by Marion Nestle

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May 22 2015

Weekend reading: Organic Struggle

Brian K. Obach.  Organic Struggle: The Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in the United States.  MIT Press, 2015.

Here’s my blurb:

Brian Obach has written an important book for everyone who produces, buys, or considers buying organically produced foods.  This is a well-researched and utterly riveting history of the issues that unite and divide organic farmers and consumers, firmly grounded in the political context of classic social movements.   If you want to advocate for healthier and more sustainable food systems, you must read this book.

May 15 2015

Weekend reading: Barry Estabrook’s Pig Tales

Barry Estabrook.  Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat.  WW Norton, 2015.

I was happy to be asked to blurb this one.  It’s a great read:

Estabrook tells two powerful stories here.  The first is about the appalling ways in which Big Pig raises animals, pollutes the environment, and uses the political system to avoid and fight regulation.  The second is about how skilled animal husbandry and respect for the intelligence of pigs produces calmer animals, more delicious meat, and a far more satisfying life for farmers and pigs alike.  Pig Tales is beautifully written.  It is also deeply touching.

May 1 2015

Weekend reading: The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Darra Goldstein, editor.  The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets.  Oxford University Press, 2015.

Full disclosure: I have two entries in this book, one with Daniel Bowman Simon.

  • Simon DB, Nestle M.  Soda lobbies.  In: Goldstein D.  The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets.  Oxford University Press, 2015:681-682.
  • Nestle M.  Soda.  In: Goldstein D.  The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets.  Oxford University Press, 2015:623-624.

With that out of the way, I can only think that the editors of this book, Darra Goldstein and Michael Krondl, must have had the best time pulling this together.

The encyclopedia starts with an elegant introduction by Sidney Mintz, author of Sweetness and Power, the one book that tops everyone’s list of must reads in food studies.

The remaining 800 pages or so are devoted to entries by 265 authors on matters as diverse or arcane as dulce de leche, nanbangashi (“southern barbarian sweets”), syllabub, and whoopie pie (look them up).  I especially like the Appendixes: lists of films featuring sugar and chocolate, songs about sugar and candy (often as a metaphor), and museums.

The illustrations are lavish, especially the two sets of gorgeous color inserts.  Subtlety: The Marvelous Sugar Baby, alas, is gone from the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, but it lives on here.  For that alone….

Apr 17 2015

Weekend language instruction: Sauver la Planète

Thanks to Bernard Lavallée for sending me a copy of his book, Sauver la Planète une Bouchée à la Fois: Trucs et Conseils (Translation: Save the Planet One Bite at a Time : Tips and Advice), Les Éditions La Presse, 2015.

It’s a beautifully designed and illustrated book about food and food systems—with recipes—meant for French-speaking Canadians, but it’s lovely to have even if you can’t read French well (which I cannot).

Lavallée, who calls himself the “urban nutritionist,” blogs at http://nutritionnisteurbain.ca/ and tweets @b_lavallee

 

Apr 10 2015

Weekend reading and cooking: Afro-Vegan

Bryant Terry.  Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed. Ten Speed Press, 2015.

The fabulous Bryant Terry has produced a terrific book on an unexpected topic.  Who knew that classic African diaspora cooking—collards, grits, okra, and the like—could be just as delicious and just as culturally meaningful without including ingredients of animal origin.

In this book, he gives the also fabulous Jessica Harris “Permission to Speak,” which is what her Foreword is titled.  Bryant, she says, “amply and ably demonstrates that he knows that food and culture are inseparable and that history is always there on the plate.”

This is a serious work of culinary skill.  Bryant doesn’t make a big deal of his veganism.  He just shows how to cook traditional foods, really well.

Prediction: This book will win prizes.

 

Apr 3 2015

Weekend reading: The Psychology of Eating and Drinking

Alexandra Logue, The Psychology of Eating and Drinking 4th Ed, Routledge, 2014.

download

 

I’m always being asked questions like “what about psychology?”  “Isn’t stress a major factor in overeating?”

I couldn’t be happier to see this book again, now in its 4th edition, and have the chance to blurb it:

Alexandra Logue’s now classic text is the place to begin exploring how our psychology—as distinct from genetics–influences human taste preferences, eating behavior, and food choices.  Logue deals with the evidence available to help explain anorexia, obesity, alcoholism, and the near universal craving for chocolate.  Does psychology matter in food choice?  Here’s where to answer that question.

Mar 27 2015

Weekend reading: Fruits of Eden

Amanda Harris.  Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild and America’s Plant Hunters.  University Press of Florida, 2015.

I blurbed this one:

If you have ever wondered how navel oranges, figs, avocados, dates, and other such foods came to be grown in America, here’s the answer: plant explorers.  Amanda Harris tells the stories of adventurers sent out to search the world for delicious foods.  Fruits of Eden is a welcome history of these little-known plant experts who succeeded in improving the diversity and deliciousness of our daily fare.

 

 

Mar 20 2015

Weekend reading: Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids

Kiera Butler.  Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids & How its Lessons Could Change Food & Farming Forever.  University of California Press, 2014.

New Picture (1)

 

Kiera Butler usually writes for Mother Jones (her latest is about how McDonald’s markets to kids) but this time took on an investigative reporter’s immersion into the world of 4-H, the venerable youth-mentoring program aimed at “growing confident kids.”

Although the program’s website says “4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System & USDA,” you have to look hard to see how it relates to its farming origins.

Butler follows several individual 4-H members, young teenagers, who are deeply engaged in raising and showing animals at county fairs.  She follows their experiences for a year and observes their demonstrable growth in skills, confidence, and the handling of disappointment.  These are the impressive accomplishments of this program.

But she is also well aware of the many contradictions of 4-H: the high cost of participation, its lack of racial and ethnic diversity, its promotion of the values of industrial agriculture, the divide between urban and rural members, and the surprising lack of attention to what agriculture is about and its importance to the economy and society.

Her conclusion: 4-H needs to be challenged to promote critical thinking about agriculture.

Raise is a good read and is thoroughly convincing about the need for such thinking.

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