Preserving Food-Book Review

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning is published by the amazing Chelsea Green Publishing House, who have published many books that I have enjoyed and also many more I wish to read.

I recently re checked this book out from my local library. I had checked it out a few years ago, and I was surprised by how much my opinions had changed since then. The first time I checked it out, I read it cover to cover and was alternately fascinated and repelled. Fascinated because I had never read about many of the methods of preparation and repelled because I couldn’t imagine actually eating many of the foods described. But this time I felt much more comfortable with both the methods and the foods that were produced using the methods.

There is a chapter about burying food in catches. This time reading, I thought it was a brilliant method of keeping food at a set temperature during the hard winters. Yet I could remember how uncomfortable I had been with the concept the first time I encountered it. I had worried about germs and dirt. Which is funny because most of the foods suggested for this method of preservation, onions, potatoes and other root vegetables, grew from the dirt. Why did I feel it was okay to eat a potato pulled up from the dirt today but not eat a potato that had been reburied in a storage hole? I’m not sure.

The chapter on vinegar preservation revealed similar changes in my attitudes. When I first read the book I wondered in horror why anyone would want to eat foods that had been preserved in vinegar. But since then I have actually made vinegar at home from wine and found it has a lovely sweet flavor, which is nothing like the store bought vinegars I had consumed in the past. Now the thought of eating vinegar persevered cherries and mushrooms is intriguing rather than horrifying.

After filling the library book full of book marks and trying several of the recipes I realize that there is no hope for it, I will have to purchase a copy of this book for myself.

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Parasite Book Review

My mom saw This Is Your Brain on Parasites by Kathleen McAuliffe on the new book shelf of our library and brought it home for me. She knows me so well.

There was a lot of cool information about what’s going on in the science of parasitology that I had not read before. There’s a lot going on in the field of disgustology as well. Strangely the author does not distinguish between parasites, viruses, biotics, and symbiotes. If the creature lives on humans or uses humans in their life cycle, she refers to them as parasites. So there was a lot of stuff about disease, and about probiotics, which I wasn’t expecting but was a wonderful bonus. I personally would not refer to such things as parasites because I think of parasites as creatures that take from a host and give nothing back. Which I suppose viruses fall into but probiotics do not.

The main thrust of the book is how the lifeforms that live on us change the way we think. She talks about Toxoplasma and schizophrenia for example. She makes a case for parasites changing moods, political views, where we spend time, who we mate with and the way we view others. It’s fascinating stuff and I truly enjoyed reading it. She has a short history of how humans have changed their habits over the past 10,000 years or so and how these changes have made parasites the scourge that they are. Basically by eating poor diets, moving large amounts of people into smaller areas near water and not doing the things that our ancestors did to protect themselves from parasites. She then concludes that that if we can control parasites we can change the world into a safer and better place.

I think she misses the point about how -humans- did the changing and parasites are just doing what they do. The fault lies not in parasites but in our own behavior. We stopped doing the things that protected us from parasites. Yet her solution is about changing the parasites when really we could, if we chose to, start eating better, and stop living in huge groups near water doing the things that make the parasites so deadly to us.

Also I think her case for parasites being the big bad guys is a little weak. Although parasites may influence us, I don’t think they are any more or less manipulative than any other factor of our environment. Other people, for instance: humans aren’t tucked away inside our brains or livers but they change our attitudes and how we behave in much the same way that parasites do. They can encourage us into bad behavior, contaminate us with diseases, and they can even ruin our lives. Sure we could re-jigger our neighbors with brain washing or genetically manipulate them into being more compliant but not all people are bad and it would be morally repugnant to brain wash everyone. It makes more sense to change our behavior. It’s easier, for one thing, and less harmful for another. I don’t think the manipulations that parasites get up to are any worse than what other people do to us every day.

Still, it’s an informative book even if some of her facts about history are wrong. Worth a read.

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Sleepless in America A book Review

I read Sleepless in America:Is your child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka when I was pregnant, really enjoyed the tone of the book and felt like its advice was very practical and helpful.

I know that sleep is essential for my healthy functioning and I also knew that new parents traditionally don’t get much. Apparently American parents get the least sleep in the world but I also have read that French children start sleeping ‘through the night’ , i.e for five hour stretches by three months, and I was very determined that I would at least aim for that. We hit the three month mark this month and I realized that although I remembered the outline of the book I did not remember the specifics so when I finally had a chance to go to the library I checked it out again to see if it could help. It really has.

I like how the author really talks about how to get kids enough sleep in practical terms. It focuses mainly on parents with older children, but the advice works for infants as well. And she has a chapter about infants that I recommend be read after the other stuff because it only tweaks the information to fit infants, it’s not a stand alone that completely covers the topic.

Her take is that a lot of bad behavior in children is because they don’t get enough sleep. Without sleep children can’t maintain their self control very well. She also talks about how children won’t appear to be sleep deprived because they don’t get sleepy they get wired, and misbehave.

After she talks about why children really need sleep and why they fight it, she then reminds parents that while you can help children sleep you can’t force them to. She goes through a lot of the ways that parents can ‘read’ their children’s cues to better know when their child needs sleep. This was very helpful for me. She also addresses how to encourage sleep by starting routines and how much sleep children need. I was so surprised by how much sleep infants need at first and a little shocked when I had my own how easy it was for them not to get enough.

I made a little chart to see how much sleep my baby was getting and just the act of keeping track has really encouraged me to get her down more and notice how much better she dose when she gets enough sleep. She’s calmer and more interested in the world and she fusses a lot less which is really helpful for a very sleep deprived parent. I’ve even gotten a bit more sleep. Not enough by any means but some.

All in all I would recommend this for anyone who would like to get more sleep, as the advice is useful for everyone not just children. I would also recommend having it on hand before having a child, I am seriously considering buying a copy so I can refer to it when sleep isn’t happening.

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