Currently browsing posts about: Books

Sep 5 2013

If you like books with food maps, try these

Darin Jensen and Molly Roy, eds.  Food: An Atlas.  Guerrilla Cartography, 2013.

This is fun.  It’s a book of big maps on food production, distribution, security, exploration, and identity, mostly American but some international.  Take a look at such maps as those for rooftop farming in New York City, global imbalance of food availability, the rise of British food banks, and Taco trucks of East Oakland.

It reminds me a lot of:

Erik Millstone and Tim Lang.  The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where and Why.  Earthscan, 2003.

This one is British and more overtly political.  Its maps cover such things as over- and under-nutrition, food aid as power, genetic modification, trade flows, advertising, and “Citizens Bite Back.”

Aug 30 2013

The Upanishads and other thanks for food

I love collections on obscure (and sometimes not so obscure) food themes.  This book collects prayers, incantations, and thanks for food from may cultures.

Adrian Butash.  Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World.  New World Library, 2013.

BlessFood_pbk_cvr.indd

In addition to the expected Christian prayers giving thanks for what is about to be consumed, the book has others, like this one from the Upanishads:

I am food, I am food, I am food.

I am the food-eater, I am the food-eater, I am the food eater.

I am the combining agent, I am the combining agent, I am the combining agent.

…I, who am food, eat the eater of food.  I have overcome the world.  I am brilliant like the sun.

A thought for the start of the weekend.  Enjoy!

Aug 19 2013

Books about food industry work: first-hand

Seth Holmes.  Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. .  University of California Press, 2013.

This book came highly recommended and for good reason.  It is a riveting account by a PhD (anthropology)/MD, now on the faculty of the School of Public Health in Berkeley, who did his dissertation fieldwork as a participant/observer/migrant berry picker.  This meant starting out in Oaxaca, traveling to the U.S. border, crossing it illegally, getting caught, going to jail, getting out, working in the fields with fellow migrants who made it through, and enduring almost everything they had to endure.  The almost?  As an American citizen and white, he was treated better—a difference he makes stark and clear.  For anyone with a conscience, this book is not an easy read; we don’t treat Mexican immigrant workers with much respect and Holmes writes eloquently about how that disrespect feels to people who are making enormous sacrifices to create better lives for their children. What must be done?  ”Broad coalitions of people must actively engage in…concrete legal, political, civil, and economic actions…[so these people] no longer have to migrate across a deadly border in order to provide us with fresh fruit in exchange for their broken bodies.”

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies is just out but it reminded me of another participant/observer study that first appeared in 2005.

Steve Striffler.  Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food, Yale University Press, 2007.

I know about this book because I blurbed it:

An extraordinarily powerful indictment of the U.S. chicken industry.  This book will do for chicken what Fast Food Nation did for beef.

Striffler is an anthropologist now at the University of New Orleans who did his dissertation research working on poultry processing lines.  He lived with the other workers, went with them to their home towns, and experienced what they experienced.   Not easy.  He has much to say about the effect of this kind of work on the people who do it, the communities in which they live, and the impact of industrial animal farming on people, rural America, and the animals themselves.

This is anthropology at its best by courageous people.

Aug 16 2013

What’s that cartoon?

Oops.  Amazon left off the last question in Kerry Trueman’s interview.

KT: And what a bonus to get to the end of the book and find that wonderful cartoon of yourself by Clay Bennett! How did that come about?

I know.  I love it.   Minutes before the book was being sent to press, my editor realized that there were a couple of blank pages at the end.  And I didn’t have a bio in the book.  Why not commission a cartoon?  Clay Bennett is the only one of the cartoonists I’ve met—I went to a talk he gave in New York at the launch of another Cartoonist Group book—and I very much enjoy his work, as who does not?   He’s the editorial cartoonist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press and won a Pulitzer Prize at some point.  He produced the cartoon over that weekend.  I think it’s the perfect way to end the book.

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

 

 

Aug 15 2013

Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics: Q and A

Amazon.com has just posted an interview that I did with Kerry Trueman about my forthcoming (September 3!) book, Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.

Kerry Trueman, an environmental advocate, interviews public health nutritionist, Marion Nestle, author of Eat Drink Vote

Jude Stewart

Kerry Trueman: Has politics always had such a huge impact on the way we eat?

Marion Nestle: Of course it has. As long as we have had inequities between rich and poor, politics has made some people fat while others starved. Think, for example, of the sugar trade and slavery, the Boston tea party, or the role of stolen bread in Les Misérables. Bread riots and food fights are about politics. But those events seem simple compared to what we deal with now, when no food issue seems too small to generate arguments about who wins or loses. Congressional insistence that the tomato paste on pizza counts as a vegetable serving is only the most recent case in point.

KT: How do you reconcile the fact that what’s good for us as individuals–namely, eating less junk food–is bad for business?

MN: I don’t think these facts are easily reconciled. They can only be observed and commented and acted upon. The job of the food industry is to produce products that will not only sell well, but will sell increasingly well over time, in order to produce growing returns to investors. Reconciliation requires companies either to sell less (impossible from a business standpoint) or make up the difference with sales of healthier products. Unfortunately, the so-called healthier products–and whether they really are is debatable–rarely sell as well. In practice, companies touch all bases at once: they put most marketing efforts into their core products, they proliferate new better-for-you products, and they seek new customers for their products among the vast populations of the developing world–where, no surprise, the prevalence of obesity is increasing, along with its related diseases.

KT: Why did you want to do a book of food politics cartoons?

