What I’ve been reading lately

Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland

Unlike other heavy-handed history books – this one had a very conversational tone that made you feel like you were sitting there having a conversation with someone. McCourt breaks down Irish history into various sections and tells it through 50 famous people. Since I didn’t have time to read a really comprehensive book on Irish history this was a good choice but it is definitely only a starting ground. Most history is about men but McCourt made a concerted effort to talk about the women who helped shaped Ireland, no rx a couple of whom sparked my interest and led me to the next book.

Maud Gonne, Ireland’s Joan of Arc by Margaret Ward

A very sympathetic bio about an intriguing and active figure in Irish Independence. Gonne was born from British Protestant parents but embraced the Irish cause in her early 20s after being outraged by the plight of Irish peasants. She is best known as the love interest and muse of William Butler Yeats and the mother of Sean McBride but she certainly has an interesting story of her own which is why I was compelled to learn more after the little bit that was given over to her in McCourt’s book. She is also known for being a statuesque beauty (6 feet tall – which, when I think of my Grandma Cassidy who was about 4 foot 9, must have been quite the amazing thing to see) and eloquent public speaker who started a number of women’s groups in Ireland and stood outside a jail every Sunday for years, petitioning for prisoners rights – a jail she was sometimes thrown into. Still, while her life was fascinating I thought the book was a little bland.

100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon

I had heard a lot about this book and it was on the to-read list in my mind but I had never bothered to put it on hold at the library. Then my friend Kerry lent it to me and I said it would have to wait until I got home from Ireland… and then I decided to read the first couple chapters. Well, that was Thursday and now I am harassing the Mister to read it. There are so many issues behind this book and in a way it was preaching to the converted here in that I’m trying to live sustainably (but still with too much packaged food from the grocery store) so I will just talk about one of the big things I got out of it: an excitement about eating. I loved the descriptions of hunting down new food sources and of James experimenting in the kitchen. I remembered when I used to experiment in the kitchen, but then life got in the way and now I have a hard enough time remembering to eat more than tea and toast. The authors spent a lot of time figuring out what to eat, finding their food, talking to their farmers and canning for the winter – I suppose to some this seems like a lot of work but when I look at it I think “well, I’m not really doing anything anyway so why not spend more time with my food.” Read the book.

Last night the Mister and I went out for a fancy meal with his parents at a restaurant that prides itself on serving local food (a happy coincidence and not a planned occurrence). Now, I had scallops – and for those of you who don’t know, I live on the prairies – so I’m not so sure how you can consider that local but I usually only get good scallops when I got to the cottage in N.S. and I wasn’t turning down the opportunity. But the Mister had Wapiti (which is Elk) and I said I might even have a bite of it – shocking the Mister I am sure since I haven’t had red meat since I was 20 years old. In the end I didn’t end up trying any (I was pretty much full when the main course arrived – an hour late and I had filled up on bread) but I am definitely thinking about the food choices I make and how living sustainably means working with what you have and with what is available. Besides, we already eat a lot of potatoes.

Learn more about eating locally here.

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