Can strawberries earn dividend miles?

Moveable Feasts paperback cover art

"Moveable Feasts" paperback cover art

I’ve been meaning to write about “Moveable Feasts,” for, um, more than a year. This wonderful book recently came out in paperback, so there’s my hook. It’s a travel book, food book, history book, and transportation book all stirred into one sophisticated stew. Subtitle: “From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat.” The author, Sarah Murray, a regular Financial Times contributor, has a longtime fascination with shipping containers and the transport of goods. While that may sound odd, think of it this way: look around you and consider how probably everything within your sight was shipped in from somewhere. Now can you understand her fascination? She said she wrote about the shipment of food because it’s a tangible thing everyone can related to.

Moveable Feasts by Sarah Morgan

Murray’s book coincidentally came out when the notion of “food miles” — that is the distance that food is shipped — was starting to be talked up. Two beliefs that have come out of that movement are that having food shipped in instead of locally grown is a modern concept, and that the miles food travels is of the utmost factor in regards to environmental issues. While Murray wasn’t out to counter those arguments, two points she makes in her book in effect do. Food has been transported for centuries, including the ancient Romans shipping in olive oil from other Mediterranean areas. And individuals driving their cars to farmers markets, for instance, potentially produce more carbon than one large food-filled shipping container crossing the ocean. I’m not asking you to buy that one without more information, but it’s an interesting point to ponder.

Sarah Murray; photo Paul Morgan

Sarah Murray; photo Paul Morgan

But what I love most about “Moveable Feasts” are the stories Murray shares from around the world, from the crazy and efficient lunchbox distribution system in India to the harvesting of strawberries in space and the travels of Norwegian salmon to China for deboning before being shipped back to Norway for eating. I also enjoyed the chapters on grain elevators and modern design, old Soviet planes being used to deliver  UN aid food to southern Sudan, and airplane food in general. An aside in the airline chapter really resonated with me — an observation by flight attendants that passengers, whose palates are dulled by flying, break out of their normal drinking habits, often by drinking Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice. Indeed, on every flight, Wessel orders tomato juice. I’ve not seen him drink it anywhere else, and we’ve never had it at home. I’ve always thought that was so weird. Now I discover that his quirk is hardly unique. Too funny.

I attended a reading by Murray in Durham at the Regulator and was riveted by her show-and-tell presentation. She started with a “tiffin tin,” the Indian lunchbox, and I was hooked from there. She told us her next project is a book on funerary customs around the world, which includes not only funerals but the set of beliefs and practices a culture uses to honor and remember the dead.

I emailed her about her progress not long ago and got this reply: “I’ve been doing a lot of travelling for the new book — Mexico for Day of the Dead, Bali for the most spectacular royal cremation; Palermo, Sicily, to a macabre catacomb of fully dressed 19th-century Italian mummies! And next, to Iran for the Ashura mourning festival and the ancient Zoroastrian Towers of Silence.” OK, Sarah, get that book finished so we can read it!

Advertisements

Tags:

One Response to “Can strawberries earn dividend miles?”

  1. boldlygosolo Says:

    Weirdness…like Wessel, the only time I drink tomato juice is on airplanes Then I come home and think, “I should buy tomato juice.” I buy it and never touch it. You’d think I’d learn…but at least now I understand it a little.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: