by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Cooking

Aug 1 2014

For your food studies library: Books that Cook

Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite, eds.  Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal.  New York University Press, 2014.

I have a special interest in this book: I wrote its Foreword.  Here’s an excerpt:

Books that Cook brings the food revolution into the study of English literature— brilliantly, deftly, and with no apologies. No apologies are needed. As editors Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite explain, Food Studies necessarily encompasses literature. Basic food texts—cookbooks and recipes—are as much a form of literature as are fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and poetry. And why not? They tell stories. They convey myths. They are replete with drama, symbolic meaning, and psychological insight.

Furthermore, they offer plenty to talk about: culture, religion, ethics, personal identity, and anything else that it means to be human. That food generates profound literary memories is famously known from what ensued after Proust dipped his madeleine in tea.  Writers of all time have used food memories to spark traditional literary texts. Today, we view cookbooks and recipes as equally worthy of literary analysis. Even recipes.

They used the end of the Foreword as a blurb:

Books that Cook propels the food movement and in doing so makes a political as well as a literary statement. It makes a difference. Read it. Savor the writings. Delight in them. Think about them. And if they inspire you to do your own writing about food, so much the better.

I also have a special interest in one of the editors, Jennifer Cognard-Black.  I’ve never met her, but I contacted her after reading an article she wrote for Ms Magazine.  The article, The Feminist Food Revolution, comes with this description:

From farms to community gardens to restaurants, women are taking food back into their own hands.  So why do men keep getting all the credit?

This last phrase got my attention, particularly because she mentions me in the article.  Interesting, no?

The Foreword was fun to write and the book is fun to read.

Thanks Jennifer, Melissa, and NYU Press for this contribution to food studies, published today, and most welcome.

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 15 2013

Food for kids: “The Best Lunch Box Ever”

Hot summer days are good times to try to get caught up with all the good books about food that are coming out.  Here’s one from someone I knew when she was a student in our department at NYU.

She was a great writer even then.  Now she has kids…

Katie Morford, The Best Lunchbox Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love, Chronicle Books, 2013.

 

I did a blurb for it, of course:

The Best Lunchbox Ever is a terrific gift to anyone who has to pack a lunch for a kid, and wants that lunch to be healthy—and eaten.  Katie Morford has dozens of interesting and sometimes surprising suggestions for easy, delicious, and nutritious lunch items that kids will enjoy—if parents don’t get to them first.  I wish I’d had this book when my kids were in school.

Enjoy and use!

Apr 17 2013

Michael Pollan’s “Cooked” and Appraisals by food academics

Michael Pollan’s Cooked comes out April 23 but the New York Times jumped the gun and reviewed it yesterday.   I can’t wait for the copy I ordered to arrive so I can read it for myself.

cooked-cover

Whenever the book comes, this seems like a good time to post Geoffrey Cannon’s interviews with some of Pollan’s academic foodie fans (including me) about how we assess his work.  These appraisals are now posted in World Nutrition, the online journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association.

cover april 2013

Geoffrey Cannon: When did you come across Michael Pollan?

I had been reading Michael Pollan’s articles in the New York Times Magazine with admiration, to say the least, so when he invited me to participate in a food conference he was running at Berkeley in the fall of 2002, soon after he arrived to teach there, I was looking forward to meeting him. The conference was splendid. It brought together a huge number of journalists, academics, filmmakers, and government and industry officials. The speakers were glittery. Alice Waters did the catering. The side trips were to a farm in Bolinas and an olive orchard in Sonoma run by the owners of the San Francisco Chronicle (they had sketches by Wayne Thibaud tacked to the bathroom walls). Sometime after that, I spoke in one of his classes. But the first meeting I remember in detail must have been in about 2004. I asked for his advice about the book I was working on at the time, which later became What to Eat.

What impressed you at that time?

