Ten and one Slow reading tips for the new year

23 Dec 2022

We want to start the New Year with a rich list of good…sustainable resolutions. These include some good reading to relax, learn and reflect on the world we want, together. Slow Food’s Communication Office suggests a few titles…. start flipping through!

1. The Seed Detective by Chelsea Green

 width=Adam Alexander

Did you ever wonder how peas, kale, asparagus, beans, squash, and corn have ended up on our plates? Well, so did the author: he is The Seed Detective. His passion for vegetables was ignited when he tasted an unusual sweet pepper with a fiery heart while on a filmmaking project in Ukraine. Smitten by its flavor, Adam began to seek out local growers of endangered heritage and heirloom varieties in a mission to bring home seeds to grow, share, and return so that he could enjoy their delicious taste—and save them from being lost forever. In the book, the author shares his own stories of seed hunting, with the origin stories behind many of our everyday food heroes. Taking us on a journey that began when we left the life of the hunter-gatherer to become farmers, he tells tales of globalization, political intrigue, colonization, and serendipity—describing how these vegetables and their travels have become embedded in our food cultures.

2. Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A Food Science Nutrition History Book (2021)

 width=Mark Bittman

The story of humankind is usually told as one of technological innovation and economic influence—of arrowheads and atomic bombs, settlers and stock markets. But behind it all, there is an even more fundamental driver: Food. In this book, the author offers a panoramic view of how the frenzy for food has driven human history to some of its most catastrophic moments, from slavery and colonialism to famine and genocide—and to our current moment, wherein Big Food exacerbates climate change, plunders our planet, and sickens its people. Even still, Bittman refuses to concede that the battle is lost, pointing to activists, workers, and governments around the world who are choosing well-being over corporate greed and gluttony, and fighting to free society from Big Food’s grip. Sweeping, impassioned, and ultimately full of hope, Animal, Vegetable, Junk reveals not only how food has shaped our past, but also how we can transform it to reclaim our future.

 

3. Food Instagram: Identity, Influence, and Negotiation

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Emily J.H. Contois & Zenia Kish

The book explores the massively popular social media platform as a space for self-identification, influence, transformation, and resistance. Artists and journalists join a wide range of scholars to look at food’s connection to Instagram from vantage points. What emerges is a portrait of an arena where people do more than build identities and influence. Users negotiate cultural, social, and economic practices in a place that, for all its democratic potential, reinforces entrenched dynamics of power. Interdisciplinary in approach and transnational in scope, Food Instagram offers general readers and experts alike new perspectives on an important social media space and its impact on a fundamental area of our lives.

4. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

 width=David Graeber and David Wengrow

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike – either free and equal, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a reaction to indigenous critiques of European society, and why they are wrong. In doing so, they overturn our view of human history, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery and civilization itself. Drawing on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we begin to see what’s really there. The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision and faith in the power of direct action.

5. Welsh Food Stories

 width=Carolyne Graves

Welsh Food Stories explores more than two thousand years of history to discover the rich but forgotten heritage of Welsh foods – from oysters to cider, salted butter to salt-marsh lamb. Despite centuries of industry, ancient traditions have survived in pockets across the country among farmers, bakers, fisherfolk, brewers and growers who are taking Welsh food back to its roots, and trailblazing truly sustainable foods as they do so. In this important book, author Carwyn Graves travels Wales to uncover the country’s traditional foods and meet the people making them today. There are the owners of a local Carmarthenshire chip shop who never forget a customer, the couple behind Anglesey’s world-renowned salt company Halen Môn, and everyone else in between – all of them have unique and compelling stories to tell about how they contribute to the past, present and future of Welsh food. This is an evocative and insightful exploration of an often-overlooked national cuisine, shining a spotlight on the importance – environmentally and socially – of keeping local food production alive.

