at some traditional food production methods internationally as well as locally in the US. He meets some inspirational and impassioned producers whose work ranges from sustainable aquaculture techniques to grain seed developers who are working directly with millers. The Wall Street Journal called The Third Plate “a lively mix of food history, environmental philosophy and restaurant lore… an important and exciting addition to the sustainability discussion.”
Thank heavens for the smart phone for, when reading is not a practical option, they give me access to a wide range of podcasts to help keep my synapses firing. There’s any number of food based podcasts, from recipes to rural matters, just take your pick.
I’ve long been a fan of The Splendid Table for it’s ability to span food in all it’s glory, looking at cuisine and culinary culture in the US and around the world. Radio Cherry Bombe is brought to you by the creators of the the magazine that celebrates women and food, Cherry Bombe, and at 15 minutes per podcast is just long enough to listen to while I do the dishes. The BBC’s Food Program also has free podcasts of their shows investigating ‘every aspect of the food we eat’, Food is the New Rock combines food and music and Eat Your Words covers food literature. So go ahead, knock yourselves out.