last month's book was In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by michael pollan. it was fascinating.
really, you ask, a book about diet and nutrition?
really. i promise. it was so interesting.
i admit it's a little depressing, too, because exposes how industrial agri-business produces meat, dairy and produce that are nutritionally deficient and how a western diet based on refined sugars, oils, and grains is to blame for health problems ranging from obesity to diabetes, cancer, and tooth decay. somehow pollan manages to make the whole story interesting and even hopeful if you take home the message that supporting local farmers who grass-feed livestock and whose growing practices enrich the soil leads to better eating and that the health benefits of a changed diet can be measured in as little as a few weeks.
here is the gist of his book, and he lays it out right there on the cover: "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
by food, pollan means whole foods--things not sold in wrappers, boxes, or packages. he convincingly argues that whole foods are more than the sum of their parts and that simply adding "good" nutrients like vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, or fiber to snacks, cereals, breads, pastas, and yogurts does not make them healthy--especially when they are also "fortified" with high fructose corn syrup, soy-based oils, and unpronounceable mystery ingredients.
but it doesn't come across as preachy. instead, pollan manages to weave an compelling story from topics as varied as grain milling, history of food culture, best practices in agriculture, nutritional trends and fads, science, medicine, law, and pseudoscience.
i feel like i learned a lot, and it made me want to know more. i'm especially eager for the farmers' market to open in a few weeks, because until then there aren't a lot of local alternatives in food shopping (although friends we know do purchase milk and eggs from a nearby farm, and other friends buy a locally-raised pig.) thankfully, with jim's hunting, we don't buy much factory farm-raised meat (although eating out is another story...)
it made me want to learn to bake bread, although now that i know more about how nutritionally bankrupt white flour is, i wonder where i can purchase stone-ground wheat flour? i also want to try my hand at making condiments like ketchup. i know, it's anathema for a pittsburgh girl to turn her back on heinz, but i'd like to do without the high fructose corn syrup.
it was probably the book that lead me to spend friday afternoon picking dandelion greens from my yard and cooking them up for dinner. admittedly, they were less than delicious, but a least i know that the bitterness (which is bred out of most industrially-farmed produce) comes from its ability to defend itself from predators and is indicative of high nutrient content.
i'm pretty sure knowing that led me to by kale this week as well. i made this recipe for dinner, and it was a huge hit--dylan and jim both gobbled the tofu, if you can believe it! delish:)
so i liked yet another book circle choice. that's three for three:) penny is the circle's hostess, and she'll soon have other people's reactions posted as well.