MN: If truth be told, I’ve been wanting to do one for years. Cartoons are such a great way to engage audiences. Politics can be dreary. Cartoons make it fun. I’ve collected cartoons for years on everything about food and nutrition. I would have loved to do a book on nutrition in cartoons but getting permission to reprint them was too difficult and expensive. For the cartoons in my last book, Why Calories Count, I contacted the copyright holder, Sara Thaves, who represents the work of about 50 cartoonists. During our negotiations about how much they would cost, Sara asked if I might be interested in doing a book using Cartoonist Group cartoons. Would I ever! Sara ended up sending me more than 1,100 cartoons–all on food politics. I put them in categories and started writing. The only hard part was winnowing the drawings to a publishable number. But what a gorgeous book this turned out to be! The cartoons are in full color.

KT: In Eat Drink Vote, you note that, it ought to be possible to enjoy the pleasures of food and eat healthfully at the same time. Why does that ideal meal elude so many of us?

MN: Because our food choices are so strongly influenced by the food environment. Given a large plate of food, for example, practically everyone will eat more from it than from a smaller portion. And then there’s the cooking problem. For decades, Americans have been told that cooking is too much trouble and takes too much time. As a result, many people would rather order in and wait for it to arrive and get heated up again than to start from scratch. And healthy foods cost more than highly processed junk foods, and not only on the basis of calories. The government supports the production of corn and soybeans, for example, but not that of broccoli or carrots. I should also mention that food companies get to deduct the cost of marketing, even marketing to children, from their taxes as legitimate business expenses.

KT: On the subject of food and pleasure, you enjoy the occasional slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream, just as Michelle Obama loves her french fries. Do you subscribe to the all things in moderation philosophy, or are there some things you simply won’t eat, ever?

MN: The only food I can think of that I won’t ever eat is brains, and that’s rarely a problem. And yes, I do subscribe to everything in moderation although it’s hard to admit it without irony. The phrase has been so misused by food companies and some of my fellow nutritionists to defend sales of junk foods and drinks. There is no question that some foods are healthier to eat than others and we all would be better off eating more of the healthier ones and fewer of the less healthful foods. But fewer does not and should not mean none. And what’s wrong with pizza, pray tell? In my view, life is too short not to leave plenty of room for freshly baked pizza, toffee candy, real vanilla ice cream, and a crusty, yeasty white bread–all in moderation, of course.  

Aug 2 2013

Weekend Reading: Two Books About Cooking

Tamar Adler.  An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.  Scribner 2011.

The book comes with a foreword by Alice Waters and a blurb from Michael Pollan: “Tamar Adler has written the best book on cooking with economy and grace that I have read since MFK Fisher.”  He ought to know (see below).

Ms. Adler cooked at Chez Panisse.  She says:

Cooking is best approached from wherever you find yourself when you are hungry, and should extend long past the end of the page.  There should be serving, and also eating, and storing away what’s left; there should be looking at meals’ remainders with interest and imagining all the good things they will become.

She begins with “how to boil water” and ends with “how to end.”  Very MFK Fisher indeed.

Michael Pollan.  Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  Penguin Press, 2013

A review of this book should seem superfluous as a mere look at Pollan’s website makes clear.   But I want to go on record as saying how much I enjoyed reading it.  He writes about the time he spends in the kitchen learning from experienced cooks how to barbecue (fire), make stews (water), breads (air), and cheese (earth).

The writing is so vivid and engaging that I had the strangest reaction to this book: I could smell what was cooking.

Jul 25 2013

Weekend reading: A guide to good food

Margaret Wittenberg.  The Essential Good Food Guide: The Complete Resource for Buying and Using Whole Grains and Specialty Flours, Heirloom Fruits and Vegetables, Meat and Poultry, Seafood, and More.  Ten Speed Press, 2013.

Wittenberg is the vice president for quality standards and public affairs at Whole Foods.  She’s been with the company since its beginnings in the early 1980s when it was just a sawdust-on-the-floor counterculture grocery in Austin.

How Whole Foods got from there to here is the next book she should write.  In the meantime, we have this one.

Its well organized and useful.  I blurbed it:

At last we have Margaret Wittenberg to answer our most basic questions about any food we see: what is it and what do I do with it. The Essential Good Food Guide is an extraordinarily comprehensive guide to foods, ingredients, and their handling. Sophisticated cooks as well as beginners will be grateful to have this indispensable book at hand.

 

 

Jul 19 2013

Weekend reading: Food revolution, California style

The California food movement took off after the 1980s.  If you want to know how this particular social movement developed, here are two books explaining how and why.

Joyce Goldstein with Dore Brown.  Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed Our Culinary Consciousness.  University of California Press, 20

Full disclosure.  Joyce Goldstein is an old friend from the days when she ran Square One, very much a part-of-the revolution restaurant in San Francisco, and Dore Brown has been a pleasure to work with on several of my books with UC Press.

With that said, this book addresses this question: Was Alice Water’s Chez Panisse really the start of the good food movement in California?  The short answer is yes.  Everyone discussed in this book seems to have been inspired by Chez Panisse, worked there, or supplied its foods and wines.  Joyce interviewed just about everybody involved in doing interesting things with food and got them to reflect on why they did it and how what they did fit into the larger picture.    She writes from the perspective of a participant passionately devoted to good cooking with excellent ingredients.

Reading the book reminded me of one I mentioned in a previous post:

Sally Fairfax, et al.,  California Cuisine and Just Food.  MIT Press, 2012.

I remembered it because I had written its foreword.  It’s about the development of the food movement in the San Francisco Bay Area, rather than all of California, but it starts earlier and looks at what happened from the perspective of food systems.  Sally Fairfax (also an old friend from my own Bay Area days), and her co-authors examine the roles and accomplishments of everyone along the food chain who produces, transports, sells, prepares, serves, and consumes food.  They describe how the Bay Area food scene (“district,” as they like to call it) evolved to become today’s vibrant community of highly diverse groups working in highly diverse ways to produce better quality food and promote a more just, healthful, and sustainable food system.

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