Bread & Water
by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 11 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 09 Dec 2021
A meditation on the poetics of hunger and the social worlds of cooking
“When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it . . .” —MFK Fisher
When chef and writer dee Hobsbawn-Smith left the city for rural life on a farm in Saskatchewan, she planned to replace cooking and teaching with poetry and prose. But—as begin the best stories—her next adventure didn’t quite work that way.
Food trickled into her poems, her essays, her fiction. And water poured into her property in both Saskatchewan and Calgary during two devastating floods.
Bread and Water uses lyrical prose to describe those two fundamental ingredients, and to probe the essential questions on how to live a life. Hobsbawn-Smith uses food to explore the hungers of the human soul: wilder hungers that loiter beyond cravings for love. She kneads ideas of floods and place, grief and loss; the commonalities of refugees and Canadians through common tastes in food; cooking methods, grandmothers and mentors; the politics of local and sustainable food; parenting; male privilege in the restaurant world; and the challenges of aging gracefully.
It is an elegant collection that weaves joy into exploring the quotidian in search for larger meaning.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
This is a set of essays, many published elsewhere previously, written by a woman who has been many things: a chef, a restaurant owner, a writer; mother, both married and single; a culinary student and a teacher; resident on farms and in cities and, as these essays are written, back on the farm that was originally set up by her grandparents. The essays are ruminations on life, reflections on choices both good and bad, an exploration of cause and consequence, and a meditation on - as the title suggests - food and water: the place of both in our lives, how they can impact on the way we live, the positives and negatives. When I read a book like this I think, How can I find more books like this? What category do they come under? I'm not interested in reading just any essays on life; the focus on food and, I suspect, having a female author make these particularly appealing. I'm also not always interested in just reading about food for its own sake - the connection to life more generally, here, as well as the stories behind the growing and making of food, helps make these essays intensely readable and occasionally challenging. Hobsbawn-Smith is writing these essays having moved back to the Canadian prairie. She reflects on many moments in her life, from horse riding as a teen to the area around her farm becoming a lake for seven years, with stories of her sons growing up in between. Sometimes she recounts stories for their own sake; more often she's thinking about what they mean - how they reflect and connect to other moments in her life, what they show about the importance of family and feeding each other, how she has come to be the person she is today. I didn't always agree with the conclusions about life that Hobsbawn-Smith reaches; and I suspect that, given the differences between us (age, aspiration, location) she wouldn't have a problem with that. But I do feel challenged - reminded, rather - to consider food more meaningfully, to remember the love that making and giving food can show; to try and take life just a little slower; and to be more aware of where food comes from. Trying to be intensely locavore is something that works if you've got the time and the money, which is something society as a whole needs to struggle with - and it's not something that's particularly doable for me right now. But I can, for example, be more mindful of seasonality. These essays were deeply enjoyable to read, both on an intellectual-challenge and -stimulation level and also as prose in and of itself. Hobsbawn-Smith writes beautifully of food, and nature, and experience; she has an entire essay of her love for a temperamental oven, which is a delight. She made me remember that food is more than fuel, that life can be lived slowly, and that doing so is worthwhile.
This is a beautiful lyrical book. I was drawn in by the cooking but found that I loved everything else too. The way that dee writes about her experiences and how food has shaped her is lovely. I love how she talks about "no hurrying an oven" and how everything is shaped differently in cooking by different hands. I liked how she talks about her sons and how they came to love cooking and call her for advice. Thank you NetGalley for this ARC!