We met for lunch at Chez Panisse, where he was clearly a regular (I was still having trouble getting a reservation). I wanted his advice about how to write for a general audience. He said he wasn’t the right person to ask, because he didn’t write as an expert. His starting point in developing books was from lack of expertise. As he learned, he brought readers along with him. This turned out to be hugely helpful.

I got to know him better in the spring of 2006 when I taught at Berkeley in a complicated arrangement between three schools. I was paid by public policy, had an office in public health, but journalism – meaning Michael – ran the life support. The following spring I went back to Berkeley to teach a course in science journalism in his program. We did some speaking gigs together.

Rate his work and impact

Obviously, I think he is terrific but I have to do full disclosure. He just wrote the splendid foreword to the tenth anniversary edition of Food Politics. I’ll just say this: lots of people in the US have been working on the food movement for decades, but his work reaches so large and so passionate an audience that he has to be given much of the credit for its expansion.

Quote one of his sayings that stays with you

In What to Eat, I said dietary principles were simple: eat less, move more, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, don’t eat too much junk food. Pollan says: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. Oh to be able to write like that.

 Give an example of where he has made a difference

Students read his work and want to act. Our NYU programs in food studies are filled with people who read Pollan and want to do something to make the food system healthier and better for the planet.

Has his work changed your thinking and if so, how?

I don’t think I ever understood the importance of meat animals in balanced ecological systems to the extent that I now do. The idea of the omnivore’s dilemma is mind-changing on its own. I like it because it is so inclusive of different ways of eating and enjoying food. And I can’t wait to read Cooked.

Does his work have relevance outside the USA?

People outside the US are going to have to answer this one but of course it does. Food systems are global. How we in America eat affects the food systems of countries everywhere else and, to some extent, vice versa.

In what ways if any do you think he is mistaken?

I’m of the belief that although health very much depends on what you eat, body weight depends on how much you eat no matter where the calories come from (one of the theses of my new book Why Calories Count). We argue about this all the time. Eventually, the science will get to the point where this gets resolved one way or the other. In the meantime, it’s fun to debate.

Reference: Gussow J, Kirschenmann F, Uauy R, Schell O, Nestle M, Popkin B, Cannon G, Monteiro C. The American genius. [Appraisals].  World Nutrition 2013;4:150-170.  My answers to Geoffrey Cannon’s questions start on page 161.

Addition, May 1.  World Nutrition has published a second set of Appraisals, with some commentary.

Feb 18 2013

A Cookbook from Gaza? Yes, indeed.

Occasionally, a cookbook fits into the food politics genre, proving once again that food and cooking are entry points into the most important political issues of the day.  Take a look at:

Laila El-Haddad & Maggie Schmitt.  The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey.  Just World Books, 2012.

The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey

We may know the Gaza strip as the contested territory along the southern edge of the eastern Mediterranean but, as Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s foreword to this book points out, “Gaza was an important station on the spice route…this patch of territory is…a living legacy of the refugees who flocked here, driven from their homes in the north and east.”   Judging from this book, its food is pretty terrific and I can’t think of a more delicious entry point into the politics of the Middle East.

And for more information about the book, click here.

Jan 15 2013

Reading food and food politics

I’m also catching up on reading.

This just in:

Wenonah Hauter.  Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.  The New Press, 2012.

Hauter heads up Food and Water Watch, a tough-minded advocacy group in Washington DC working to preserve and ensure a safe, accessible, and sustainable food supply.  Foodpoly is her manifesto.  She has a lot to say about the problems with food policy, food chains, the organic-industrial complex, the food safety system, factory farms, and corporate control of the food supply.  She urges: “eat and act your politics.”  I’m using it as required reading in my food advocacy course this spring at NYU.

And here are a couple of others I’ve been saving up:

Bee Wilson, Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, Basic Books, 2012.

I blurbed this one:

Consider the Fork is a terrific delve into the history and modern use of kitchen tools so familiar that we take them for granted and never give them a thought.  Bee Wilson places kitchen gadgets in their rich cultural context.  I, for one, will never think about spoons, measuring cupts, eggbeaters, or chopsticks in the same way again.

