I do a lot of reading about food and agriculture as part of my research process for stories. Most of the time I seek the advice of friends and colleagues knowledgeable on a subject to get their insight on what I should read to learn more on a topic. Every few weeks I also happily trek down to Biddeford to see what’s in stock at Rableais Books, where inevitably I leave with at least one armload of beautiful/information rich books. Following are some of the books in my reading pile:
Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems by Philip Ackerman-Leist – The publisher, Chelsea Green, sent me this book. It’s one I find myself going back to over and over for information and inspiration. Chelsea Green’s description of the book: In Rebuilding the Foodshed, Philip Ackerman-Leist refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead. Philip Ackerman-Leist is a professor at Green Mountain College, where he established the college’s farm and sustainable agriculture curriculum and is director of the Green Mountain College Farm & Food Project. He also founded and directs the college’s Masters in Sustainable Food Systems (MSFS), the nation’s first online graduate program in food systems, featuring applied comparative research of students’ home bioregions.
The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz – Another excellent Chelsea Green publication. With two-color illustrations and extended resources, this book provides essential wisdom for cooks, homesteaders, farmers, gleaners, foragers, and food lovers of any kind who want to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for arguably the oldest form of food preservation, and part of the roots of culture itself. Sandor Ellix Katz is a self-taught fermentation experimentalist. In 2003 Katz wrote Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods—which Newsweek called “the fermenting bible”—in order to share the fermentation wisdom he had learned, and demystify home fermentation. **This book recently won a James Beard Award.
Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom – I found out about this one when friend and fellow blogger Ashley English mentioned this one in a post on her blog Small Measure. Learn about incorporating chickens into your garden, fencing, irrigation systems, predator control and deterrents, growing worms for chickens, and choosing the right plants. It’s well organized with plenty of beautiful illustrations and photographs.
Pork & Sons by Stephane Reynaud – An authentic French pork cookbook written by a pork restaurateur and grandson to a village butcher, and inspired by three generations of pork devotees. In addition to the 150 recipes, there are several profiles of people from his hometown in the Ardeche plateau of France involved in the slaughtering, butchering, and cooking of pigs raised in the area. Beautifully illustrated.
The Art of Distilling Whiskey and Other Spirits: An Enthusiast’s Guide to the Artisan Distilling of Potent Potables edited by Bill Owens and Alan Dikty – My friend Andrew of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club (coming this summer to downtown Porltand) recommended when I told him I’m researching the making of spirits. It offers a brief history of distilling, gives overviews of distilling techniques, and equipment. I enjoyed reading the profiles of several small-scale regional distillers. (Bill Owens is president of the American Distilling Institute).
Game, a Cookbook by Trish Hilferty and Tom Norrington-Davies – A beautifully produced British cookbook with more than 150 recipes, featuring game in all of its forms – furred, feathered and fish.The authors set out to completely demystify their subject and offer expert advice on how to joint, prepare, cook and enjoy every possible aspect of the foods that are hunted from the lands, skies and waters of Britain.
The Hunter’s World by Charles F. Waterman – This may be the most coveted book I brought back from my most recent trip to Rabelais Books. Don Lindgren, one of the owners, gifted me a first edition from 1976 from the back of his car (it was en route to a library). When hearing this, a mutual friend remarked that when Don gifts you a book your friendship is official. The book covers all of the game species, major and minor, as well as a host of nongame animals and birds in North America. The book is about the pleasure and excitement a hunter feels, as well as awareness demanded of his surroundings. It is not a book about how to hunt, but about habitats, migratory patterns, and the interrelationships between species (i.e. rabbits and foxes). Check out this obituary on the author, Charles F. Waterman.