My bookshelves creak with the weight of my amassed food preservation resource collection. As we grow over 70 percent of our food needs on our Wisconsin farm and B&B, Inn Serendipity, the how-to behind stocking up has always been area of personal, passionate research.
But as you can see, I’m already overloaded with info. Do I need another food preservation book? Not really, until I read Sharon Astyk’s latest book: Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation, a new release from the fine folks at New Society Publishers. Lots of books, those on my shelves included, successfully detail the “how” of food preservation, from water bath timings to prolific pickling techniques. Independence Days freshly blends “how” with “why,” serving up a modern take on stocking up and why this plays a vital role in our future survival as a planet.
Astyk’s approach, blending practical information and big picture context with a hefty dose of personal anecdotes and essays, nurtures readers into realizing they are doing more than creating a January supper when one puts up tomatoes in July. We’re collectively part of a larger, strategic, hands-on revolution in kitchens across America to change the way we approach food, sustainability and life.
Here’s a sampling of fresh, inspiring perspectives I harvested from Independence Days:
1. Think Beyond Food
Astyk writes: “Independence is being ready for whatever comes,” consistently making the connection throughout the book that we can’t make food choices in isolation of other elements of our lives. To Astyk, fixing your bike stands in the same league as fixing up a plate of salad greens from your garden. All our choices are integrated and create opportunities to make a difference.
2. Focus on Quantity
Clearly, Astyk is a woman who puts detailed thought into pantry management. While in the book she details quantities of food one would need to stockpile to survive certain time periods, Astyk quickly (and in detail) makes the differentiation between smartly stockpiling and overly hoarding. Know the amounts you need, use them up, refuel as necessary. A simple theory, yet one I apparently need reminding of, as I found two extra jars of baking powder in my pantry this morning, just as I was about to add it to the shopping list.
3. Savor the Creative Process
Love the woman with an essay entitled “Oops” in a book on food preservation. Reading Astyk’s words is like sitting down with an old friend, the one who confesses with a smile the story of when the two-year old got into the oatmeal bucket or the time the fermenting daikon kimchi exploded. Astyk, with personal authenticity, reminds us of the beauty and fun behind the process of becoming food independence and to relish the occasional explosions along the way.
4. The Canning Jar is Always Half Full
While Astyk continually connects individual acts like canning tomatoes with global catastrophes such as global warming throughout the book, she brilliantly does so with a burst of optimism. Independence Days could easily have evolved into a practical, but depressing book, essaying to motivate us to become more food independent as the weight of the world rests on our shoulders.
Through her engaging writing style, Astyk can motivate without guilt, inspire without anxiety. She maintains the attitude that joy needs to remain the constant in our everyday. Never have I read a food preservation book that reminded me to, occasionally, serve my family an ice cream sundae bar for supper. My only regret is that her farm is geographically on the other side of the country in New York and not down my County Road P. I know we’d be friends, bonding over pickles and prose.
For more of Astyk’s inspiring prose and practical nuggets, check out her prolific blogs at www.sharonastyk.com and www.henandharvest.com. Check out my review of her first book, Depletion and Abundance.