Please click here to see video clips of the Prince of Wales, Patrick Holden and myself during the conference, which was organized by The Sustainable Food Trust. It aimed to develop an agricultural perspective on the ideas propounded in the book ‘Harmony’ by HRH The Prince of Wales and Tony Juniper.
In 1967 Joni Mitchell wrote a song called Woodstock that included these lines:
“We are stardust, We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves
back to the garden”
We are indeed ‘billion year old carbon’ – the average person of about 80kgs/176lbs contains about 15kgs/33lbs of carbon. That ancient carbon is in our bones, our muscle, our fat and our bloodstream, as carbohydrate, fat, protein and other compounds. The carbon in our bodies may have been previously in soil, in trees, in charcoal, in dinosaur turds, in mosquitoes, in honey… It was everywhere before it ‘reincarbonated’ in us. Carbon is immortal. And it is stardust. Continue reading
Now that the Government is slapping a tax on soft drinks I am going to indulge in a reminiscence of my troubled relationship with sugar, health and food. Continue reading
The curse of nuclear power and its associated mass extermination weaponry has hung over the heads of several generations since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We were conned by promises of ‘electricity too cheap to meter’ when the first British nuclear plant was erected at Calder Hall (renamed ‘Windscale’ then renamed ‘Sellafield) but in fact it now costs more than wind or solar. Now Toshiba, who suicidally bought the Westinghouse nuclear business, is consulting bankruptcy lawyers. Electricité de France, 85% owned by the French Government, is in terminal decline, with a share price ten percent of historic highs. Continue reading
I first met Larry in 1967, when he was in the dance troupe Exploding Galaxy.
They would perform free-style dance at the weekly hippie gathering, the UFO Club, in between sets by the Pink Floyd. They helped encourage everyone to ‘freak out’ their dancing style. The Exploding Galaxy were part of a commune which lived in North London and took their name from a painting by Larry of the same name. They were immortalised in the book 99 Balls Pond Road by Jill Drower, one of the communards.
Apart from Wagner, of all the music that has embedded itself in my mind and my soul, perhaps none had a deeper grip than that of Mose Allison. Born on a cotton farm in northwest Mississippi in 1927, he was a country boy who experienced and was shaped by the Depression years in the Midwest. Perhaps he resonated with me so much because our farm was a few hundred miles north in Nebraska. Whatever, he got me deep down. Country boy with jazz infusion.
In conjunction with their exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 – 1970 (10 September 2016 – 26 February 2017), the Victoria and Albert have uploaded a series of videos interviewing 1960s Rebels including myself.
The late 1960s saw progressive ideas emanate from the countercultural underground and revolutionise society. Challenging oppressive, outdated norms and expectations, a small number of individuals brought about far-reaching changes as they sought to attain a better world. Their idealism and actions helped mobilise a movement which continues to inspire modern activists and shape how we live today.
When a business sector sees a rash of mergers and acquisitions, it’s for one of two reasons, growth or decay. The organic food industry has seen a lot of acquisitions by companies anxious to get in on the ground floor of the 5% annual growth rate in organic food and regenerative farming. Meanwhile, on the dark side, Monsanto is facing takeover by Bayer, not for any positive reasons, but because they are both looking into the abyss. Merger is one way to survive when the farmers they are competing for are spending less. Farmers aren’t stupid – they can do the maths. When they see diminishing returns on their investment in seeds and agrichemicals, they reduce their spending. Continue reading
I was delighted to give the keynote speech at a dinner to mark the opening of a new exhibition about the ’60s – ‘You Say You Want a Revolution?’ at the Victoria and Albert museum.
This morning, for breakfast, I went into the garden with a couple of slices of bread slathered with mayonnaise and a rice cake smeared with Jersey butter. Then I proceeded to pick from my winter salad garden: lamb’s lettuce, French parsley, various Japanese winter veg including mizuna and two frilly but intensely hot mustardy greens, land cress (a thicket self seeded from a single plant earlier this year), lettuce, winter purslane and, for a touch of the bitters, artemisia – wormwood. I added a leaf of radicchio from plants that have sprung up through the brickwork of a path. Just as we think of ‘food miles’ there is a parallel concept of ‘food days’ from harvest to consumption. In this case it was ‘food seconds’ – the leaves barely knew they had been plucked before they disappeared into the welcoming warm darkness of my esophagus, still brimming with vitality as they headed for the acid bath of my stomach. Continue reading
Modern Zen macrobiotics was created by the Japanese leader George Ohsawa. His leading apostle was Michio Kushi. Kushi died in December, leaving the macrobiotic movement leaderless for the first time in its history in the West. Continue reading
Back in 1967 my brother and I ran an organic macrobiotic restaurant and food store – we followed macrobiotics, the way of eating described in the book Zen Macrobiotics by Georges Ohsawa. The restaurant bought as much as possible from organic producers around London so we built strong links with the Soil Association, which was founded by Lady Eve Balfour in 1946. In order to talk about biochar I will first talk about soil, because that is the context into which biochar fits. Satish Kumar also spoke about soil last year in his excellent magazine Resurgence. Continue reading
A very insightful memoir from Al Gromer Khan about his days in London – on New Year’s Eve he and Mike Figgis played at Seed Restaurant…when John Lennon and Yoko Ono came in.
Chapter from Jazz Christmas by Al Gromer Khan, reproduced with kind permission of the author. Published 2011, his novella a clef captures the transition in the London scene from jazz and R&B to the alternative society and psychedelia.
Fetishist? No, just enjoying food and having fun
Our democratically elected leaders have a nasty track record of forcing GM food on their citizens while quietly eating organic at home
Here’s the story of how I moved from dark chocolate to even darker materials – biochar
Why were the Sixties so much fun? Could it be that we were all high on lead? Sure there was acid and grass and purple hearts, but what really got everyone loose as a goose was the lead. There is no level below which lead doesn’t have an effect. A little goes a long way. And it rots your brain, makes you prone to take risks and forgetful, while eating away at your kidneys and your liver. Kids get it worst: adults store it in their bones, but kids have it circulating in their bloodstream.
Much as I hate what Gaddafi is up to and much as I dread any threat to the stability of the Saudi regime, I can’t help hoping that the oil price goes up and stays up.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Continue reading