IMG_20160522_183615.jpgMy son and husband write a film blog for fun, and sometimes my daughter and I join them watching the classics. Recently we all were swept away by Satyajit Ray’s trilogy, “The World of Apu.”  They are soon to post a joint review on their blog, and I felt called to join in.  This is what I wrote: not quite a proper film review, not quite a proper food blog.  Something in between, with a culinary record of how I wanted to celebrate the beauty of this stunning work.

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“Pather Panchali” is a transfixing film with a plot that unfolds around carefully revealed characters and personalities, and big themes like love, loss, kindness and pettiness , meanness and generosity, being young and growing old. The Ravi Shankar soundtrack gives constant goosebumps; the cinematography is both sweeping -exploring landscapes, monsoons, the rural industry of electricity and railroads – and intimate: an old woman’s skin, domestic architecture, facial expressions of joy, anxiety, and grief.  The acting never feels like acting, the plotlines never scripted, the observations never didactic.  It feels to me the most perfect film ever, not least for how I wept towards the end in a state of total lack of separation from the fact of watching a film: I was there, I was “her” in this scene, feeling a mother’s despair at the loss of a child, in this case Djurga, whom the film viewer has watched grow and come to love.

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Because the film observes life so carefully and directly, food culture of course becomes central, and I enjoyed this aspect very much.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Not the prettiest pictures; actually they are so unappealing to look at, I take a certain contrarian pleasure posting them on a food blog where there’s the expectation that food needs to be beautiful.  (The reality is ferments often lose a lot of their initial vivid colour.)

Even if visually not so lovely, fermented Snippled Beans are an easy and delicious side dish. Read the rest of this entry »

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 01.33.24.jpgIf you are interested in the culture, politics, ecology and economy of food in Palestine, may I recommend FoodJusticePalestine, a quite remarkable website curating diverse articles and voices from around the web on many aspects of eating and growing there.

Had I been following this site earlier, I might have been aware, for example, of the neoliberal trade context that makes Nutella a normal part of life in occupied territories, despite an initial dismay, elucidated for me by Aisha Mansour in this article. I’ve also come to question my own assumed unequivocal support of fairtrade products from Palestine, a movement that is well intentioned (and so much about solidarity) but needs to be examined in terms of issues of food sovereignty at the broadest levels.

“International fair-trade companies have also decreased Palestinian self-sufficiency. These companies offer local farmers a slightly higher price for their products than the price in the local market, but the real price of this practice is that high-quality local (baladi) produce is removed from the local market and sold to the global market at much higher prices. This has increased inequalities in Palestinian society, creating a minority of wealthy businesspeople, and leaving an entire population with low quality, imported food.”

There’s much more on this Tumblr site – articles about foodways, Permaculture, trade deals, land rights and more.  In fact it brings together so many aspects of how and why food is interesting to me.  So I wanted to share it on my blog.  Have a look and fall into a rabbit hole of fascination…  You don’t need to join Tumblr to view, but joining means you can follow people and ‘scapbook’ your own posts.

I’m so excited about this new book Radical Mycology, the literary embodiment of an inspiring website.

Here’s a fantastic and quite tantalising glimpse into the book from the great teachers at Milkwood Permaculture . I really appreciate all the photos of pages inside the book, especially the ones of the impressive Table of Contents.

Have a listen to Peter McCoy and get yourself inspired.  I certainly am.  I don’t know how to have the time to take on a major new interest, but if I find it, this will be it.

“Two years ago, a group of grandmothers occupied Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Lancashire. They gave out cake and talked to people passing by about the dangers of shale gas drilling. Inspired by what they did, we’re back at the same site. Follow our live blog and don’t forget to sign the petition!”  Emma and Sophie Thompson

Thompson sisters, go, go, go!  Thank you for putting yourselves out there, responding to the climate emergency!

(I love how the practice and popularity of baking has created great moments for activism and self-expression, hence the hashtag #politicakes (credit goes to my daughter).  Please if you see cakes like this, let me know so we can add it to Pinterest here.)

And on the theme of fracking… this is my all time favourite creative response:

My friend Charlie Spring is writing a brilliant and hilarious blog-travel-log about her time on a study fellowship in the US. “I’m going to spend the next two months in North America,” she writes, “meeting people who I hope can teach me lessons to bring home [to the UK]: about the entrenchment of food aid under austerity welfare conditions, about going beyond the food bank model, about participatory democracy and citizen involvement in food system decision-making and doing. About food justice, and food injustice.” Eagerly awaiting each new post, I heartily recommend you follow her writings. Here’s just one snippet that will lead you to more.

