Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Mix: ARE You What You Eat?

--by Hanje Richards

You are what you eat, the saying goes. What do you eat and what does it mean? You can explore what people are currently thinking and saying about food and what it does to you and what it does to the Earth. Read, listen to, and/or watch these fascinating perspectives on what you eat and what humans all over the world eat. I’ve shown the format(s) available for each title in [brackets].
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (Barbara Kingsolver) - Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life – vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat. [book, sound recording]

Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer) - Like many young Americans, Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between enthusiastic carnivore and occasional vegetarian. As he became a husband, and then a father, the moral dimensions of eating became increasingly important to him. Faced with the prospect of being unable to explain why we eat some animals and not others, Foer set out to explore the origins of many eating traditions and the fictions involved with creating them.

Traveling to the darkest corners of our dining habits, Foer raises the unspoken question behind every fish we eat, every chicken we fry, and every burger we grill. Part memoir and part investigative report, Eating Animals is a book that, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, places Foer “at the table with our greatest philosophers.” [book, sound recording]

The End of Overeating: Taking Care of the Insatiable American Appetite (David A. Kessler, MD) - Dr. Kessler shows us how our brain chemistry has been hijacked by the foods we most love to eat: those that contain stimulating combinations of fat, sugar, and salt.

Drawn from the latest brain science as well as interviews with top physicians and food industry insiders, Kessler exposes the food industry’s aggressive marketing tactics and reveals shocking facts about how we lost control over food – and what we can do to get it back. For the millions of people struggling with their weight, as well as those of us who simply can’t seem to eat our favorite foods in moderation, Kessler’s cutting-edge investigation offers valuable insights and practical answers for America’s largest-ever public health crisis. There has never been a more thorough, compelling, or in-depth analysis of why we eat the way we do. [book, sound recording]

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (Eric Schlosser) - Fast food has hastened the malling of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled American cultural imperialism abroad. That's a lengthy list of charges, but Schlosser makes them stick with an artful mix of first-rate reportage, wry wit, and careful reasoning.

Schlosser's myth-shattering survey stretches from California's subdivisions, where the business was born, to the industrial corridor along the New Jersey Turnpike, where many of fast food's flavors are concocted. Along the way, he unearths a trove of fascinating, unsettling truths – from the unholy alliance between fast food and Hollywood to the seismic changes the industry has wrought in food production, popular culture, and even real estate. [sound recording]
Food, Inc. (Robert Kenner) - Drawing on Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, director Robert Kenner's Oscar-nominated documentary explores the food industry's detrimental effects on our health and environment. Kenner spotlights the men and women who are working to reform an industry rife with monopolies, questionable interpretations of laws and subsidies, political ties, and rising rates of E. coli outbreaks. [DVD]
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food on Earth (Paul Greenberg) - Greenberg takes us on a culinary journey, exploring the history of the fish that dominate our menus – salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna – and examining where each stands at this critical moment in time. He visits Norwegian mega farms that use genetic techniques once pioneered on sheep to grow millions of pounds of salmon a year. He travels to the ancestral river of the Yupik Eskimos to see the only Fair Trade certified fishing company in the world. He investigates the way PCBs and mercury find their way into seafood; discovers how Mediterranean sea bass went global; challenges the author of Cod to taste the difference between a farmed and a wild cod; and almost sinks to the bottom of the South Pacific while searching for an alternative to endangered bluefin tuna. Fish, Greenberg reveals, are the last truly wild food – for now. By examining the forces that get fish to our dinner tables, he shows how we can start to heal the oceans and fight for a world where healthy and sustainable seafood is the rule rather than the exception. [book]

The Future of Food (Deborah Koons Garcia) - Before compiling your next grocery list, you might want to watch filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia's eye-opening documentary, which sheds light on a shadowy relationship between agriculture, big business, and government. By examining the effects of biotechnology on the nation's smallest farmers, the film reveals the unappetizing truth about genetically modified foods: You could unknowingly be serving them for dinner. [DVD]

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (Michael Pollan) - Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating. Now, In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time. Pollan proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating. [book]

King Corn (Aaron Woolf) - In Woolf's thought-provoking documentary, friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America's Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation's most-grown and most-subsidized grain and follow their crop into the U.S. food supply. What they learn about genetically modified seeds, powerful herbicides, and the realities of modern farming calls into question government subsidies, the fast-food lifestyle, and the quality of what we eat. [DVD]

Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Michael Pollan) - A national bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us – whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed – he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet. [book]
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Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock) - On the heels of recent lawsuits against McDonald's, director Morgan Spurlock takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body, using himself as the proverbial guinea pig. For one month, Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's, ordering everything on the menu and “super-sizing” his order whenever asked. The result is a sobering examination of the line between personal and corporate responsibility. [DVD]

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets (Peter Menzel & Faith D’Aluisio) - In this fascinating study of people and their diets, 80 profiles are organized by the total number of calories each person puts away in a day. Featuring a Japanese sumo wrestler, a Massai herdswoman, world-renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria, an American competitive eater, and more, these compulsively readable personal stories also include demographic particulars, including age, activity level, height, and weight. Essays from Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham, journalist Michael Pollan, and others discuss the implications of our modern diets for our health and for the planet. This compelling blend of photography and investigative reportage expands our understanding of the complex relationships among individuals, culture, and food. [book]

What The World Eats (Peter Menzel & Faith D’Aluisio) - Every day, millions of families around the world gather – at the table or on the floor, in a house or outdoors – to eat together. Ever wondered what a typical meal is like on the other side of the world? Or next door? Cultural geographers Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio visited twenty-five families in twenty-one countries to create this fascinating look at what people around the world eat in a week. Meet a family that spends long hours hunting for seal and fish together; a family that raises and eats guinea pigs; a family that drinks six gallons of Coca-Cola a week.

In addition to profiles of each family, What the World Eats includes photo galleries and illustrated charts about fast food, safe water, life expectancy, literacy rates, and more!
Each family's profile features:

* Full-color photographs, including each family posing with the food consumed in a week;
* Information about each family's food, including cost and quantity;
* A world map showing where each family lives;
* Facts about that country, including population, currency, average income, and more.

This enthralling glimpse into cultural similarities and differences is at once a striking photographic essay and an essential study in nutrition and the global marketplace. [book]