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Food Matters: Book Review

June 24, 2010

A book about food? Count me in.

I know that not everyone shares my affinity for food. Sure, we all like to eat. And some of us even enjoy shopping for our food. And an even smaller group of us enjoy preparing that food. But there are not many folks that like reading books about food, and even I realize how totally dorky it is that I read not only books about food but also books filled with recipes.

So if you’re not into food to this extent, this might not be a book for you. Here’s a picture of Ainsley for you to look at while any fellow foodies read on.

Up front: Mark Bittman and I are not exactly on the same page when it comes to food and the planet. That being said, Food Matters is an excellent book.

The book is divided into two parts: “Food Matters” and “Food Matters: Recipes”. It’s pretty simple: get educated and get cooking. You can read the logic behind his arguments for changing our eating lifestyle (this is NOT about a “diet”) and then get inspired with actual recipes. Yay. Forget calories. Forget low-fat, low-carb. This is about real food, whole foods, and treating ourselves (and the earth) with respect.

Thanks to this book, I actually cooked the lentils I had purchased a few months ago. I made up a quadruple batch of hummus. I prepared veggies in advance so that we actually eat them instead of letting them rot in the fridge. This book got me back to where I want to be with food.

A few quotes/excerpts that stood out to me:

“The more I understood about the relationship  between human and environmental health, the more I felt a need to act.”

“An overwhelming proportion of farmland is devoted to growing [soy and corn], not for us to eat directly (the most commonly grown varieties are not fit for human consumption), but to feed animals or convert to oil and sugar. So dominant have these crops become, that America no longer grows enough edible fruits and vegetables for everyone to eat our own government’s recommended five servings a day. Were we all to do so, we’d be dependent on imported vegetables!

“More than 50 percent of the corn grown in this country is being fed to animals [my note: many of whom were not created to eat grain at all]; of the remainder, most finds its way into junk food (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup), corn oil, and ethanol.” (page 23)

“The government spends nearly $1 billion to buy commodities from farmers each year and gives them to the National Schools Lunch Program, which is supposed to provide healthy, affordable meals to kids. Schools get free food, farmers are ensured regular income, and the government helps prevent prices from sagging.

“Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? But according to a recent study by the USDA, school lunches routinely fail the government’s own nutritional standards, even when the food is being provided by the government. In fact, fewer than one-third of public schools offered lunches that met the USDA stands for total or saturated fat.” (pages 35-36)

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