Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mostly Food . . . . and Some Spinning

Ever since reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan I have become fascinated by the topic of food – how it is raised/grown, how it gets to our tables, who the intermediaries are, and what roles they play. So I now have a little stack of "food" books that I dip into randomly to gather more information and opinions.

The most recent Pollan book, "In Defense of Food," is the best written of my little collection. As a journalist, Pollan has all the writing chops; he knows how to make a mundane subject compelling. A much shorter and easier read than Omnivore, its theme is summed up on the front cover – "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." Of course the book expands on these seven words. Pollan defines "food," offers some ideas as to why so many Americans are eating too much, and expounds on the advantages of veggies and fruits. (just like Mom)

"Food Politics" by Marion Nestle is not so lively, but equally interesting if you can slog through the copious detail. Nestle is an academic and writes like one. She has studied nutrition for over 25 years, including much involvement with government programs that attempt to explain "good nutrition" to the public. As a result, she is able to provide a wealth of intriguing insights into the interaction between government and the food industry and some explanations as to why most published nutrition guidelines make little sense.

The most strident voice is Michele Simon, an attorney, in "Appetite for Profit." Perhaps biased by the cases she has handled, Simon sees "big food" as inherently evil. Not too much balance here. The most interesting bits are the case studies – who got sued, for what, how they responded, what negotiations ensued, and what was the end result.

That's the status of my journey into foodland. If anyone knows of other good books on these same topics, I'd love to hear about them.

Okay, now the spinning part. I have finished spinning the first ounce of "Say A Little Prayer." Only seven more to go. I do very much enjoy spindle spinning, but I must admit that the condition of my back after a recent episode of plying has me thinking that sitting at a wheel might be nice. (I ply standing on a stool. With arms fully extended I can then reach my seven-foot ceiling and let the spindle go all the way to the floor. This generates about two yards of plied yarn each time. If I do it 100 times I have a 50-gram/200-yard skein of fingering. Ooof)


Delighted Hands said...

Wow-I don't think too much about food, we do grow a lot of our own but I do know enough not to buy boxed anything! Interesting thoughts. The spindling is beautiful-I don't think I have enough balance to trust myself on a stool-LOL, it is probably a new Yoga stance!

Marjorie said...

Pollan and Nestle have occasional articles in the NY Times that I have read with interest. Now that I've gotten older and presumably need fewer calories, and that I've tried to keep my blood pressure low with minimal medicine, I've become closer to a true vegetarian. One book that has helped me do this is "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman, who also writes a recipe column for the Times. Here is the Amazon link:

The opening to this book explains that we need to consume foods that do less damage to the planet, and I agree wholeheartedly.

In any case, I really love the barley recipes, and it has helped me go meatless on at least a few days a week.

beverlyanne said...

If you are interested in fiction, try My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. It is a satirical look at the American food industry set in Japan and the U.S. Your plyed wool looks beautiful, but your description of the method has my hair standing on end.

~ P ~ said...

Good idea ,standing on a stool to drop spindle. I think I'll give it a try.

Sharon said...

I have to second the Ozeki recommendation. I read Omnivore's Dilemma, actually bought it since I couldn't read it in the library checkout period of time. I guess I should look at his second book. You've read Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" right? My mother was a little unorthodox and used to read Adele Davis's "You are what you eat" to me when other mothers were reading "Little Women" to their daughters.