I’m a reader of all genres of books and post reviews at Goodreads.com, however, I wanted to try an author interview for a book I recently read. (Something new for the new year).
As a long time reader of the blog Eat Less Water and a believer in water scarcity and our impact on the environment, I asked Ms. Ramirez for an interview. She graciously accepted the request.
EAT LESS WATER: The solution to worldwide water shortages is in our kitchens.
1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
Before I began writing Eat Less Water, I had a small distribution business of water conservation products for the shower. As I got deeper into the world of water conservation, I sought more information and research on the topic of water scarcity. One of those books was When the Rivers Run Dry. The book introduced me the concept of water footprint and virtual water.
Once I learned food was the most significant user of freshwater in the world, I instantaneously knew if I was to impact greater change, I needed to change my focus from the bathroom to the kitchen.
The idea for the book came in the form of the title. I remember the moment distinctly. My husband was sitting next to me at the time. I said to him, “I am going to write a book about water and food, and it will be called Eat Less Water.” When I said the title out loud, I knew it was to be. Seven years later, I held the completed book in my hands.
2. What, if any, literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
One year into writing Eat Less Water, I came across, A Room of Her Own (AROHO), week-long writers retreat for women at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I immediately completed the application and sent it in before the idea was forgotten. A month later, I learned I was accepted to participate.
The retreat was a turning point. It was not until that literary pilgrimage in the shadow of the Pedernal mountain that I embodied my identity as a writer. During the retreat, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Marilynne Robinson spoke of the role of writers. She said,
writers must tell the truth as we see it.
She continued that it is the truth that pushes back against fascism. Her words bore deep. I responded with tears. I knew at that moment with absolute certainty that I am a writer. Writing for change is what I was designed to do. I returned on this pilgrimage two more times, to re-inspire and re-charge amongst other creative women.
3. What do your plans for future projects include?
My next book project is called, “In Search of Real Food in American Public Schools.” I found my first public school while on my book tour in NYC. This book, like Eat Less Water, will require, travel, interviews and lots of research.
My hope is to create a blueprint for parents, educators, and students to improve our current food programs within the current school funding and regulations.
And to reimagine a food system that supports small-scale farmers working to grow clean, nutritious food that’s good for our children and the planet. In many ways, it is a continuation of what I started in Eat Less Water.
I’m also working on a smaller project; an “Eating Less Water” coloring book for young children. Each chapter of the “Eat Less Water” book begins with beautiful drawings of the plants and animals featured in the book. The coloring book will contain these drawings accompanied by a short introduction to water footprints, water conservation of the connection between our food and water.
4. What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
The process of writing a book is a private act. I form sentences and construct ideas in my mind. During the writing process, I was selective about who I invited in to critique and discuss my pages. The moment the book was published, the ideas no longer belonged to me alone, they now exist in the public realm, that is expanding on a daily basis. This expansion is both exhilarating and uncomfortable.
The book has stretched me to unknown territories, has put me in contact with new people, and tests my willingness to say “yes” to new opportunities. The experience can be uncomfortable at times because it is outside the safety of my solitary writing cocoon. And it requires me to surrender myself to the expansion of my world experience.
What has helped me to embrace this natural transition from writer to author, is the sage advice from a mentor.
“The work is not complete until it is received,”
she told me. I say this in my mind before I set out into a new situation to expand the reach of Eat Less Water.
5. What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
I want readers to feel empowered, and to realize the solution to water shortages is in each of our kitchens. Our food pantries represent rivers, aquifers, lakes from every part of the planet. In my pantry, I have rice from Vietnam, chocolate from Ghana, coffee from Guatemala, flour from Kansas, eggs from Ojai, California and lettuce from Oxnard. Each country, state, region deals with water scarcity issues ranging from not having enough-supply, or not having enough “clean” water quality.
Food is the most significant user and polluter of water.
If we are to be part of the solution of global water solutions, we must begin with our food choices, supporting farming methods that save water. We are connected to the world’s water with each meal.
I hope Eat Less Water to be like a pebble tossed into the stillness of water that grows ever-widening circles. More specifically my vision for the book is the following:
to reveal the connection between what we eat and the impact on rivers and lakes,
to generate more business for farmers dedicated to growing food using farming methods that save our water resources,
to inspire policy change at the individual, farm, corporate, and government policy level.
When the well is dry, we know the value of water- Benjamin Franklin
For thousands of people in Flint, Michigan and East Porterville, California, the well dried up. For 800 million people around the world, the well is dry.
There’s a new book arriving on November 1st, 2017 titled “Eat Less Water.” The author and researcher, Florencia Ramirez, state experts predict two-thirds of people living on this planet in 2030 will experience water scarcity, a situation expected to result in the deaths of millions and an unprecedented rise in military conflicts.
Can we as individuals hope to have any effect on the global scale of water misuse?
