Sunday, 21 August 2011

A little less-light reading

 To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World is a fascinating and disturbing read. It's basically an investigation into the environmental harm the desire the Western world has for fast fashion, by journalist Lucy Siegle. This book covers clothing, fabrics and textiles of all sorts, as well as accessories - shoes, handbags and so on, all in great detail. The condition of cotton-pickers in the Ukraine, school age children used as forced cheap,labour; thesweatshop conditions in garment manufacturers in India, and the hand -sewing of sequins by home workers, again in India alll make me look at cheap garments more cynically.The use of animal skins and furs for clothing or accessories is having a disastrous affect on wild animals, despite suppliers saying they use "farmed" animals. The Ganges is in parts of India where it is used as a sewer for the tanning industries, virtually dead. I'm not a particular fan of cheap, fast fashion, but it is sometimes very difficult to find midle-of-the- road priced fashion or even just wearable clothes, especially for older women. The It-bag thing has also passed me by, as I will only pay what I can afford to for a decent handbag. This book does have recommendations for a Perfect Wardrobe, which includebuying less but spending more, that is fewer but better clothes, as well as  recycling clothes by making them into something else, or altering them in other ways.

Kate Colquhoun's history of Britain through its cooking, Taste, is a fascinating discourse from on British cooking and what we Britons ate from the Iron Age through to Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and others. Scottish, Welsh or Irish cooking. There also seems , in some parts at least, to be a concentration on what  royalty, the wealthy and powerful ate, although the author also tells how their food and tastes did trickle down to "the middling sorts" The diet, or rather lack of it, of the poor is also described in its pitiful detail, showing just how meagre it was. 38% of soldiers going to the Boer war, at the end of the nineteenth century were unfit for service, and there was little improvement by the First World War in 1914. The richness of the diet of the wealthy in Victorian times, with dinners of elaborate food in many courses and eating at equally elaborately decorated dining tables highlights the contrast well. This is a detailed history of mainly English food and how it has changed and developed over centuries, and certainly well worth a read.

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