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Issue 251
November/December 2008
Feasting & Fasting: Connecting the Plate and the Planet

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Review

Books in Brief
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Cover: Oranges, Seville, Spain Photograph: Chris Caldicott/Axiom

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Books in Brief

GREEN MAKES WHITE

Afra Kingdon

Earth Nurse Press, 2007, ISBN 9780955747908

THIS IS A magical ecological tale for children; one that thankfully escapes both clichés and condescension. A moving story is sung out in rich, rhythmic language. A story about Inuit twins born into a colourful icy world who discover one day that “the polar bears were sneezing, the seals had caught an itchy rash … and their white-white world was melting.” The children set out on an adventure to find the colour green – the only one missing in their cold white world. Their adventure involves the Fish Futura-Futura, a great “flipping and flapping, gills gaping, tail slapping” beast. A huge fish symbolising our Earth.

This is a rare children’s book: one as strong in words as in pictures. The rolling language is a delight to read, and the vibrant, original illustrations draw you deep down into a sensuous story. So I like it – but do children? Well, it spun its magic on my two children (seven and five). The fidgets and squirming ceased, and their breathing became quiet. There was absolute silence. That’s how I know it’s a great book. SPK

BAKING BREAD WITH CHILDREN

Warren Lee Cohen

Hawthorn Press, 2008, ISBN 9781903458600

TO DESCRIBE THIS book, you need to meet its author. Warren Lee Cohen started his life making giant life-size bread sculptures, and later developed his ‘bread art’ into a way of teaching children. This ‘teaching’ extended beyond basic baking, into telling bread stories, singing bread songs, growing wheat, harvesting and threshing, and finally designing and building bread ovens. So no wonder this book is a deeply layered delight!

There are recipes of course – a tempting and uncomplicated range of ‘fun breads’ and ‘festive breads’ which, although simple, do not dumb down or speed up the bread-making process just because children are involved. Each recipe has a background – for instance you learn why bagels have holes, and about the Swedish festival of light associated with Santa Lucia buns.

This book is engaging on every level. There’s a section dedicated to bread folk-tales, fables and legends from Europe, Russia, India and beyond – as well as bread songs, poems and blessings (complete with sheet music). What I liked particularly is the way in which making bread is presented as an all-round pleasure for children – a sensory, physical, imaginative, healthy and rhythmic process, which is alive with culture. SPK

WHAT ABOUT CHINA?

Alastair Sawday and Lyn Hemming

Alastair Sawday Publishing, 2008, ISBN 9781906136116

THIS NEATLY WRITTEN compilation of essays argues that the Western consumerist way of life is a one-way process of taking resources and throwing them away as waste in a never-ending process that will eventually swamp us until there is no ‘away’ to throw it.

The race to feed cars, rather than people, from crops is exacerbating hunger and destroying key ecosystems and has led, for the first time in recorded history, to the world’s demand for grain outstripping supply.

However, politicians ignore science and point to the growing new world economies such as China as an excuse for not changing the status quo. In each essay the authors argue that change must come from us and ask, “Must we wait for a crisis to engender public outcry and frighten the Government into action?”

This is an interesting book and well put together, but it doesn’t actually tell us anything new! JG

WE WANT REAL FOOD

Graham Harvey

Robinson, 2008, ISBN 9781845295455

IN THIS EYE-OPENING book Graham Harvey demonstrates the enormous irony that, in an effort to improve public health and feed millions, the UK Government took part in a mass experiment on diet that has led to millions being starved of vital nutrients.

Harvey illustrates time and again how the agriculture revolution has robbed the nutrient-rich soils of health-giving minerals and antioxidants and has led, in the midst of all the plenty, to an exponential increase in so-called diseases of civilisation.

“The new epidemic of degenerative diseases is not inevitable,” says Harvey, however, “nor is their cause mysterious. They are nature’s language telling eloquently of our failure to understand the supreme importance of her laws.”

He goes on to describe a growing revolution in which farmers are returning to the old methods of husbandry which care for the countryside and replenish the soils and yet still produce a bountiful harvest. This is an excellent read and a must-have guide for those who care about their and the planet’s health. The book ends with a list of foods and local resources. JG

CONFESSIONS OF AN ECO SINNER

Fred Pearce

Transworld Publishers, 2008, ISBN 9781905811106

FRED PEARCE HAS written an interesting and enlightening chronicle of the people who produce and dispose of the things that we use and consume in our daily lives. By pursuing this story, he highlights how humanity is living off its ecological credit card and how this could ultimately liquidate the planet’s ecological assets.

Pearce illustrates that as well as carbon footprints we also have social and ecological footprints, and that, although some future prospects are gloomy and we seem close to the moment when our fate may be sealed, there is reason for hope. The book is divided into sections; at the end of each is a brief portrait of people he met on his journey, highlighting how things are not always as they seem to be on the surface.

Here is a book that opens our eyes to where our products really come from. A world in which the people and the pollution that sustain us are invisible is one step closer to becoming more visible with this most informative book. JG

Juliette Griffiths is a freelance writer; Sophie Poklewski Koziell is Co-editor of Resurgence.

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