Apparently I read a lot of books about food. Seems to be a theme around here. Probably unsurprising with my recent celiac diagnosis, but my last two books that I need to catch up in terms of blogging focus on food.

The first is A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

This is the sort of book that ground-up armchair  historians love. In this book Standage surveys the histories of beer, wine, coffee spirits, tea and Coca-Cola in order to explain momentous moments in human history. Ever thought about how rum aided the colonization of the Americas? Or how tea helped to spur the Industrial Revolution? Or coffee, European cafe society? Well, it is all here in a wonderful little book. Standage is funny, informative, and does a wonderful job addressing major moments in history through the lens of what we drink. This is a great little book, an easy read (a great airplane read without you feeling like you are reading junk) and super fun.

The other book I read on food is far more serious– it is Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food

Some years ago I was on a teaching fellowship at a prestigious Midwestern college that was well-known for its sort of hippie/liberal character. That fall, Michael Pollan came to speak (he was greeted like a rock star by an auditorium of screaming college kids and local specialty farmers), and I was one of the lucky faculty that got to go to a dinner with him (I was too terrified to speak to him, and he spent the evening surrounded by luminaries far more important than I.) Anyway, I have read is other books and I will admit I am a fan. This book is small, but it packs a powerful punch.

A few days ago I was at the supermarket with my cart full of vegetables and meat, when an older gentleman in line behind me stepped up and said “You must actually cook!” Startled I looked down at my food and laughed and said “Why yes, don’t most people?” And with  a slight twinkle in his eye he gestured over to the people around us with their carts full of prepackaged foods and soda and said “they don’t really cook.”  And I looked back at him and together we chuckled. (he had a cart full of veggies and meats too.) But it was a prescient observation.

I don’t think I am superior to those who eat junk food and fast food– I don’t eat packaged food because I just plain can’t. Before my diagnosis, I ate plenty of junk, believe me– but now I can’t. I can’t eat processed food because gluten is in just about everything. Anyway, Pollan’s book focuses on how everyone should step away from the foods with the long labels full of stuff that you have no idea what it is– away from the “no-fat” labels– away from the stuff that screams “Its heart healthy!!” because it probably isn’t.

The book explains how the USDA came to endorse its current recommendations for eating, how food science has underminded food itself, how Americans being fat and unhealthy has a whole lot more to it than the number of calories and fats that we eat. It has to do with our culture– the way we see food (Supposed to be fast, cheap and filling)  and approach the culture of eating. The book is about how we should value our food more– and eat only real food.

This book (if you haven’t read it already) will radically change how you think of food. Not hard for me– I was already forced to radically change how I think about food, but if you haven’t read this book, please do. Its a game-changer.

That’s all for now. Will I make it to 52 books by the end of the year? I have eight more to go… Jeepers…

Ciao for now,

Bookish C