Interdependent ethics, food, and books

A couple of months ago, I was offered the position of events coordinator for Brisbane Better Bookshops, a cooperative of independent bookstores that regularly run author events in Brisbane.  On my first day of work, a publicist from Penguin Australia contacted me about doing an event with Kylie Kwong.  I approached the bookstore owners with the offer; all were wildly enthusiastic.  As good fortune would have it, John Birmingham, the writer and known foodie, agreed to interview Kwong in an “in conversation” format.  The Irish Club was booked.  It was all set: before I could even say “author event”, my first one was arranged.

During the initial interview with the bookstore owners, I mentioned I didn’t want t my role as an independent book reviewer to become blurred with my new role as the promoter of books.  It serves no one to turn book reviews into advertisements: not only is the reviewer’s credibility suspect, but so is that of the publication and, by extension, the very process of reviewing books at all.  Together we agreed that my integrity as a reviewer must always remain intact.  It’s unlikely that a newspaper or journal would send for review a book written by an author scheduled for a BBB event, but if that ever happened, I would write honestly–even if that meant negatively.

How strange, then, that my first event is for Kylie Kwong, and her new book, It Tastes Better, is also about ethical standards.  To prepare for the event, the publicist sent me a copy, which arrived today.  In the words of Birmingham (whose copy arrived last week), ‘it looks fckn sumptuous’.  The photographs are beautiful and the recipes enticing, but it’s Kwong’s commitment to ethical eating and sustainable living at the heart of this book that’s most compelling.

Kwong traveled around Australia seeking out farmers and growers who understand that we are merely caretakers of this planet.  As sustainable food producers, they do things the way their forefathers did: with respect for the natural timing of things, with a deep appreciation for good quality soil and water, and with an understanding that every living thing is profoundly interconnected and interdependent.

The food produced with this kind of dedication and consciousness simply tastes better.  It Tastes Better is less the latest in a line of cookbooks than it is a jubilant celebration of these remarkable food producers. Each have made an impact on Kwong’s philosophy; she shares their stories with us.

I feel no qualms about writing these positive words about Kwong’s new book.  In fact, I’m delighted to be associated with it in this small way.  Her ethics reinforce my own, proving the very interconnectedness she champions.

Kylie Kwong will be speaking in conversation with John Birmingham about her new book,It Tastes Better, as well as food, ethics, and sustainable living, on June 30 at the Irish Club in Brisbane.  I will be on hand to introduce her with much admiration and delight.

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