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.

Eat your fat and your veggies

Yet another “nutritionism” study brings a mix of information that is at once counterintuitive, common sense, and contradictory to previous studies. By focusing on a completely deconstructed view of nutrition, the field has a tendency to eschew common sense, periodically attracting flurries of attention when studies are released that do happen to reiterate common sense. This time around, we are told that it is a good idea to dress tomatoes with olive oil. Well, that’s certainly a shocker!

Author Michael Pollan has been harping on this point for some time now, most recently in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Relax and try to take all the science with a grain of salt! Just enjoy a wide variety of foods in moderation, just as the human race has traditionally done for thousands of years. We have a terrible tendency in our culture of overcomplicating everything related to food, and taking all the enjoyment out of it.

Royer family farm feature

The Royers are the first featured producers in what appears to be a series of videos by Purdue University about local meat producers. In the video, Nikki and Scott give a short introduction to their 130 year old family farm and the work they do.

Congratulations, Nikki, Scott, Knic, and Cale!

You can find the Royers’ beef, lamb, and pork at the Fishers and Broad Ripple farmers’ markets. Stop by during the season — they’re nice folks, and they have excellent meat to offer!

I Hate Cilantro — an anti cilantro community

Nothing is a surprise on the internet. Today I read about an online hate group for cilantro-bashing gadflies. Personally, I love the crisp freshness of cilantro, but these folks are pretty funny. According to their community map, one of my neighbors doesn’t like cilantro because it “tastes like [his] lawn!” He joined this community because he was kicked out of the I Hate Paprika Club.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal indicates that there are also Facebook groups devoted to similar causes, with names like “Youth Understanding Cilantro Kills” (Y.U.C.K.) and “I Hate Tomatoes, But I Love Ketchup And Other Tomato-Based Products.”

It’s amazing that a humble, 3,000 year old herb can be so polarizing. Especially the most delicious herb of all!