Recommended Reading

I’ve been working on Halloween costumes this weekend (one – the knight – down, one – a Little House on the Prairie ensemble – to go ), hence the lack of recipes and posts, but I must confess that I’m also currently engrossed in not one, but two books by Michael Pollan:

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

I read Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma as soon as it came out in paperback, having heard him speak on NPR about an article of his in the New York Times Magazine that was written during the research for the book. It became the book I couldn’t stop talking about with anyone who would listen and the book I gave as Christmas presents to many people that year. Last year it was Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I again patiently waited for to come out in paperback. (And just this past weekend at the farmer’s market I finally spied those gorgeous beans the hands on the cover are cradling!)

I was going back and forth about buying Pollan’s most recent book, In Defense of Food, (trying to cut down on “stuff” for an impending move, trying to save a tree or two, trying to support the public library…) but when I saw this video on YouTube (warning: it’s an hour long, but well worth the listen when you have the time), I decided it was going to be a keeper, so might as well buy it although it’s only out in hardcover.

I was particularly tickled by his statement in the video that many readers have come to him to say that their dilemma about what to eat for their own health and for the health of the planet was only exacerbated, not alleviated by The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He decided to write In Defense of Food as an antidote, particularly since several readers told him they couldn’t finish Omnivore (the last thing an author wants to hear!) because they felt as though one food after another was going to become off limits. In a similar vein, a dear friend of mine confided that her husband was NOT pleased that I had gotten her to branch out into nonfiction by giving her Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Apparently his life has changed drastically in the past 5 months…. Frankly I’m surprised that he still allows her to see me!

Second Nature is one of Pollan’s first books and in it you can already see him negotiating the space between nature and culture, notably their intersection, not the boundary line that so many choose to draw between them: in the garden, he finds that these two forces needn’t be antagonistic, but rather that they can and must exist in symbiosis. As a mother, I think his findings apply to the gardens that are our children’s minds and bodies as well – there are certainly enough people ready to do battle over nature versus nurture on those territories! So to some degree it’s probably not surprising that I devour parenting books at the same rate as I’ve been reading books on intentional eating – whether that means locally, organically, or as a vegan I leave up to you. The important point is that it’s an intentional act.

I’ve also been participating in a parenting discussion at a friend’s church this month, and it’s made me think even more about what we provide to fill our children’s minds and bodies, whether we are talking about meaningful stories (as opposed to the “junk food” television most often offers) or healthful food. No matter what your spiritual/religious inclinations are, you probably have a canon of stories you pass on in the expectation (or at least the hope!) that your children will adopt them – some stories may even be about dietary restrictions. So why not a canon for a healthy physical life as well as a fulfilling spiritual one? Not that these books are something you’ll read aloud to the kids, but many contain passages or even entire that even small children can relate to, albeit on a different level than an adult does so. I’m thinking about Kingsolver’s daughter’s trials and tribulations regarding raising chickens, Pollan finding a watermelon in the yard and realizing that it came from a seed he’d spit out, etc.

So here’s my vote for the intentional eater’s bible – a pentateuch for starters: Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally (Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon)and Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Nina Planck) could form the Pentateuch of the intentional eater’s bible. (Pollan can play Moses, but I’m happy to see more women representend in this one!)

I’d be delighted to hear your suggestions for inclusion….

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