The answer is “Yes,” if we change some of our lifestyle habits. The author states, “THE MOST FAR-REACHING, effective strategy to save water is to eat less of it.”
This book gives the reader an eye-opening education on how much water is used in food production:
1 pound of beef has a “virtual water footprint” of 1,851 gallons.
1 pound of pork = 631 gallons of water
1 pound of lamb = 398.8 gallons of water
This is not a book against meat, it’s a book describing the benefits of organically raised water sustainable livestock.
“Food grown without chemicals saves fresh water more than any other water-saving strategy.”
There are sixteen chapters ranging from Wheat and Water to Eggs and Water; Beer and Water; Coffee and Water, and other major food groups. Each chapter ends with a recipe for an organic, water sustainable dish or beverage.
The author traveled over 16,000 miles across the USA and took seven years to research and interview farmers and food producers who illustrated the very best in food cultivation. The food is grown with farming systems in sync with their surrounding environment, “working to replenish rivers, not pollute them,” and methods used to regenerate the soil, “keeping more water in the ground…”
Written in an engaging narrative, the book is non-fiction and several footnotes cite studies which back up the research. The book encourages families and the household shopper to be selective in what they buy and consume. The recipes encourage you to shop for locally grown organic products.
“What we choose to put on our dinner tables can rewrite the story of water scarcity touching people around the world.
Be part of a change that will make a difference in creeks, rivers, groundwater, and oceans across the planet. Start tonight at your kitchen table.”
Note: Florencia Ramirez is a personal and professional friend. She co-founded the writing group: WOmen Who Write (WoWW) in Ventura County. I am a member of this small group and this in no way detracts from an honest review. I’m delighted to participate in Florencia’s writing journey and see the fruition of all of her very hard work.
After a class this past Saturday, I donned my purple apron to do something less esoteric but just as creative and fulfilling as writing. I joined nine other women at a friends home to learn how to bake bread. Not just any bread but ‘water sustainable’ organic whole wheat bread* and French baguettes.
My friend Florencia, over at Eat Less Water held a baking class. She believes that the most important water conservation that any of us can do happens at the kitchen table. Globally, water scarcity is a problem that is getting worse as cities and populations grow. The needs for water increase with particular methods used in agriculture, industry and our households. The water problem is much better explained at Florencia’s site. (That photo up there is ‘for reals’ and taken by Florencia).
We not only learned how to bake bread but we also received an education in water sustainability. We heard about the types of water used to produce wheat, types of wheat flour, dry farming, water footprint, sustainable food choices, and local sources to purchase flour and honey.
Who knew that green water (natural water) sources are better for our planet? We use less water. Blue water is from other than rain sources. Blue water is polluted with nitrogen and petroleum from synthetic pesticides by products. Florencia emphasized that “…water doesn’t disappear but clean water does each time chemicals, nitrogen, and petroleum (all by-products of food production) find their way into streams, rivers or underground aquifers.”
I was listening so hard that I put salt instead of sugar into my yeast. But I must say the containers weren’t labeled so I used the white salt instead of the brown raw sugar. My Pyrex bowl full of organic flour had to be dumped. I was grief stricken. Florencia said “no worries, the chickens love the stuff.” So out I went to her chicken coop to sling wet dough at them. She was right, all seven stayed inside the coop running after the dough. After that it was back to the drawing board. I stirred the yeast into warm water, added sugar and set it aside for 30 minutes. Florencia had a bowl of whole wheat bread for me to knead. It was pretty much like making tortillas but on a larger scale and for a longer time. I caught up with the rest of the group who were well into kneading their doughy balls of bread amid clouds of flour.
Ten or so minutes later we had nine large mounds of bread dough sitting on her huge table. Butter is spread on the bottom of the bowl before the dough is topped with a clean dishtowel. I have Vegan Son to think about so I used Olive Oil. We set those bowls aside to take home and bake after they rose for an hour or more.
Florencia brought out some prepared white flour dough that brimmed to the top of her ceramic bowl. She demonstrated the punch we get to deliver to the dough before it is hand formed into three French Baguettes. After slicing three cuts across their length she brushed them with an egg white wash. The whole wheat dough isn’t punched but placed into loaf pans for sandwich bread.
All the while we smelled yeasty, sweet aroma’s drifting out of her kitchen. She had French Baguettes and Whole Wheat loaves already baking. She opened the oven door and showed us how to check for ‘doneness’ by gently striking the top of the loaves with a wooden spoon. The hollow thunk signaled its readiness.
After the loaves were placed on the table, Florencia brought out the organic butter and a huge glass barrel of local organic honey. There was a line to pick up slices. Heaven is butter on warm whole wheat bread drizzled with honey.
Next month is “Making Homemade Pizza,” at Florencia’s. Check out her website for much more information about food and its water footprint.
*Recipe: The Whole Wheat Bread recipe is on Florencia’s website.