i’ve gathered a small collection of books for my travels. nothing like filling my bag with heavy books and carting them around for months on end! but, i love books. plus, they are trusty companions when dining alone, which i’m not counting on being a regular theme on my journey, but it’s bound to happen a few times.
here’s a list of the books i’m bringing. i’m open to any and all suggestions. if there’s something you recently read that’s remotely relevant to my upcoming travels and you don’t think i should miss it, please let me know!
- animal, vegetable, miracle by barbara kingsolver
- homage to catalonia by george orwell
- the omnivore’s dilemma by michael pollan
- alice waters and chez panisse by thomas mcnamee
- sixty million frenchman can’t be wrong by jean-benoit nadeau and julie barlow
- the road from the past by ina caro
i bought garlic and sapphires by ruth reichl earlier this week because a few friends recommended it. i had just finished reading shantaram – a very long, adventure, almost autobiographical novel with a philosophical vein running through it from start to finish. i needed something quick and lighthearted to follow. i also liked the idea of reading a book about new york city restaurants right before my departure. in the book, ruth reichl writes about her life as the restaurant critic at the new york times. it is peppered with recipes that sound simple and delicious and highlights a handful of her published reviews. her love of food is apparent, but she struggles with her role as a critic because it feels elitist (writing about fancy, expensive meals while “half the world is hungry”), plus she barely has time to cook for her family and friends and she misses it. the book got me thinking about my reasons for loving food.
on the most basic level, i love food because it brings people together. it is something that everyone needs, everyday. we all have that in common. what a wonderful thing to share! and food can be so expressive. one ingredient can sprout different flavors and food combinations from varied corners of the world. an avocado: mash it with lime, salt, onion and tomato and it’s mexican. roll it into sushi and it’s japanese. spread it on toast and it’s a mediterranean snack. yes, food is a uniter, not a divider.
on the flip side, i know i take food for granted everyday. while working on farms, i hope to gain insight on how the food i buy in the grocery store gets from the soil or the cow or the tree and onto the shelf. i know almost nothing about what fruits and vegetables grow when. olive harvesting takes place in december and january, i learned today. will spring in spain mean mostly planting seeds for a late summer harvest? what about wine? and cheese?
i get a newsletter from a little cheese shop on the lower east side called saxelby cheesemongers. in one recent issue, it explained that sheep and goats give birth to their young in the early spring. with babies comes milk and with milk comes cheese. yummm. remember the mister rogers episode when he visits the cheese factory? i was probably six years old when i watched it. i loved it. decades later i still remember it clearly. but i don’t want to be one of the factory workers with a surgical mask, dragging a long metal rake through the foamy cheese curds. i’d rather churn butter in a tall wooden barrel, dolloping healthy spoonfuls on freshly baked bread. hopefully my dairy fantasy and the mister rogers factory reality can meet somewhere in the middle? i don’t think that’s too much to ask.
i leave tomorrow. lots of strategic packing (bustling cities AND rural farms) to do in the meantime…