Books on My Table and a Few Words of Excitement About Cooked, by Michael Pollan

Image via Epicurious

The rolling in of blustery temperatures always signifies a time for hibernation (and quite frankly survival), and with the extra time cozy under blankets, I generally dig into my stack of books piling that I had been meaning to read.  The Stop is currently my book of choice, a wonderful book by Nick Saul & Andrea Curtis.  More on that later, since I have oh so many things to say on that book.

The book I am most excited to dive into would be Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked.  Having read Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire, I have a good feeling that his newest book will not disappoint.  His recent interviews about Cooked only reaffirm that inkling.  Mother Jones interview with Michael Pollan from January gives a brief glimpse into Pollan’s views about fad diets, specifically the paleo diet.

Personally, I have never really understood fad diets.  I understand their intrigue and the general principles behind them, but generally I prefer the “everything in moderation” approach opposed to the slash and cut approach to most fad diets.  So when the paleo diet became prominent and practiced amongst my friends and family, I had to wonder just exactly how the “caveman diet” was actually justified.  Now before I go about agreeing with Michael Pollan on this one, I do understand that of the majority of fad diets out there, the paleo diet seems to be the most reasonable and healthy.  Meats, vegetables, I can get on board with that.  My biggest question, however, is how in the world does a paleo diet in 2014 resemble anything like the diet of our ancestors?  I think Michael Pollan would agree with me.

First and foremost, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.  Meat was not available in cool display cases and most certainly was not fed artificial diets.  Raw food?  Come on, sure a little bit.  Cooking is a part of our global culture and there is a reason for that, because it is part of our history.  I don’t mean to be contentious or confrontational about diets here.  Of course, if something works for you, makes you feel good, and gives you the nutrients you need, go forth and paleo away.  I just personally cannot justify embarking on a diet where we quite frankly ignore the differences between food now versus food hundreds of years ago.  For more on what Pollan specifically takes issue with in regards to the paleo diet you can read the rest of the article or listen to the interview.

Interestingly, however, Pollan mentions a sentiment I have recently articulated in a fellowship personal essay: the notion that we need to reconnect to the idea of food being social and we can do that by cooking.

Pollan says “part of the problem is that we’ve been isolated as cooks for too long. I found that to the extent you can make cooking itself a social experience, it can be a lot more fun.”

I completely agree, and authors of The Stop would as well.  We need to reestablish the understanding that food is social.  Through that framework, food becomes more equitable and accessible across socio economic classes.  If you have any doubts about this concept, The Stop perfectly demonstrates this idea as a food bank turned community food centre.

Other books on my list?  Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes; Food in Time and PlaceThe Real Food Revolution by Congressman Tim Ryan (shocking, I know); and So, Anyway… by John Cleese, because my father taught me good humor and because Monty Python will always hold a special place in my heart (“We are the knights who say NI!”)

What is on your bookshelf this chilly season?

Happy reading,

Erica

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