My Dungeness crab teacher

6.5 hours on a fishing boat earlier this week = 25% exhilaration, 50% boredom and 25% dazed, sun-burnished contentment.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about going right to the source and getting the ingredients for dinner yourself. For too many of us, the industrialised food system has put huge distances between those sources and our plates — a distance that helps to mask the too-often shitty ways in which the people, land and animals who form our foodways are treated. At the risk of sounding soppy, this week’s fishing trip offered a reminder for me to never take for granted the critters who paid the ultimate sacrifice for my nourishment (in this instance, 10 crabs each and a good few pounds of rock-cod).

Any crab dishes you’d recommend I make?

The largest dam removal in US history

For the BBC, this month I had the great privilege of writing about the efforts of the Yurok tribe and others to bring down four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Northern California. The Klamath was once home to the third largest salmon runs in the American West, but the dams have contributed to a catastrophic decline in numbers. Removing the dams will restore 400 miles of salmon spawning habitat and drastically improve water quality. It will also contribute towards redressing the injustices faced by the Yurok people who have stewarded this river and its salmon since time immemorial — and for whom the salmon’s survival is inextricably linked to their own.

Read the article.

My other recent articles for the BBC:

Books / movies / music / pods

I’m no fan of Amazon but am grateful for how many (relatively esoteric) treasures from the ’80s and earlier there are to be found in its Prime Video collection. Gems I’ve recently watched include:

  • Another Country, where the fresh-faced Rupert Everett and Colin Firth both had breakout roles as students in an awfully posh, hideously savage English public school

  • My Beautiful Launderette: Hanif Kureishi’s exploration of race, culture and sexuality in Thatcher-era London, which manages to be heartbreaking, hopeful and quite often rather funny

  • A Bigger Splash: the strange, shimmering, intimate and yet also elusive semi-fictional “documentary” about the artist David Hockney as he comes to terms with separating from his muse

I found the new Sufijan Stevens album, The Ascension, a largely unlistenable self-indulgent mess. Am I missing something; Do you disagree? On the other hand: South African electronic music is on fire, as Spotify’s mint South Africa playlist can attest. A current favourite: the haunting, skin-tingling Black Coffee collab with Aussie singer RY X, “I’m Fallin’.”

This year, failure’s been on my mind a lot. Perhaps that’s partly why the podcast How to Fail has struck such a chord; though I suspect it also has a lot to do with host Elizabeth Day being a fantastic interviewer and the interviewees she lures onto the show being both fascinating and vulnerable. A few favourites: the two interviews with the glorious, wonderful Phoebe Waller-Bridge; the one with actor Andrew Scott (the “hot priest” in the former’s Fleabag) and the chat with philosopher Alain de Botton.

Gosh, the story of how bananas became a ubiquitous, cheap commodity on store shelves in the USA and just about everywhere else is a very dark one — and well told by the folks on NPR’s Throughline podcast (thanks Erin).

I’m glad I read 100 Years of Solitude (which, fyi, describes an awful massacre of Colombian banana plantation workers referenced in the aforementioned podcast). I wasn’t besotted (for starters: magical realism isn’t really my jam), but the novel was still impressive — and it seemed every inch as fresh and relevant now as it must have been when it was published in 1967.

Although grisly, Where War Lives, the memoir of Pulitzer-winning Canadian photojournalist Paul Watson, was absolutely gripping. Unlike in the (admittedly also captivating) Bang-Bang Club, there is a meaningful attempt to explore the impulses that drive journalists to cover conflict — and it eloquently unpicks the psychological ramifications of doing so.

Thanks for making it to the end of my monthly dispatch. I started it because although I’m not on social media, I’m keen to stay in touch. Replies are always welcome!