by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Books

May 4 2018

Weekend reading (and cooking): Sam Kass’s Eat a Little Better

Sam Kass was, of course, the Obamas’ personal family chef and Michelle Obama’s policy person in charge of Let’s Move.  This is his first book, part memoir of his culinary background and time with the Obamas in Chicago and Washington (riveting), part food philosophy (even small steps toward eating count for a lot), and part recipes (delicious, easy, and my kind of food).

Also, the photographs of Sam, his family, and the food are gorgeous.  This is one stunningly produced cookbook (thanks to Clarkson Potter Publishers).

My cousin, theater director Robert Moss, took a look at it when staying at my apartment.  He ended his thank-you note with this comment:

P.S.  I loved the Sam Kass book–made me want to cook now!

Me too.

 

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Feb 16 2018

Weekend reading for kids: Eat This!

Andrea Curtis.  Eat This!  How Fast-Food Marketing Gets You to Buy Junk (and how to fight back).  Red Deer Press, 2018.

This, amazingly, is a 36-page toolkit for fighting marketing to kids, with endorsements from Mark Bittman and Jamie Oliver, among others.

As I read it, it’s a manual for teaching food literacy to kids—teaching them how to think critically about all the different ways food and beverage companies try to get kids to buy their products or pester their parents to do so.

The “fighting back” part takes up just two pages, but it suggests plenty of projects that kids can do:

Do taste tests of fast food and the same thing home made.  “Which one is more delicious, more expensive, more healthy?  Which creates the least amount of waste?”

Watch your favorite show…Mark down how many times you see product placement.”

“Quick: think of all the fast-food mascots you know by name…Who are the mascots aimed at?”

The illustrations are kid-friendly as is the text.  I’m guessing this could be used easily with kids from age 8 on.

 

Feb 2 2018

Weekend reading: Eating Ethically

Jonathan K. Crane.  Eating Ethically: Religion and Science for a Better Diet.  Columbia University Press, 2017.

Image result for Eating Ethically: Religion and Science for a Better Diet.

I did a blurb for this one:

This entertaining and provocative book draws on biblical and philosophical sources to argue that eating is an act of ethics, and that we would all be happier and healthier if we adhered to the Bible’s dietary advice—eat enough, but not too much.  Anyone interested in food will be fascinated by the stories Jonathan Crane tells here.

Here’s an excerpt, to give you a taste of what it’s about:

I call this kind of discussion eating ethics.  Its ethics are not confined to philosophical schools of consequentialism (where the ends justify the means) or deontology (where an act is moral to the degree it complies with a preconceived duty or principle).  Rather, its ethics lie in the truth that eating is in and of itself an ethical enterprise, no matter how one thinks about it.  Just as eating is an inherently ethical enterprise, food itself is similarly an ethical construct: it is socially defined and defining, as demonstrated by conversation in dietetics…it directly impacts me the eater and the eaten, not to mention the contexts in which this eating occurs, inclusive of humans, other sentient creatures, the environment, and more, as food ethics readily explains.

The book ends with this statement:

For all of these reasons, how and why we eat are two of the most urgent and pressing ethical enterprises of our very existence, and they lie daily in our own hands and mouths.

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Jan 19 2018

Weekend Reading: The New Bread Basket

Amy Halloran.  The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.  Chelsea Green, 2015.

Image result for the new bread basket

I missed this when it came out, but Chelsea Green just sent me a copy.  I’m happy to have it, because it starts out by talking about the people behind the Community Supported Bakery (CSB) program I belong to in upstate New York around Ithaca: Stefan Senders’ Wide Awake Bakery and Thor Oechsner who grows and mills most of the grain for that bakery.

Halloran interviewed many local and national people in the various categories of her book’s subtitle.  If you want to know how and why there is now so much fabulous bread available in so many places in America, her book explains all.

Bread lover that I am, I am grateful to all of them.

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Jan 12 2018

Weekend reading: Diet and the Disease of Civilization

Adrienne Rose Bitar.  Diet and the Disease of Civilization.  Rutgers University Press, 2017.

