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books: cooked

i picked up the latest book from michael pollan a few weeks ago and finally got around to reading it last week.
(well… technically i’m getting ahead of myself… i still have a few pages to go.  but anyways. )

i definitely count myself among the converted pollan devotees.  i love his books.  everything he writes makes me constantly put down the book and say to someone close to me, “did you know…”.
his books tend to take you on a fantastic journey of culinary and evolutionary discovery and delves deep into the plants themselves and our relationships with them.

this new book is, much like several of his others, divided into 4 sections; fire, water, air and earth.  each one tackles an ancient form of cooking and how it not only changed our lives in the past, but how it continues into today.

so far i’ve ready with earnest through tales of authentic barbeque in the deep south of america in the fire section… ancient one pot cooking techniques and water’s important role in transforming the food we eat… and into the wonder that is the modern loaf of bread and how we got to this point…

now i’m on the last section; earth.  which is, in all honesty, the area that i know the least about.  i know that the paleo school of thought is VERY huge on fermented foods, but i am still an inexperienced young grasshopper.

but so far, its definitely making me super interested in making my own sauerkraut and beers and other delightful things.

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learning: back to basics

about a month ago, i came across this book; the back to basics handbook.

it was at costco (ironic?) and when we flipped through it, we were instantly interested.

my husband has a dream of owning a farm.
to be honest, i find this dream slightly hilarious, because as much as i love him, he’s never farmed a day in his life and doesn’t really have a green thumb or a lot of patience.
but, his life aspirations definitely culminate with a plot of land away from society.

for me, its not so cut and dry.
part of me loves that idea and part of me knows i would hate my life if i wasn’t close to the city.
so, i picture more of a centrally located moderately sized house with land to grow stuff on.  and a lot of making my own food and endeavoring to cut out the grocery store.

so this book, i guess i you would call it life porn.

they cover EVERYTHING.  from finding a plot of land (checking for natural sources of water, the proper slopes for crops ect) to building your own house from wood found on the land… and then raising various types of livestock, growing crops, cold storage of crops, preserving ect.

this book is absolutely fascinating to me.
it literally chronicles the “need to knows” for a dying lifestyle.
this is true sustainability.

naturally the front half of the book, about land and farming and raising animals isn’t really applicable to me at this stage in my life…  but the second half of the book is all things that i could use today.
they call it “household skills and crafts”… its a mixture of some skills i know like canning and preserving, but also cheese & sausage making, preserving all kinds of food for long term storage without chemicals, making fermented foods…
and then basket weaving, candle making, tanning leather, natural dyes, soapmaking and more.

and what i love is that it really guides you from the start.  like, for natural dyes, there’s a chart of plants, pictures of the plants and a guide on where to find them growing so you can forage for them.
at no point in reading this, do you scratch your head and think “where the heck do i find X?” because this book has already shown you how to grow it or make it from something else.

i have a huge soft spot for this kind of thing.  clearly.
when i was a young girl, i was absolutely obsessed with laura ingalls wilder books.  i had them all memorized by age 7 and read and reread them voraciously trying to fathom this lifestyle that she described so vividly.
my mom was a little helpful on the matter because she was born and raised in saskatchewan with no running water.  so a lot of things could be explained by her.  but i’ve never forgotten the descriptions of the mill used to grind wheat to flour or churning butter and the soaking of the salt beef.  the things you just don’t see today.

this book made me nostalgic for my childhood visions of frontier life.
and while i’m still very firmly a city girl in many respects, i have an unabated interest in this simple country life where everyone worked their balls off just to keep alive.

maybe its just because i’m super stressed at work lately, and maybe its what happens as you get older… but i find myself dreaming of working hard.  not for a paycheque at an office… but for my household.  raising and growing my food, making my cheeses and soaps and whatever i could.  running away from society and being self sufficient.
these days, that seems like bliss.

the supermarket seems like a scary place to me.  full of poison masquerading as food.
stocked to the brim with faux-foods designed to deceive your body and re-write your natural rhythms.
sometimes i wander the aisles at the “heath food” store next to my office on my breaks.  its row after row of pre-packaged foods and supplements and substitutes… there’s little to nothing that my brain naturally recognizes as actually being healthy.  but yet, its what we accept as health food as a society.
to me, the farm market that sells only produce next door is the real health food store.

these are good reminders to myself.  if a lifestyle of ultimate sustainability is my goal, then it has to be carried out in daily life.  and i have much work to do.
it means that bag of cheesies or chocolate bar that i was craving needs to be forsaken.  and that hangover meal of macaroni & cheese out of the box needs an overhaul.
its a slow process… tough to break a lifetime of addiction… but i’m working on it.

travel: book reading

here’s a fun news flash… i’m a book nerd.  my friends, most of them, also book nerds. my husband, definite book nerd.

because of that, when we travel, there are extended conversations of what books are being brought and why.  there is also book trading, bargaining and for all intents & purpose, almost a psuedo-book club.

it’s good times.

in addition to being book lovers, myself & most of my friends are FAST readers.  and that’s no joke.  we devour books and race through them in a day or two max.  so when you’re on, say, a week long vacation, that’s at least 4 books that you have to bring.

i have a pretty solid reading regimen for my travels… i bring an old favourite (usually one of two that are my “travel books”) and i bring a few new ones.  then, i buy a magazine at the airport in each direction and sometimes another book, if something catches my eye. so basically by the time i get home i’m lugging around 3-4 books and a couple magazines.  every time.

my standby travel books are my two favourite books.  they’re both books that i love deeply, and while i could pick them at in any place, at any time and start reading, i have that ridiculous drive to finish it front to back whenever i see them.  book 1 is fear & laothing in las vegas by hunter s thompson and the second book is the witching hour by anne rice.  no lie, i have read one of these books (sometimes both) on every single vacation that i’ve been on in the last 10 years.
i’m on my 3rd copy of the witching hour and my 5th copy of fear & loathing.

i hard-core LOVE this book.  and funnily enough, i’ve come across a few friends lately that have never read it… so i’ve been lending it out.  and because i’m OCD about this book, every time i lend it, i have to reread it again because its out.  so right now i’m about 2/3 of the way through it and i’ll probably finish it on the plane.  and maybe start it again if i rip through my other reading, lol.  i never ever get sick of this one.

my “new” reading for this trip is two food books… the first is from anthony bourdain, and while it’s not “new”, it just arrived in my mailbox from amazon last week, so it’s new to me.

i think that the knowledge that anthony bourdain is fucking awesome pretty much goes without saying, so i’m stoked to read this.  also, i’ve been watching a LOT of No Reservations lately, so it’s kinda timely for me.

the other pick is from jeffrey steingarten, who my fellow food lovers might recognize from being the most frequent judge of Iron Chef America.

both books are about food, travel & humorous observations, so i think they’re perfect for my hawaii trip.

then, on the back up reel is my ipad… i didn’t get a chance to download as many books as i would have liked, but my time has been at a bit of a premium lately.  so i grabbed basically a bunch of books that i already own in hard copy and put the on my ipad, so if the mood strikes me to continue reading the witch series from anne rice, i can do that… or if i wanna jump to vampires, well, i can do that too.

having my ipad has made traveling infinitely more awesome.  it’s so freaking handy to basically have a hand-held computer… and really, in the usa especially, free wireless is everywhere, so it’s even better.

but the whole book thing has been especially great.  don’t get me wrong, the ipad will NEVER replace my books, but they sure do make travel reading easier and more accessible.  no longer do i have to lug around 5 books on my trip, now i can load up hundreds on my ipad and read whatever i want, whenever i want.  technology is magic.