On the Cover of the Rolling Stone– I mean — on the back pages of the Guardian Online.  I’m excited to be featured in the Guardian’s online Sustainable Blog of the Week this week.  I like the company I’m keeping and feel grateful for the new followers: Welcome!  And thank you to the editor Katherine Purvis for being really tolerant of my incapacities  sending photographs through e-mail, and for including me in her collection.

Katherine sent me a set of questions to answer, and this forms the basis of the interview.  She’s edited that, for reasons of space, but I like some of what I said and have included the longer version below if anyone is interested.

The unexpurgated interview:

What do you write about on your blog?

Kitchencounterculture speaks to a vision of domestic food life that is shaped by the wider politics of food yet hopefully reflects how we can reshape those politics. Because I am a keen experimenter, I write a lot about dishes and condiments I make with seasonal gluts, foraged plants, and foods that would otherwise be wasted. I am also a pretty constant fermenter, and quite evangelical about the benefits of fermentation, so I describe this practice too. Lately I’ve been trying to get my head around cooking based not so much on recipes as on a repertoire of techniques and ideas and a freedom to be creative, so we can really learn to use what we have efficiently– everyday. Delicious is a value as well to me! And I love cookery books. Yet mostly I find myself very drawn to explore environmental issues around food democracy, agriculture and climate, because these don’t appear nearly enough in the food blogging world. I try to be funny as well, and take readers on a journey of discovery with me. And to be a resource for great ideas, information and activism.

How did your blog get started/what inspired you to start writing about sustainability?
I found myself talking to myself, and wanting to keep track of my daily kitchen activities. Several years ago when my children were still really little I started a blog on parenting in the face of Climate Change-– trying to address the unsettled ambivalence in feeling the future to be a more dangerous one than futures past. The tone of that writing was so dire and dark, I didn’t enjoy myself. When I began to write about food, I felt at home in a subject in which my personal experience could be contextualised.

What measures have you taken to live sustainably?
I am married to an environmental campaigner, so for a long time now we’ve tried to be very conscious of our personal energy choices in terms of housing, transport, travel, food, consuming, all of it. We are far from perfect, but it’s a topic of constant awareness. When we lived in Oxford, my husband “eco-renovated” our house– 1930s, terraced– and reduced our energy bills by two-thirds based on pretty easy and ingenious design ideas. One of them was creating a space warmed by appliances that also had good ventilation. It became where we dried cloth nappies. One of the amazing lessons of this was that it’s easier to have “sustainable” behaviours when the world is set up for them– the architecture he’d imagined allowed the nappies to dry and the moisture to not contribute to damp. For example, it’s EASY to cycle in Holland. It’s EASY to take public transport when there are lots of good choices around it. It’s EASY to be vegetarian when there’s wonderful, meat-free options. This takes away the focus from the behaviour towards creating the world in which the behaviour is simply easier.
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How have your family and friends reacted to these measures/changes?
I think there’s some feelings of sadness around the fact that I don’t go “home,” to the US, as often as I might, because I try to fly as little as possible– I just can’t in good conscience support the growth of aviation which is a significant sector of carbon pollution. I feel deep sadness too about this! Otherwise I think family and friends are all working towards bringing our personal lives in line with our various ethical convictions. Nearly everyone I know prioritises these in ways that are true to their own hearts, values, and sense of politics.

What have you learned while writing your blog?
I have thought a lot about voice and wondered who exactly I’m talking to, so have decided to just feel like everyone is a friend. Maybe that limits my audience? I’m always learning that issues are complicated and there aren’t clear absolutes, almost never. And I’ve learned that it takes some extreme talent or devotion of time and caring to take good food photos– I thought I would enjoy that aspect more than I in fact do!

What inspires you to carry on writing your blog?
I am always thinking of new fun cooking projects and connections, I can’t stop! Plus, there’s never ending ways to creatively understand the intersections of food, ecology, climate, people, the whole shebang. Lately I’ve been moved to explore the concept of food as “a commons” rather than a commodity, and how this plays out in what actions we can take towards personal and system transformation. I am inspired and motivated to share and to respond in my own way to an evolving emergency really, but one in which most days are really rather… normal!

What one thing do you think we should all do to live more sustainably, and why?

That’s such a challenging question, and I’m not sure how to not question the concept “sustainable?” But to give it a go, maybe to take on board “Less is More?” and to proceed as close as we can to our consciences? Perhaps holding the future in our hearts in such a way that we focus on what we care about, and work with that– if it’s concern for children, or for God and community, if it’s ecology or refugees or a butterfly or a vision of cities for cyclists, work from where your heart is.  At some point I realised how much I care about food as a nexus of so much else. Soul-search what it is for you. Then see if you can align your immediate life with building the world that will make it easier to be “sustainable,” however you are defining that. Oppose the forces that undermine your vision, so your fight is based on love and conviction not despair or fear or anger. But be prepared to fight too, however it feels right to you. Or don’t. But work with who you are and what you love. And when you do what you do, figure out ways to magnify and amplify, to help with this cultural shift, and talk to people different from yourself.

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