"Do you have a pestle and mortar ‘decorating’ your kitchen? Have you ever picked up a (really) old cookbook (from a time when sustainability was the norm) and noticed how often it calls for the use of a pestle and mortar? And have you ever wondered why books on ‘zero waste’ and ‘natural cooking’ hardly ever call for using one as anything else than a popular backdrop? I am proposing a book which explains why the relationship between hand-tools and sustainable eras is one of causation, not correlation — something we know, sort of, intuitively, but not enough to actually be using hand-tools like pestle and mortars. And I want to fix that.
My book is a plea for ‘deep ecology’ under a whiff of freshly ground hazelnuts because kitchens always have been one of the most appealing and democratic sets for a thorough conversation.
Pestle and mortars are fascinating because they are so universal, so ancient, so simple, so present, and yet now so thoroughly absent. Absent—for many of us in industrialized societies—from our collective knowledge and practical lives. Absent from books and blogs. Absent from ‘sustainability’ discourses. Absent from nutrition discourses, from ‘minimalist’ conversations, from ‘physical activity’ conversations—and from ‘how-to-make-ice-cream’ conversations. But how we process food should matter enough to be a vocal concern. It impacts our bodies, inside and out, our use of plastic, our use of energy. It speaks of how we (don’t) share housework, of how (un)connected we are; of how colonialist our vision of ‘the right way to do things’ is. It speaks of our problem with de-growth which is currently seen as restrictive and tiresome—or, at best, quaint. We don’t want to come across as Grinches so we avoid the subject. But what if Dr. Seuss had written another story, one in which his Grinch was keen and bright, wise and a communicative, and not only had excellent reasons to forgo Christmas but also had an alternative up his sleeve which could rival the enjoyment that the day usually has to offer; one that turned ‘minimalism’ of baubles into ‘maximalism’ of living?
These considerations gradually dawned on me (Juliette, a 28 year old Franco-British, Paris-based, barefoot, chopstick-carrying and chair-free ecosophist) over the past ten years, since my critical mind was fed hormones at art school and since my socio-environmental conscience received similar treatment as I was running a waste management shop in a poor suburb town. As I’ve been writing around Parisian cafés (before and in-between lockdowns...), I have been asked in turn if I’m an economist, anthropologist, philosopher, scientist, environmentalist, cook, nutritionist, or agronomist. I’m none of those things, I can’t be: I think their connections are too interesting to focus on one alone. And that’s precisely what this book is about.
I believe the planet needs that tale of the ‘other Grinch’; it needs us to use pestle and mortars again; it needs a convincing, upbeat and practical treaty to explain why. That’s the story I want to tell. I hope you would like to hear it. "