Three Resources to Get You Excited About Food Again

breadCan you see the exhaustion in my eyes? You know what, don’t answer that

Note: I am not being compensated for any of these reviews. LOLOLOL, as if someone would pay me for something. I just wanted to share a few things I enjoyed. Amazon links are affiliate links, though.

I’ve been passionate about food production my whole adult life. I love growing it, shopping for it, and preparing it. (Obviously I love eating it, too; but honestly I derive just as much pleasure from squatting in the soil and filling a bowl with fragrant home-grown strawberries as I do the actual eating.)

But like any passion, it ebbs and flows with the passing of time. The last four years have not been very conducive to nurturing my love for food production (or anything else, for that matter) as I’ve had to pour all my energy into parenting a disabled child. It’s been hard. Getting food onto the table for my family these days often feels like an insurmountable burden on my already-bowed back. I’ve found myself reaching more and more for convenience foods and takeout just to keep everyone alive.

I recently decided I needed to nurture my lost enthusiasm for food production by revisiting some of the resources that got me excited about it in the first place. After all, seed-starting season is just around the corner, and last summer we built some raised beds in our sunny front yard with the hope that maybe this year we’ll be able to reap a harvest. (All past attempts to grow anything in our shady back yard have been deeply disappointing.) And along the way I happened to stumble upon a few new ones.

If you could use a boost of energy when it comes to feeding your loved ones, consider checking out of one these resources.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

book

I first read this book when Lydia was a baby and it was a life-changer. Kingsolver, who is a brilliant novelist, writes about her family’s experience devoting one year to eating locally. For twelve months, they dedicate themselves to eating only what they can grow themselves or what they can buy from local farmers within their community. While she’s telling the story she teaches us the basic principles of gardening and poultry farming (They raise chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat). The book is filled with gorgeous descriptions of her garden produce that will make you want to run outside and till up the earth. It also contains reflections on the current (completely unsustainable) state of food production and consumption in the United States. It is both personal and informative, and will get you thinking about where your food comes from.

(I originally read the library’s copy of this book many years ago; this time around I listened to it as an audiobook. I then decided it was important enough to own, so I also bought a hard copy to foist upon friends.)

Cooked with Michael Pollan (Netflix).

This Netflix documentary series is based on the book of the same name (which I haven’t read, because that would require two hands that aren’t filled with a screaming child twenty hours a day). It’s divided into four parts, each focusing on one of the four elements — fire, water, air, and earth. As we learn about these four elements we also travel through human history: how we learned to roast meat over fire; how we learned to cook vegetation in pots; how we learned to infuse air into milled grains to create bread; and how we learned to ferment food (especially milk) with microbes before we even knew what they were. So it’s a lesson in anthropology as well as food science, history, geography, and more. Pollan also explores how the mechanization and commercialization of food production by corporations has influenced the ways we eat all around the globe today.

And along the way, you might find yourself developing a deep desire to reconnect with your food. (My husband stayed up and watched the Air episode with me one night and now he wants to learn to master sourdough). And did I mention it’s gorgeously produced? The visuals are absolutely stunning.

This quote from his book really stood out to me: “Is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienating, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for the people you love?” WOW. I love how affirming that is to the home cook.

(Caveat: the first episode on fire has a large emphasis on meat, and therefore on animal killing. If that kind of thing upsets you, you might want to enter with care. There are some pretty graphic scenes right in the beginning of some Indigenous Australian women bashing iguanas to death to roast whole in a bed of hot coals. You also see halved pigs get barbecued over a huge fire.)

Salt Fat Acid Heat with Samin Nosrat (Netflix).

This is another book-turned-Netflix-documentary, a format which is perfect for the parent of never-sleeping children. I watched all four episodes in the dead of night with a kid on my lap. It will make you want to get into the kitchen just for the joy and deliciousness of it.

Like Cooked, it’s divided into four parts, which Nosrat claims are the four building-blocks of flavour. She’s less cerebral than Pollan, and dives into cookery head-first (she’s a chef by trade). She exudes energy and delight for food.

The episode on fat takes her to Italy, where she looks at olive oil, pork fat, and Parmesan cheese. The episode on salt takes her to Japan where she explores sea salt and soy sauce. The episode on acid takes her to Mexico where citrus fruits are a staple in making delicious food. And the episode on heat has her in her home city of Berkeley where she cooks with her mom. The whole series is fun and exuberant, but the trip to Italy was my favourite.

PS I love her casual approach to cooking, her willingness to try new and strange things, and the way she gets her hands right into everything she cooks. She’s a delightful guide.

That’s it for now! Do you have any hands-free resources to recommend to continue fuelling my passion for food?

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Comments

  1. Imortelle says:

    Dear Kathleen,

    I’ve been reading your blog

  2. Imortelle says:

    for three years and I admire your writting style.
    I accidentally stumbbled upon it when googling noo poo shampoo. Excuse me for my English, I am from a small European country. What I wanted to ask you… Have you considerd going LCHF or KETO diet? Please watch the Magic Pill on Netflix. I can see you love making bread but please consider the fact that those carbs are probally bad…

  3. I love those two Netflix series! Ugly Delicious and Chef’s Table are also nourishing (especially Chef’s Table). The other hands-free food things I like are A Way to Garden, The Sporkful and Splendid Table podcasts. The interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer on A Way to Garden was especially lovely and it turned me on to her book Braiding Sweetgrass (which has an audio version).

    I’m sending sleepy vibes to your sleepless one, and hoping you have friends nearby who can lighten your load. Hugs <3

    • Thanks, Jen! I hadn’t even thought about podcasts, so thanks for the recommendation! I will add them to my list for the coldest winter days! And I could use a few things to add to my Netflix queue.

  4. PepperReed says:

    Braiding Sweetgrass! Such a great book; I’m reading it right now. As a Plant Biologist by training, I really love the connection between nature, bio/anthro botany, herbalism/plant medicine and sustainable agriculture. I highly recommend!

  5. Thanks for these resources! The Best British Baking Show (also on Netflix) is a joy to watch and has definitely inspired me to start baking again. I usually don’t like cooking competitions but the competition in this series is not at all cutthroat and I’ve learned a lot about proper technique from watching it.

  6. Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve been wanting to read “Animal Vegetable Miracle” for a while but just hadn’t gotten around to it. I’ll definitely check out the Netflix series, too! My husband loves the technical side of cooking and I love history/anthropology so the Michael Pollan show should be right up our alley.

    • I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

      • Lisa Strader says:

        We just watched the first two episodes of “Cooked” and LOVED it! My extended family is from eastern North Carolina, and so the east-NC-style barbecue part of the episode really made me nostalgic for the family reunions when my dad’s cousins Bernie and Buddy would roast and “pick” the pig. It was really cool for me to see the connection to this culinary history that I had always taken for granted.
        Anyway, thanks again for the recommendation!

  7. Your sourdough bread looks SO delicious! Bon appetit!

  8. Thanks for sharing the 3 resources to get excited about food again. I have read full article.
    Judith Fertig recently posted..Lump Charcoal VS Briquettes – What is the best charcoal for smoking?My Profile

  9. Thanks for the list, I’ve been looking for interesting things to watch and both Netflix series look very promising. BTW, is Salt Fat Acid Heat based on a book? I somehow seem to remember a book by the same name although very vaguely.
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  10. I watched one of your recommendations ‘Cooked with Michael Pollan ‘ and I loved it. Great Share!
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