W.A. Bogart, Permit But Discourage: Regulating Excessive Consumption, Oxford University Press, 2011.

I blurbed this one too:

Permit But Discourage is an engagingly written examination of a hugely important question: How can laws best be used to protect individuals and societies against out-of-control consumption of such things as alcohol, junk foods, sodas, and other unhealthy indulgences, without doing more harm than good?  The book clearly and compellingly argues for a mix of laws that permit consumption but discourage excesses, and for finding that mix through trial and error.  This fascinating book is as must read for anyone who cares about promoting health as well as human rights in a market-driven economy.

May 18 2012

Weekend reading: food as an art

Sandor Ellix Katz, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World, Chelsea Green, 2012.

This is a big book—498 pages—packed full of anything you’d want to know about fermented foods, not only as something healthful we seem to have evolved with, but also as something delicious to eat and drink.  Think: cheese, yogurt, sourdough, beer, kimchi, and soy sauce, but also such exotica as kombucha candy or cod liver oil.  The book’s coverage is international, the directions explicit (equipment, gear, troubleshooting), and the design beautiful.  Michael Pollan’s introduction says he found it inspirational.  Me too.

Peter Kaminsky, Culinary Intelligence: The Art of Eating Healthy (and Really Well), Knopf, 2012.

I blurbed this one:

Kaminsky’s rules for taking pounds off and keeping them off are based on a really good idea: Flavor per Calorie.  That works for him and should make dieting a pleasure.

You can eat well and healthfully and everywhere if you apply your inborn Culinary Intelligence.  Kaminsky says the CI story can be summarized in ten words: Buy the best ingredients you can afford.  Cook them well.

Can’t beat that.

Seamus Mullen, Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better, Andrews McNeel, 2012.

I don’t usually blurb cookbooks, but it wasn’t hard to talk me into doing this one.

Take a look at what Seamus Mullen does with vegetables, fruit, grains and everything else he cooks.  I can’t wait to try his 10 Things to Do with Corn.  His food can’t guarantee health, but it will surely make anyone happy.

This gorgeous book proves without a doubt the point I’ve been making for years: healthy food is delicious!

Mullen cooks Spanish food at Tertulia, Manhattan.  The food is delicious (but bring ear plugs!).

Apr 24 2012

Nutritionist’s Notebook: Starting a healthy lifestyle early

On Tuesdays, I answer questions about nutrition in NYU’s student newspaper, the Washington Square News.  Today’s is about youthful immortality.

Question: Many students have expressed that, being so young, they can eat whatever they want and stay thin. What kind of implications does the type of food we eat have on our body weight? If a student is thin but eats bad foods, are there still detrimental effects? Additionally, at what age does what you eat tend to have the biggest effect on you?
Answer: It’s not only youth that keeps college students trim. It’s the lifestyle: running to classes, late nights studying or partying, irregular meals, eating on the run. Once students get past the hurdle of the “freshman 15″ — the weight gain that comes from unlimited access to meal plans — most do not gain weight in college.

It’s what happens afterward that counts. Even the most interesting jobs can require long hours in front of a computer or chained to a desk. Eating out of boredom becomes routine and, once middle age hits, it’s all over. The metabolic rate drops with age, and you can’t eat the same way you used to without putting on pounds.

The college years are a great time to start behaving in ways that will promote lifetime health. If you smoke cigarettes, stop while you can. Don’t binge drink. Practice safe sex.

As for diet, eat your veggies. Whenever you can, eat real foods, shop at farmers’ markets and learn to cook. Cooking is a skill that will bring you — and your family and friends — great pleasure throughout life. If you cook, you will always have the most delicious and healthiest of diets at your fingertips.

You don’t know how? Try an Internet search for “free cooking lessons online.” Mark Bittman’s Minimalist videos, for example, make things simple with results that can be spectacular.

Do the best you can to eat well now, and think of it as easy life insurance.

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