So I am supposed to be reading from my book today and I’m not. This is a great opportunity for you because I’m doing a SNOW DAY SPECIAL: Buy a signed copy of Ithaca from me this weekend and it’s only $19 with shipping or $14 if you pick it up from me. I will also add a hand-written recipe of the soup of your choice from the book. Offer expires at 9 p.m. Sunday evening.
I have a reading scheduled tomorrow in Ithaca but I can’t get there from here.
Almost halfway between Ithaca and my house is the city of Buffalo, New York, which is currently digging its way out from under eight feet of snow, with a forecast of unseasonably warm temperatures and rain ahead. We’ve sadly postponed our visit.
In many ways, though, the reason for the postponement only serves to underline the need for us to think very seriously about climate change and our role within it. I’ve been watching the Weather Network all week as we’ve tried to make our decision. They have a nightly feature called something like Freaks of Nature, where they show flooding and extreme weather around the planet. Increasingly we are seeing what climate change models predicted: more and more extreme weather patterns, precisely like the one in Buffalo this week.
At one point in Ithaca, Daisy is distracted in a conversation with a friend. She is standing in the grocery store parking lot and he’s idling his car while he talks to her. She thinks of the fossil fuel being burned as they talk. We need to think about the fossil fuel we burn unnecessarily.
A big frustration I have with those who decry climate change is the fact that at the core is an unwillingness to make change. They are determined to disprove clear evidence–in order that they don’t have to change.
My son is playing for a sports team that practises more than an hour from our house. I insist that we carpool, that we visit people or coordinate these trips with other activities–that we make the fossil fuel really count. I say put on a sweater or wool socks, rather than turn up the heat.
I’m not saying sit around and shiver. I’m not saying we can’t drive to Toronto. I’m saying we need to be mindful of where we idle our tanks obliviously.
It’s cold and flu season–and one of those pesky viruses has caught me. I’ve had a cold for nearly a week now. The person I caught it from still has it too. Whatever it is, it’s persistent. I’ve been making lots of fresh juices, drinking copious amounts of herbal tea and sipping soup. Yesterday I made a spicy chicken vegetable broth. Today I finished off the white bean and tarragon soup I made last week.
If I really wanted to be well, however, I should probably try this Hot and Sour Soup. Some people say that Hot and Sour Soup is the cure for the common cold.
Give it a try and see what you think:
Hot and Sour Soup
In a medium saucepan, saute in 1 Tbsp oil, 5-6 sliced mushrooms, 1 Tbsp fresh ginger and 1 clove garlic, minced. Add 1 tsp-1 Tbsp sriracha (depending on how bold you are!), along with 4 cups vegetable broth, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, and ¼ cup white vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add.3 oz firm tofu, chopped, 4 cups spinach and 1 egg, beaten and drizzled into boiling soup. Chop 2 scallions and sprinkle on top along with a drizzle of sesame oil.
A couple of other notes: I’m going to be in the City of Ithaca, NY this weekend for a reading at Buffalo Street Books on Saturday at 3 p.m. I haven’t been there for more than a year so I am excited to go back. Anything you want to know while I’m there?
Also, if you live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, you might be interested in a fun Christmas venture I’m part of: KW Stocking Stuffers is something like an online Christmas bazaar where you can order interesting, locally made products for unique Christmas (or anytime) gifts. Among its products is my book, but I also recommend trying the various bone broths, made by a neighbour of mine. Soup is on the rise! Whether you make it yourself or buy it, I hope you will enjoy some today.
This summer, with Ithaca coming out, I decided to say yes to a telemarketer. The cheerful telephone voice was calling from Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading provider of renewable energy. I couldn’t write a book decrying the use of fossil fuels without taking some measures to say yes to greener energy.
A few weeks later, “The Bullfrog Buzz” arrived in my mailbox, and I glanced through it. What caught my eye was an interview with “Cleantech Investor, Advisor, Speaker, Author, Entrepreneur” Tom Rand about why we become paralyzed into inactivity when it comes to the environment, and what we can do.
In the interview, Rand says, “More threatening than climate change deniers, I think, is passive denial, where we accept the science and the numbers, yet we act every day as if they aren’t true. Our civilization faces an existential crisis and we keep ignoring it.”
