By Cathy Morano
The book-of-the-month discussed by the “Food for Thought” Food Co-op book club was “This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader” by Joan Dye Gussow. The author is a life-long home gardener, nutritionist, Professor Emerita from Columbia University, a food policy expert and author of several books and articles. The NY Times calls Joan “the matriarch of the eat-locally-think-globally food movement”. The book is a combination memoir -- about vegetable gardening in our backyards, manifesto -- about what’s unsustainable about our food supply system, guidebook -- about how to plant, harvest and preserve our own produce ... and recipe book! What a bargain!
The book club leader, Jesse Kirwan-Shaw, started the evening off with a video of an interview of the author-- still passionately critical about the American food system. As we frequently do, we began by talking about whether we liked the book, and why or why not; the answers were intriguing. Some liked bouncing around from razing and re-building a house, to philosophizing about our way of life, to home gardening, to railing against our food system and community gardening. Others were annoyed by these same features. While some were annoyed by the time given in the book to the two houses she shared with her husband, others pointed out that one of the key messages in the book is that, for some of us, while you can live almost anywhere, that anywhere MUST have space for a vegetable garden. In this book, one could argue, the garden was the “home”. This theme led us to a related discussion about where our houses were located, and why we selected them. As usual, a book discussion takes us off on interesting tangents.
The best part of the book, according to a couple of the participants, was the creation and maintenance of a community garden -- because it was about relationships, and the analogy to the relationship-building in the Doylestown Food Co-Op was clear. Others especially liked the discussion of ‘re-localization’ -- of moving food from where it is grown to where it is consumed, rather than ﬁguring out what could be grown in each area....and gaining the taste of “live food”.
The group got into some interesting questions by spinning off ideas in the book. Such as- is it really moving ourselves -- via commuting (car) and vacationing (airplane) that burns up the most energy, or is it our overall food system -- moving food from one end of the country to the other....or from one country to another? And -- when we buy local food, is it really local? While the company is local, how local are the various ingredients?
As always, we circled back to our universal question -- we are “preaching to the choir”. How DO we spread the word about food safety and nutrition and sustainability without “preaching”? One suggestion offered was to send “I” messages, as in, “I buy X because....” rather than “You should buy X because....”.
As always, some of the participants did not read the book. They still found the conversation stimulating and enlightening. Join us! Whether you read the book or not. Our next “Food for Thought” book club meeting will be Tuesday, June 10 at 6:15 p.m.
The book we will discuss is “Founding Gardeners” by historian Andrea Wulf. It is the story of the revolutionary generation in our country from the unique perspective of their lives as gardeners, plant hobbyists, and farmers. This book should be of interest to historians as well as gardeners, farmers, and foodies. Join us! The book is available at the Doylestown Bookshop. Mention it is for the book club, and you will receive a discount. See you there!