Two new food books

I’ve read books by Michael Pollan and Tom Standage in the past, and they both have new titles available.

Pollan has been writing about the relationships between food, health, culture, economics, and industry. He makes interesting connections in tracing the details of how meals get to our table, and he gives clear, logical explanations for things like the French Paradox. His research process must be fascinating. In his previous book, he famously summarized a wise strategy for smart eating with the rules, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Last October, the New York Times website had a fun and attractive interactive feature giving more “rules” for eating (I recommend taking a look). A new promotional piece in the New York Times continues the theme. However, not knowing anything other than the title of his new book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, I have to wonder if he is not riding this horse into the ground. I continue to respect his work, so I hope that his latest is as interesting as his other writing. We heard him speak at Butler University some time ago, and I was jealous to learn that some friends are going to hear him speak at Indiana University soon.

As for Tom Standage, I enjoyed his last book, A History of the World in 6 Glasses. While not quite as smooth and quick reading as Pollan, I enjoyed reading about the parallel evolution of culture and the drinks of the times. Standage’s explanation in his new book of how some important turns of history are a result of food cravings should be interesting, as well. As I was catching up on podcasts this morning, I found an interview with him on Tuesday’s Planet Money podcast, where he reminds us that much of the European explorers’ motivation came from a profit motive in the spice trade. I love Standage’s unofficial bio as written by his six‐year‐old daughter.

And an older beer book

Another book that I just haven’t managed to quite finish yet, Beer in America: the Early Years, similarly tells history through beer goggles. Some of the primary points include the fact that any of the events around the time of the American Revolution were planned at taverns over pints of ale. Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, was an accomplished brewer, along with many other women of the day. Taverns were also critical to the westward expansion of the country, providing a place to conduct business as the sparse infrastructure improved. There are many other interesting points and relationships noted in the book, but they either grew repetitive as the book progressed, or that the author was reaching too far when relating events to beer. I think I would have appreciated a perhaps bit less depth in exchange for a look into the 20th century.