Oh my god, you guys, I have to tell you about this awesome place I discovered. They let you pick out books to borrow, as many as you want, FOR FREE. No kidding. I mean, assuming you return them on time or miniscule charges will accrue. It’s called a “public library” and there’s one pretty much everywhere. There are free slow computers with even slower Internet access, too. Why haven’t we heard anything about these “public libraries” before?
Now that we’ve cancelled our Netflix account, discontinued our magazine subscriptions, and slashed every area of our budget besides mortgage, utilities, and food, I’m starting to explore all of the areas of the public library, not just the book section. Like the public restrooms. Just kidding, but did you know that you can rent DVDs? It’s true! Cookbooks? Of course. Magazines. Well, you can at least flip through them on-site and write out your freelance ideas onto note cards that will later be formulated into query letters that will be systematically rejected by every one of those publications because everyone has cancelled their magazine subscriptions. Apparently, I’m shooting myself in the foot with this whole library thing, but that’s okay because the building has these large, low buttons that, if you aim your cane just right, activate these automatic doors that open right in front of you. AMAZING!
Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. First, I read all of the breast cancer memoirs that have been published, both to help me sort out some of this emotional baggage that’s been packed away for six months, and also to see if all of the cancer-related writing that I diverted away from this blog and into a folder in the dank basement recesses of my hard drive could be turned into anything useful. Maybe something that might help somebody else. But no, according to my formal queries. Apparently, cancer’s not funny. Really? It’s not? Thanks for telling me. Also, it’s overpublished. Call us back when you have a more obscure, deadlier disease. Okay. I’ll keep my fingers crossed! Also, nobody reads essays anymore. Are you sure about that? Short-form writing is dead. (cough) Twitter.
But that’s okay. I didn’t want to write about cancer anyway. Cancer doesn’t deserve it. So I’m back to reading food books, and, my oh my, do I love them. Here are some of my favorites:
- Cod by Mark Kurlansky. Doesn’t this sound like the most boring read ever? About a fish. Well, it’s not. The history and plight of the cod are fascinating and still very important today. If only my high school social studies teachers were able to convey history so enjoyably. Kurlansky also wrote Salt about the humble mineral that changed the world.
- Farm City by Novella Carpenter. A UC Berkeley grad moves to Oakland and starts a small urban farm amid the gangs and crackhouses. First it’s just vegetables, but soon she’s raising poultry, bees, rabbits, and pigs. From dumpster-diving for pig chow to navigating the transition from life to their inevitable death, her writing is full of dry humor and a passionate love of food.
- A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. Written by the co-chef of Chez Panisse, this cookbook is full of relatively simple, seasonal menu ideas that will put your farm vegetables to good use. The photography is absolutely gorgeous and makes you yearn for in-season cherry tomato crostini with ricotta and Vietnamese cucumbers. The Preschooler was fascinated by this book and made me help him read the recipe names over and over and over again. I didn’t mind a bit.
- The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller. Possibly my favorite so far (though I haven’t finished it), this book examines how certain indigenous diets evolved, from Mexico to Cameroon, and how they relate to low incidences of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease in those same populations. The idea is to examine how some of these concepts can be applied to our diet today to help counteract the negative impacts of a modern, industrialized diet. Fascinating stuff, I tell you. Very interesting psychological insights as well. There are a couple of copies available at the Lexington and Medfield libraries, if you’re interested (you can also request that a copy be sent to your own branch if you’re part of the Minuteman Library Network).
So, what else have you guys been reading lately?