Food and Farm Books to Pre-Order for 2013

As each chilly January day is ever-so-slightly longer than the last, I’ve found myself not only counting down the days until spring, but also the days until two incredible books publish and get into my library, mind and heart: Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Release date April 23, 2013), and Forrest Pritchard’s Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm (Release date May 21, 2013).

The Amazon.com summary of Pollan’s Cooked reveals that the book will explore the four classical elements of food and cooking – fire, water, air and earth – seemingly in the deep, co-evolutionary style of  The Botany of Desire. Pollan dedicates sections of the book and of himself to understanding the human relationship and dependence on the “primal magic” of fire, the “art of braising,” the transformation of grain and water into bread via air, and the genius of fermentation. All of which encourage we readers and food system reformers to continue our quest to bring our meals back to the basics.

“…Cooking, above all, connects us. The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume huge quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.”   – Amazon description

While I hope each year welcomes a little more kitchen and cooking time into my personal food journey, the heart of my education and energy takes place on the farm. Lucky for me and all my fellow farmer friends, Forrest Pritchard, author of Gaining Ground and pioneering farmer at Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Virginia, captures the spirit of those experiences and lessons in his blog posts and speaking engagements. Just this weekend, he ignited applause from an audience of farmers at the Future Harvest conference with a pivotal comment during the panel discussion “Down a New Path  – Stories of Change and Transition.”

“We could be considered niche farmers… Or we could be considered early adapters in a new paradigm.” – Forrest Pritchard

A recording of the discussion will be airing this week on the Marc Steiner Show and the Gaining Ground is set to be released May 21st. Until then, Pritchard and Smith Meadows’ free-range meats can be found at several DC, Maryland and Virginia farmers markets.

Great Content on FoodMyths.org

Our friend Mark Stewart, Senior Project Manager at the University of Maryland Office of Sustainability, turned us on to a great website this morning: FoodMyths.org. If you haven’t visited the site before, it is most definitely worth a lunch-time browse.  It is filled with resources, facts, suggestions, tool kits and ideas for getting involved in positive transformations of the food system. Here’s a video from their “Mythbusters” section, Hunger & Food Security, that gives a taste of what the site has to offer:

Still a Fast-Food Nation

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and incredible inspiration to folks in and interested in the movement towards a functional food system, published the afterward to his book on the Daily Beast yesterday.
In the afterward/article, Schlosser shares some saddening news about prevailing fast-food advertising and sales and still-rising obesity rates. While pleased that his book remains in print ten years later, he points out that the atrocities within its pages are unfortunately not yet out-of-date as he’d hoped they would be. Thankfully, Schlosser is inspired and optimistic about the powerful food revolutionaries working hard to change the food industry into something that wouldn’t sadden Upton Sinclair. Read the full article here.

Disappointed in Paula Deen?

Me too.

In case you haven’t heard, Paula Deen, Food Network star and Southern cook, has now confirmed reports that she was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes nearly three years ago. I have to admit that I know very little about Paula Deen apart from the fact that she has been criticized for promoting the type of high-fat and high-sugar diet that leads to weight gain and other ‘western diseases’ and that she chose to keep her diagnosis a secret for years. What I do know is that during her appearance on the Today Show yesterday, she announced her spokesman-ship deal with Victoza, a pharmaceutical company and dodged discussion about diet. Here’s the footage:

Her announcement happened to correspond with Michael Pollan’s talk last night at the Baltimore Speaker Series in which he addressed Paula Deen’s decision to partner with the Victoza. He pointed out the larger “fork in the road” this exemplifies. We could go one direction towards a nation of acceptance and complacency regarding the epidemic of diet-related health problems (Deen’s direction), or another – more active and change-effecting direction – towards reformation of the food system, our understanding of it, roles within, and conscious involvement in its evolution towards something healthier.

Can you imagine the positive impact Paula Deen could have on the American diet if she were to re-frame this?  As disappointed as I am, I’m not going to give up hope. Turn it around, Paula. Sacrifice a little pride for the greater good of your fans and followers.

This Should Be Illegal

Somehow, a hospital-themed restaurant advertising free meals for patrons who weigh more than 350 lbs, milkshakes with the “highest butter content in the world,” and selling 8,000 calorie cheeseburgers with four patties (listed as a “Quadruple Bypass” on the menu) has opened up in Las Vegas, Nevada, despite the fact that the flagship Arizona location closed in May following the death of the grill’s spokesperson, 29-year-old Blair River, pictured in the video above. The owner, Jon Basso, who is also featured in the video above – as “Dr. Jon” – spoke to the Las Vegas Sun last month:

“You’re intelligent if you don’t eat our food,” he said Thursday. “If people pondered what I’m doing, they’d realize I’m creating a mockery of this. When you hop on that scale and you’re 350 pounds and we give you a free burger and people cheer, what’s really going on? We’re singling you out as a freak. On the one hand, I could try to defend myself ethically and call myself a crusader that’s trying to wake up America and conduct an intervention on obesity. That’s half true. The other half is I’m an entrepreneur trying to make a buck, plain and simple.”
Basso stopped, thought for a minute, then added: “The only thing I can say in my defense is: If you compare me to Burger King and McDonald’s, I’m honest and they aren’t. It says right on my door: ‘Caution, bad for your health.’” 

Read more here and here. This can’t possibly be what our country’s founding fathers had in mind. Ugh.