I wanted to share some of the interview with you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d9Qc4SKYA4. The audio isn’t great but it’s worth watching.
Toward the end of the article, he says, “The collective action problem is where there’s no real advantage for anyone to go first, and there’s no real harm for waiting for others to go first. The paradox is if nobody goes first, everybody is harmed.”
What are you going to do today?
If you’re available on Sunday afternoon (November 16), please join me at:
A Drop to Think
Novels and Knowledge, Soup and Spoken Word
The Waterloo Green Party invites you to a fun and enlightening chance to connect or re-connect while enjoying some delicious soup, engaging entertainment and learning a few things about water security and the risks associated with fracking for natural gas.
When: Sunday, Nov 16. 2PM to 5PM
Where: Waterloo Community Arts Centre, aka The Button Factory. 25 Regina St South.
On the main floor so it’s fully accessible. Admission is free to all. Come for a full afternoon of entertainment and food or just drop in when it’s convenient. We’d love to hear from you about whether we can expect you so we can make sure we have enough space and soup. Send you RSVPs and questions to Bryan (email@example.com) or Stacey (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Susan Fish, local author of the recently published novel, Ithaca, will be sharing her story of her travels through Central New York where she learned about the attempts to establish a fracking industry there and the battle to prevent it by many of the residents, including Daisy, the fictional heroine of her novel. We’ll also be treated to a reading or two from the novel, and an opportunity to ask questions of the author.
Kevin Sutton is a spoken word artist, page poet, actor, playwright, workshop facilitator, activist, and community organizer. His poetic performance promises to motivate us all, to not just think about our place on the planet. but to take action to preserve it.
Soup, glorious soup, has an ongoing role in the novel Ithaca, and will play an important role in our day. Young graduates of Summer Chef School will help to prepare and serve several delicious soups based on Daisy’s recipes. Of course, we couldn’t prepare any of these soups without our presently potable water supply.
My husband has a theory that clementines carry disease. I don’t think he’s serious but if you pay attention, you will notice that just as those little orange spheres start arriving in grocery stores, so you will start hearing hacking and sniffling all around you. It’s cold and flu season–and that means it’s time for soup.
I met someone last weekend who said she had never made soup before. I reassured her that soup was forgiving and flexible. It can be stretched by adding water to feed a couple more people. It can be a good way of dealing with limp, forgotten vegetables in the fridge. At the core, though, soup is comfort: warmth on a cold night.
Here is one of my favourites. We served it at the book launch a few weeks ago and it was a hit. It’s simple and satisfying, and it’s an inexpensive source of good nutrients.
White Bean and Tarragon Soup
In a saucepan, melt 3 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil. Saute 1 onion, chopped, 1 carrot, chopped, 1 stalk celery, chopped, 3 cloves garlic, minced. Add 4 cups vegetable stock and 2 rinsed cans of white navy beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer. Add ¼ cup fresh tarragon, black pepper and salt to taste.
Someone wrote to me recently and said: I know all about fracking. I live in Western Colorado, where fracking has been used for decades to extract natural gas. I should have been paying better attention to its metaphor possibilities.
For me, fracking is clearly something that works on various levels. I had already begun thinking about a novel with two women who lived together, for whom the worst things had happened. In Daisy’s life, it was the sudden death of her husband; in Lee’s case, it was the aftermath of retirement for a woman who had been a pioneer in her field. In both cases, the centre of their lives, what had been solid, was suddenly gone. When I started finding out about fracking, it felt like in many ways fracking paralleled my characters’ experiences—their lives had been suddenly and potentially dangerously been fractured from all that had been settled and good.
Fracking becomes a metaphor for sudden loss and change–something that happens that breaks apart the solid foundation in a wrenching way that leaves collateral damage behind. A reader who was widowed himself wrote to me to say, “I’m astonished how perceptively you’ve captured the essence and currents of bereavement and grief, the loneliness and longing, the resistance to newness and the hunger for it when it pokes its head around the corner, the self-discovery that emerges… I love how you wove the interplay of rock fracking and soul fracking.”
How about you? Where has your life been fracked? How do you move on? How does your experience of being fracked affect your environmental concerns?
I have to confess something: this is the best of the soups. It’s my personal favourite anyhow. At least some of the time.