Image result for Diet and the Disease of Civilization

I did a blurb for this one:

Bitar’s fascinating thesis is that diet books are ways to understand contemporary social and political movements.  Whether or not you agree with her provocative arguments, they are well worth reading.

I also took some extra notes because the publisher wanted a particularly short blurb.  As you might suspect from my brief comment, I have some quibbles with some of Bitar’s arguments, but the book is interesting, well written, and worth a look.

Bitar deals with four categories of diet books: Paleolithic, faith-based, South Seas paradise, and detox (this last category strangely includes Michael Pollan’s and my work).

Here’s a sample from the chapter I thought strongest, the one on Paleolithic diets.  It refers to classic images of man arising from apes, and then degenerating into obesity.

These images suggest what is much more explicit in the text—that the diet is a story about humanity, about evolution, about civilization and dis-mankind.  The body of the individual dieter is situated in a long, deep history of mankind.  The dieter is biologically indebted to the Paleolithic Era and, in turn, the coming generations will be indebted to him.  Everyday body practices of the individual—eating, sleeping, walking—are elevated to symbols of mankind’s ascent or descent, failures or triumph, in the grand narrative of progress (p. 41).

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Nov 10 2017

Weekend reading: the Hamlet Fire

Bryant Simon The Hamlet Fire, A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives. The New Press.

Image result for the hamlet fire

This book, which deserves a much better cover, tells a compelling story.  Bryant Simon, a history professor at Temple University, has written an epic book about industrialized broiler production.  His starting point is the tragic fire that killed 25 people in a poultry processing plant in 1991, in Hamlet, North Carolina.

It’s inconceivable that this plant, which made cheap chicken fingers for fast food outlets, had locked exit doors—nearly a century after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (which is still commemorated every March 25 in front of the building, now owned by NYU).

To explain the meaning of the fire, Simon takes on globalization’s effect in promoting industrialized chicken production; the loss of well paying jobs in small rural communities led to surplus labor that made it possible to produce cheap chicken and even cheaper chicken products.

Simon links these events to the increasing prevalence of obesity among overworked and underpaid laborers in rural communities.   His stories of workers in chicken processing plants make it clear how they have to deal with the social, racial, and political issues that confront families in rural America.

The costs of cheap food, Simon says eloquently, are borne by the workers and communities that produce it.

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Nov 8 2017

“Make November 8 Great Again”—Nathan Myhrvold

And how is the fabulous Nathan doing that?  By releasing Modernist Bread this week.

Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya.  Modernist Bread.  The Cooking Lab, 2017.

If you have a spare $600 or so, this 53-pound set of coffee-table books will make you happy.  If you don’t, plead with your local library to purchase a set.

The books are beyond gorgeous—lavishly illustrated and full of the facts, figures, and results of the Lab’s years of experiments on the history, culture, and deliciousness of bread and bread making.

These books beg to be examined—but also used.  That’s why they come with a 6th volume—a user’s guide.  For that alone….

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Nov 3 2017

Weekend cooking: Sullivan Street Bakery

Jim Lahey with Maya Joseph.  The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook.  Norton, 2017.

Jim Lahey of My Bread, No-Knead Bread, and Sullivan Street Bakery fame, has produced this marvelous cookbook with his wife, Maya Joseph, featuring all the great foods he serves at Co., his New York restaurant on 9th Ave @25th Street.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of both, not least because Maya, who holds a doctorate in political science from the New School, was my teaching assistant in several courses at NYU, and we’ve co-authored several papers:

  • Joseph M, Nestle M.  The ethics of food.  Lahey Clinic Journal of Medical Ethics 2009;16(1):1-7.
  • Joseph M, Nestle M.  Dialogue: the ethics of food [response].  Medical Ethics 200916(2):7-8.
  • Joseph M, Nestle M.  Food and Politics in the Modern Age: 1920 – 2012   In: Bentley A, ed.  A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Age, Vol. 6.  Berg, 2112:87-110.

Maya is a superb writer and I can hear her voice throughout this book.

The recipes are terrific and easy to follow and the book is beautifully illustrated.  You can taste the recipes at Co. and then have some fun with them at home.  Enjoy!

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