“The Modern Peasant - Adventures in City Food” by Jojo Tulloh

by Silvana de Soissons10th May 2013

 

“….we live in an age of super-consumption, but by producing more food for ourselves or witnessing the labour that goes into food production, or by buying direct from the producer, we will attach more worth to what we eat and will waste less. Being truly self-sufficient requires hours and hours of hard labour that few of us could manage. That said, we can all strive to produce more and consume less. By learning how to bake bread or produce a comb of honey we have, in a small way, loosened the chain of dependence on others that has been winding itself slowly around us for the last 500 years”.

“The Modern Peasant” by Jojo Tulloh, published by Chatto & Windus.

 

Taking inspiration from Patience Gray and her seminal work “Honey From a Weed”, first published in 1986 {and my most valued book}, Jojo Tulloh, the food editor of “The Week” magazine, has created a very interesting work that looks at the contadino lifestyle of the a new urban generation. But how can you live a self-sufficient lifestyle in the city, where space is at a premium and resources cost so much money?

Well, without rose tinted glasses, she has pulled off a “D.I.Y food guide” that is both bold and intelligent, analysing how it is possible to find artisan bakers, foraging fields, beekeepers and community food growing initiatives in a metropolis that not so long ago people were longing to escape in favour of the rural idyll. No great techniques or barriers to entry exist in the endeavour of semi-self-sufficiency, it is a craft open to all those who wish to try.

I first came across the author’s work in “Lost in London” magazine, which has now been published as a book by Anova. Just like “The Modern Peasant”, it successfully fills a gap in the market for those who want the joys, tastes and happiness of the smallholding lifestyle but do not have the plot. This book is relevant to all town or city dwellers, regardless of where they live, how much or how little land they own and how much time they have at their disposal to make, bake and grow. It offers an approach, an attitude and a philosophy of life that rebutts consumerism and materialism in favour of frugality, creativity, thoughtfulness and sustainability.

The work is divided into various chapters that showcase the various urban artisans the author has met who have inspired and informed her thinking: bakers, brewers, fruit and vegetable growers, foragers and preservers. It comes with recipes {of course}, but you will be relieved to note that it is sans photographie. This adds gravitas to the writing {sorry to food photographers reading}. There are charming illustrations by Lynn Hatzius.

It is a book to savour slowly, making you concentrate on the excellent prose, the commitment and the practical tools that will empower you to make everything from nettle and walnut pesto, to your own salt cod, puntarelle and blood-orange salad, ricotta, rillettes, yoghurt and pickled onions.

This is a book that celebrates the city as a centre of food production in which old ways and new go hand-in-hand. For the past 200 years there’s been a stark choice: move to the country, eat better food, breathe cleaner air and drink purer water, or stay in the polluting, exhausting, maddening, dynamic city and be dependent on imported food. Now things are changing. The smells of bread baking and beer brewing assault me as I cycle through the city, our senses are being reawakened and the city has never been a more exhilarating place in which to live.”

You will not put it down, I guarantee you. And when finished you will want to show it to your friends.

Further Information

Jojo Tulloh: www.jojotulloh.com

Follow on Twitter: @jojotulloh

Chatto & Windus: www.randomhouse.co.uk

Follow on Twitter: @ChattoBooks

About the Author

Silvana de Soissons is the founder of The Foodie Bugle Shop and its journal. You can follow her on Twitter @SilvanadeS and @TheFoodieBugle.