This soup takes a bit of love. Sometimes it is the very best thing you’ve ever eaten and you want to eat the whole thing; other times it isn’t. I have no idea why.
In a saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp butter and sauté 2 peeled and chopped apples, 2 peeled and chopped onions, 1 carrot, shredded, ½ cup celery chopped, 1 tsp thyme, and 2 bay leaves. When softened add 3 Tbsp flour. Stir in 2-1/2 cups apple cider (or some apple cider and some hard cider). Turn up the heat until it’s bubbling and then turn the heat down. Add 2 cups milk, 1 cup grated old Cheddar cheese, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t boil this soup once you’ve added the milk and cheese or it will separate.
By the way, I’m thinking about hosting a neighbourhood soup supper, like Daisy. How about you? What holds you back? For me, it’s the jumping dog and the unpredictable kids’ schedules. What makes me want to do it is that it worked for Daisy. Also, we only had seven kids show up at our door on Halloween (and three of them were babies!)–at this dark and cold time of year, a soup supper sounds like a great way to get to know the neighbours a bit better, doesn’t it?
My apologies for this post being delayed. This is a great little video that explains and shows what fracking is all about:
Borscht is a great word to say aloud, isn’t it?
It’s a beet-based soup that originated in eastern Europe. It’s a bit dangerous to upholstery–Daisy says of another soup, “I blessed the Scotchgard we had thought to have the sofas sprayed with, for exactly this kind of occasion”–but it’s rich and satisfying on cold, blustery days like today. It’s also seasonal: we get a weekly food box from farmers, and by late October, the beets and kale are still abundant, long after the more tender vegetables have succumbed.
People have asked me about the soups as chapter titles. The book begins in late August and ends at Christmas, and I wanted to signal to the reader where we were in the year, according to the produce with which Daisy makes her soup. Sure we can buy asparagus in October sometimes and oranges in April, but not when we buy locally, from a farmer’s market or in a food box. Eating seasonally often means we get the nutrients our bodies naturally crave, and that we are in tune with the natural world. In a book that addresses the dangers of messing with that natural world, I wanted to emphasize the rhythm of the growing season.
And here’s Daisy’s recipe for Borscht. (Say it out loud.)
Pretty much all the work of borscht is prep work. There’s chopping and dicing and then throwing it together in a pot and letting it simmer. Dice 1 large onion. Mince 4 cloves of garlic. Peel and grate 2 carrots and 4 small beets. Peel and dice 2 potatoes. Thinly slice 2 cups cabbage. Add to 4 cups vegetable stock and 1 bay leaf in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Add ½ tsp dill, ½ tsp salt, black pepper, 1 tomato, chopped, 3 Tbsp lemon juice. Cook just a few minutes more. Remove bay leaf before serving.
One of the best things about the environmental movement is the sense of community among partners. In Ithaca, an anti-fracking rally is described like this:
There were signs and there was chanting but this was Ithaca and so there was music and laughing and there was coffee, stores offering us use of their restrooms. There were people I hadn’t seen since Arthur died, and there were hugs. The crowd was mostly young but there were people older than me there too–there were dozens of strollers but there was an occasional wheelchair too. I walked near the center of the crowd, with Lee at first, and we were joined by her ESL student Weng who linked her arm with Lee’s. And then I was stopped by the tattooed man from my class and I waved Lee and Weng on ahead of me. I began to see that there were a number of people from Wednesday night in the crowd. I felt tears prickle in my eyes at the idea of it. I found myself introducing people and there were handshakes, juggling of signs and banners. We walked through the Commons together and we filled the space as music fills a space, simply with its presence. I found myself smiling. I loved this place. No one had asked my age or laughed at me for being older. If anything, I felt like people were delighted to have older people among them; we were ahead of the curve, giving credibility and depth and wisdom to what they were doing and saying.
I participated in the local Climate Change rally on September 21 and there I met Dylan Siebert of Transition KW who kindly came to last week’s launch and talked about fracking and prepared handouts. The handouts were, in turn, partly based on work done by a group called Stop Fracking Ontario.
Stop Fracking Ontario has put together a helpful slide show about fracking in this area. You might find the maps in it particularly interesting, if you’re wondering whether this is an issue in your own area.
Let me know what you think.