6. Otherlands: A World in the Making

 width=Thomas Halliday

A fascinating journey through Earth’s history, from the very start of evolution, while capturing the almost unthinkable ways geography has shifted and changed over time. It makes you think not only about the past differently, but certainly also about the future. In Otherlands, the multi-talented palaeontologist Thomas Halliday gives us a breath-taking up-close encounter with worlds that are normally unimaginably distant. Journeying backwards in time from the most recent Ice Age to the dawn of complex life itself, and across all seven continents, Halliday immerses us in sixteen lost ecosystems, each one rendered with a novelist’s eye for detail and drama. Every description – whether the colour of a beetle’s shell, the shambling rhythm of pterosaurs in flight or the lingering smell of sulphur in the air – is grounded in fact. To read Otherlands is to time travel, to see the last 550 million years not as an endless expanse of unfathomable time, but as a series of worlds, simultaneously fantastical and familiar.

 

7. The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After

 width=Corey Mintz

Beneath the growth of the restaurant business, in the years before the pandemic, lurked serious problems. Many of the best restaurants in the world employed unpaid cooks. Meal delivery apps were putting restaurants out of business. And all that dining out meant dramatically less healthy diets. The industry may have been booming, but it also desperately needed to change. Then, along came COVID-19. From the farm to the street-side patio, from the sweaty kitchen to the swarm of delivery vehicles buzzing about our cities, everything about the restaurant business is changing, for better or worse. The Next Supper tells this story and offers clear and essential advice for what and how to eat to ensure the well-being of cooks and waitstaff, not to mention our bodies and the environment. The Next Supper reminds us that breaking bread is an essential human activity and charts a path to preserving the joy of eating out in a turbulent era.

 

8. Butter. A celebration

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Olivia Potts

A joyous immersion in all things butter, revelling in its alchemical power to transform almost any dish, from good to transcendent. Award-winning food writer Olivia Potts takes us on a grand tour of butter and its many varied applications, from old school chicken Kiev to mille-feuille, from oysters Rockefeller to saffron and yoghurt tahdig. This is a book to be savoured for its wonderful writing, as well as for its irresistible recipes and expert introduction to patisserie, too.

 

9. Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

 width=David Quammen

The book tells a story of the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic—its origin, its evolution, its fierce journey through the human population. That virus is known as SARS-CoV-2. But it is also about people, not just about a virus. Main human characters are scientists, around the world, who have studied the virus, in a breathless effort to understand where it has come from, where it is going, and how we might cope with it to minimize misery and death. The book is a narrative of science in action, not a diatribe. It attempts to illuminate, among other things, the reality that science is a human process—a set of methods and principles and goals, not a body of facts—that moves by provisional steps toward clearer understanding of the physical world, including viral ecology and evolution.

 

10. Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook

 width=Melissa Thompson

A cookbook that charts the history of the people, influences and ingredients that uniquely united to create the wonderful patchwork cuisine that is Jamaican food today. There are recipes for the classics, like saltfish fritters, curry goat and patties, as well as Melissa’s own twists and family favourites. The writer is an award-winning and cook who started a supper club in her front room in 2014. In 2015 she left journalism to pursue her love of cooking, with the supper club growing into a sell-out pop out across locations in London. As a food writer, she has penned powerful articles on the British food industry that became focal points for important discussions around identity, diversity and inclusivity. She won the Guild of Food Writers’ Food Writing Award in 2021. She has spoken on issues of representation at talks, including regularly chairing panel discussions for the British Library’s food season. She works as an ambassador for Weber and writes BBQ recipes for magazines, food brands and newspapers. She is a columnist for BBC Good Food magazine and has written articles and recipes for The Guardian, Stylist, Vittles, Waitrose Weekend and Waitrose Magazine.

And finally, if you want to read an interesting Slow Food Board entry, don’t miss the latest book by Richard McCarthy. He is the co-founder of the Crescent City Farmers Market and its parent organization, Market Umbrella.

11. Kuni: A Japanese Vision and Practice for Urban-Rural Reconnection

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Tsuyoshi Sekihara  (Author), Richard McCarthy (Author), Kathleen Finlay (Foreword)

This book offers a unique model for the revitalization of rural and deindustrialized lands and communities–and shares lessons in citizen-led regeneration for all of us, regardless of where we live. This book gives a compelling vision of regenerative relationships that can take root in the United States–and anywhere. With spare and beautiful prose and useful principles for reviving rural places, this book addresses our longing for a hopeful revolution of everyday life.

 

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