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I was in a bad, cynical-feeling place when I got to Rainbow Grocery in the swelter of the day, having seen new dimensions of the homelessness of San Francisco. I felt guilty for entering this cool place of herbs, tonics, plinky music and funky coop members stacking kale chips in polka-dot party dresses, knowing I could afford this food, navigate the wealth of choice on offer. Sort of. Self-service (lots of it) flummoxed me- how much would a handful of decoriated cardamom cost when a pound would cost $50? Gah. You could self serve honey, roasted hazelnut-chocolate butter, tofu, kimchi, vegan chocolate-coated pretzels, pasta, tea, herbs, a million types of granola, dried persimmon, olives. You hold your little compost able bag and open the chute with a knob and gravity sends a landslide of mung beans out over the sides and you try to pull up the sides and once…

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“How do making dumplings help people learn English?” Here’s a link to a great project in Manchester, Heart and Parcel. I wanted to RE-BLOG this practical piece about the methodology of teaching ESOL through cooking, and to share the website in general with its fantastic dumpling recipes as well as interesting articles, particularly this one I felt, on Policy, Pierogi and the Perceptions of Women.

“The dumplings and wrapped foods that we make during our sessions are a vehicle. We are not making dumplings as a means to an end, nor do we expect that all women can make, or immensely enjoy, making dumplings. We are making dumplings as a distraction; to create the process by which our participants can explore their minds, their talent, their potential, either through the task at hand (maybe we will get fantastic dumpling makers!) or through conversations had between those women, through information and knowledge being shared and transferred from one woman to another, from one community to another.”

Heart & Parcel

There are currently many women living in Britain who have a wealth of pre-existing skills and resources to offer, but do not have the required English language level to do so. These are the women that Heart & Parcel aims to support.

What is ESOL and why is it in trouble?

The government offers ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision which is free English classes for migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers who come to Britain and need help learning the language. Due to media sensationalist coverage on ‘migrants’ and a highly politicized discourse, the general public have been ill-informed about who comes to this country, for what reasons and the amount of provision or hand-outs they receive.  This misinformation perpetuates a negative view surrounding those who require these classes. A combination of all these factors lead to funding for ESOL being insecure and unstable (Hamilton & Hiller…

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A medieval garden – from British Library MS Royal 6 E IX f. 15v

The Healing Power of a Garden – A Medieval View.  Came across this article this morning and felt a surge of springtime joy, reading about Henry of Huntingdon’s Anglicanus Ortus, a Verse Herbal of the Twelfth Century.

“This is no ordinary herbal: the work is staged first as a discussion between a master and a student walking around a garden, inspecting the plants in their separate beds, and then as an awkward performance by the same master before Apollo and a critical audience, seated in a theatre at the garden’s centre. Beyond its didactic and performative aspects, the entire work is framed as a prayer to God’s generative capacity and the rational order of nature.” –http://pims.ca/pdf/st180.pdf 

Check out this link for enticing excerpts pertaining to oregano, strawberry, dill, horseradish, and more.  Am a bit sad it’s a $175 book — doesn’t it feel like historical cultural production like this should somehow exist in the commons, for all of us to learn from and enjoy? Maybe this is a book Google might buy and put up on the web…

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I’m pleased to be on the shortlist for a BOOM Award in the category of Best Food Blog.

Here’s the list!

We’ll find out the results on 11th May.  I’m more committed to writing about a wider social-cultural-political vision of food than what we think of as standard food blogging, though of course I am honoured to be recognised by the Soil Association because I admire so much of the work it does.

Organic as “lifestyle” might seem a choice of privilege or taste, but if you take a look at the range of issues encompassed in Soil Association campaigns, it’s clear that the dominance of chemical agriculture has critical, wide-ranging implications.

Some of their current campaigns: Read the rest of this entry »

AIRDROP AID TO SYRIA NOW.

IF WE CAN DROP BOMBS, WE CAN DROP BREAD.

Please sign and share this petition from the Syria Campaign.  It cannot hurt to sign; maybe it can help.

 

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