Food for Thought: Five Faves About What We Eat
Recommended by Anne Heidemann, head of the Children's, Tween and Teen Department at the Canton Public Library.
Check our other Fave Five lists, too!
How many of us really think about where our food comes from? Most of the time I'm too busy getting from one place to another to give it much thought; as long as I can find something to stave off hunger I'm basically happy. Reading this book, though, really got me wondering about how much work goes into getting that food to my plate. If I buy an avocado, how many people and resources are involved in getting it from its native soil to my local shopping center? After reading this book, I no longer just pick up an avocado without thinking about the journey it took to get to me. In fact, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle inspired me to plant my first vegetable garden this summer, and despite my lack of experience it has flourished. I've enjoyed several varieties of fresh lettuce, cucumbers, crookneck squash, sweet peas, and runner beans. As Kingsolver points out, the satisfaction that comes from eating locally enhances the already delicious taste of foods fresh from the garden.
Similar to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Plenty is an account of a year of local eating. The authors of Plenty committed to what they termed the 100-Mile Diet, a concept that has since caught on with people all over North America and beyond. They were quite strict about the 100-mile limit and found themselves missing such staples as flour and cooking oil, basics that most of us rarely take time to consider. Not only did Smith and MacKinnon find changes in how they felt, their health, and what they ate, they also made important and lasting connections with neighbors, food producers, and many others within their 100-mile radius.
This novel focuses on Jane, a Japanese-American documentary filmmaker who feels lucky to snag a full-time job producing a television show in Japan. The show, sponsored by a beef industry lobby, is called My American Wife and showcases beef-centric meals made by "typical" American women. Jane is shocked as she learns more about the beef industry, including some of the very disturbing practices that have direct effects on those who consume its products. Ozeki does a masterful job of integrating technical information about the beef industry with a compelling narrative and well-developed characters.
Much like her previous book, All Over Creation provides insight into the food we eat while telling an engaging story. Yumi, the daughter of Idaho farmers Lloyd and Momoko Fuller, reluctantly returned home as an adult to care for her aging parents. The Seeds of Resistance is an anti-bioengineering activist group traveling the country who end up camped out at the Fuller farm. Oddly enough, the Seeds' enthusiasm for non-genetically modified stock endears them to the conservative Fullers (who share the enthusiasm, though for different reasons). Yumi struggles with the return to her hometown and the people she knew as a girl, as well as with the Seeds and her increasingly dependent parents.
In this, his fifth book, Michael Pollan suggests that we "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pollan provides an engaging history of nutritionism ("the widely shared but unexamined assumption that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient") and recommends that instead, we focus on eating real, whole food rather than food products artificially imbued with chemically engineered nutrients. Pollan's real point is that by eating food, we can avoid a slew of diseases and conditions associated with the Western diet, and at the same time, truly enjoy what we eat.