by Sandor Ellix Katz
(Chelsea Green Publishing; 400 pages)
[Note: Both Full Moon Feast and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved are reviewed here.]
Full Moon Feast presents the idea of eating with the seasons using the Native American lunar cycle as a natural guide. In each distinct period – Milk Moon, Sap Moon — author Jessica Prentice writes of what food stuff is bountiful, its lore, and recipes for readers to try. She makes it clear throughout her book that an omnivore lifestyle is preferential to all other possible ways of eating. Even Deborah Madison takes a swipe at vegetarians in her foreword to the book.
This bias and its roots are not presented until well into the book. Prentice states that she had practiced a vegetarian lifestyle and had issues surrounding food. Her exploration into eating and healing, she says, led her to the healthy practices she advocates today. Great. But why is an omnivorous lifestyle necessarily equated with mature thinking? It doesn’t make sense. Her prejudicial opinions color the book, seeping into any possible connection some readers could make with the plethora of ideas presented.
By contrast, everyone is welcome to the table set by Sandor Ellix Katz in The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. As he passionately explores food movements across the country, he makes connections with a Republican raw milk advocate, a community of roadkill foragers, and invites readers into numerous other groups whose purpose is to ensure that all are fed. Katz embraces differences and allows readers to make their own decisions about how they eat. He’s also not afraid to use the exclamation “Yum!” when warranted.
Katz encountered many different types of food activists while promoting another book, Wild Fermentation (which I am ashamed to say, I have not yet read), and felt compelled to share their stories. Some of these folks are operating at the fringes of legality by organizing underground bread baking cooperatives, selling milk and cider that have not been pasteurized, and guerilla gardening on abandoned property. Even the simple act of saving seeds, argues Katz, is a political act in an age when corporations are patenting genetic information.
“For me, food is above all a sensual experience. I love the smells, flavors, textures, and colors of food,” writes Katz. “I salivate just thinking of harvesting fresh fruit in the summertime. … The food-related political activism that I feel most passionate about is an extension of this sensual pursuit in that it seeks to revive local food production and exchange, and to redevelop community food sovereignty. There is no sacrifice required for this agenda because, generally speaking, the food closest at hand is the freshest, most delicious, and most nutritious.”
This is a rich volume full of inspiring ideas and savory stories. It is also chock-full of information. At the end of every chapter there are lists of additional reading, documentaries to watch, and contacts for organizations. Recipes are also plentiful and creative. The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved may inspire you to forage in the dumpster behind Trader Joe’s in the dark, exchange seeds or live cultures with some like-minded folks, or just be increasingly mindful when you take the next bite.
Linda Dailey Paulson is a Ventura-based freelance writer who was inspired by Katz to try urban foraging. She was two eggplants richer for the experience and is now emboldened to try fermenting.