Fight for Your Right to Real Food
"Food in the supermarket is ... pure
commodity. We need better food than
that." —from The Revolution Will Not
"Our food system desperately demands subversion," writes Sander Kitz in this stirring treatise he hopes will inspire you to rebel, even just a little, against industrialized food. He urges you to get in touch with where food comes from — not only for connection with nature, but for survival.
"We face unprecedented environmental and nutritional crises," says Katz, citing agrichemicals, genetic modification, monocropping and other dark sides of corporate food. He details our food system's tenuous propping-up via subsidies, petroleum and international trade agreements, and its hidden costs — such as the $1 billion spent yearly to secure Mideast shipping lanes. "It is easy to imagine the United States, or the whole world," lie says, "in suddenly different economic circumstances ... that force a transition to greater dependence on community-based food production."
But this book is far from depressing. Every chapter exudes Katz' deep and contagious passion tor great food; just a few pages will inspire ;md compel you to give over some sod to zucchini vines, or join a CSA, or frequent your farmers' market more than your supermarket, or just taste a real tomato again. Katz gives you many ways to begin — exploring 10 foodie themes, from local vs. organic to slow food, food as healing, vegetarianism and more. He points out that societies, including Cuba, have survived economically forced food crises like the ones he warns of— through "intensive cultivation of yards and parks and rooftops." He introduces you to inspiring everyday people who are producing their own food or otherwise leading quiet culinary mutinies. And he shows how bold steps like theirs can make your family and community less dependent on things like bags of potatoes trucked in from 900 miles away.
"We are all inherently capable of growing food," Katz points out. "We must sustain ourselves, as we have always been able to do."
Read and discuss an excerpt from the book our interview with Katz at www.realgoods.com/foodrevolution
Whole foods: not as simple as they seem
by Rebecca Wood
Novemeber 22, 2006
Today's industrially produced foods are just another corporate commodity. As with multinational commodities, cost-effectiveness is the production strategy. Quality is not relevant.
Our trade-off for having convenient and cheap food is significant. We know almost nothing about how it is grown or produced, where it comes from and whether it's good for us. Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing.
To clear away the ignorance, here's my pick of 2006 titles that enable a delicious and healthy diet. Here are four different authors — a naturalist, health writer, activist and nutritionist — and their timely wisdom.
"The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals," by Michael Pollan (Penguin, 2006, $26.95).
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" is on "best of the year" book lists because it's a great read no matter your dietary persuasion. Pollan (author of "The Botany of Desire") is funny, wonderfully self-honest and a no-holds-barred adventurer. As a naturalist, he astutely examines the ingredients in four different meals and leaves it up to readers to draw their own conclusions.
For Pollan's first meal, a Big Mac, he buys a feedlot steer and tracks it from weaning to ground beef. He also reveals the prodigious quantities of corn and petroleum this process requires and its dependence upon our defense and political systems. Corn not only feeds our livestock, but it is found as an ingredient in one-fourth of our processed foods. (A Chicken McNugget, for example, has 38 ingredients, 13 of which are corn.)
Pollan cooks his second meal from Whole Foods Market ingredients. If you smugly believe that buying organic is part of the solution, Pollan shreds that fantasy. Yes, he points out, organic food has greater nutrient density and typically more flavor than conventionally grown food. Additionally, organic offers the substantive advantages of a healthier soil and biosphere.
But, here's the rub. An organic meal of industrially produced ingredients is as equally dependent upon corn and petroleum as a McDonald's meal. While pricier, it also delivers convenience and year-round abundance despite the season. This makes all industrially produced foods part of the problem that comprise "our national eating disorder."
For meal number three, Pollan traces the foods, and the energy their production entails, in a meal from a sustainable family farm in Virginia. For the fourth and last meal, the author hunts a wild pig and forages his own salt from the San Francisco Bay. Pollan is inclusive.
Because "the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world," I highly recommend "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Pollan will not lull you with the cliché that eating well can be quick and mindless. Rather, he gives you a clear and honest look at what is.
"Real Food: What to Eat and Why," by Nina Planck (Bloomsbury, 2006, $23.95).
If, from fear of high cholesterol, you've avoided steak, butter and cream, here's your passport to satisfaction. Nina Planck builds a sound case as to how and why traditional foods not only maintain and improve our health but pleasure us, as well. Her sound research implicates cancer and degenerative health with processed foods.
Planck grew up in Virginia with intellectual parents who left academia to farm and could articulate why real foods made sense. Planck, continuing in that tradition, now writes about food and creates and manages farmers' markets.
She details why much of what we have learned about nutrition in recent decades is either misinformed or dead wrong. Furthermore, almost all of the foods invented in the past century are toxic. Planck's contrarian view of what constitutes sound nutrition happens to be the very foods — the real foods — upon which our grandparents thrived.
"The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements," by Sandor Ellix Katz (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006, $20).
If you wish to reclaim a connection to the food you eat, consider Sandor Katz' (author of "Wild Fermentation") newest book. "The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" champions various causes against our modern food supply. From seed-saving as a political act to the role of food in healing, it's an invaluable handbook.
A passionate crusader, Katz is also funny, quirky and eminently likable. Each chapter contains one of his low-tech recipes and ends with multiple resources pages including supportive books, films and organizations.
"Eat Smarter: The Smarter Choice for Healthier Kids," by Dale Figtree (ZHealth Books, 2006, $19.95).
Eat Smarter helps kids (and parents) understand the effects food choices have on health. It includes a removable, color storybook that portrays the successful transition of the author's now adult stepson from a junky diet to a healthy one. It's a well-told story.
Figtree, a certified nutritionist, says she cured herself from cancer with a healthy diet. She offers a commonsense way of eating. No food directly heals or changes us. However, Figtree helps us understand how, with a good diet, our body can repair, readjust its weight and regenerate itself.
While the book includes some fish recipes, it contains no meat, dairy or wheat. (There are even wheat-free recipes for pizza crust and pancakes.)
Eminently pragmatic, "Eat Smarter" has useful meal plans, cooking shortcuts and features 82 easy recipes that most 10-year-olds could make on their own, including the one below.
Rebecca Wood is a Julia Child award-wining cookbook author who, for over 30 years, has taught whole-foods cookery throughout the United States and in Europe. To find a recipe, see her list of classes, schedule a consultation or post your comment about this article, visit: www.AshlandCooking.com