These books have been deeply influential in my journey to starting this podcast and dedicating myself to growing Denver’s local food ecosystem.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
by Barbara Kingsolver (2007)
The author moves her family from Arizona to a family farm in the Ozarks and lives for a year only off what the farm or their neighbors produce. A terrific introduction to farm life and to a local, seasonal eating ethic. She’s a fiction writer by trade and it shows in this page-turner. Did you know the turkeys you eat can’t mate without help? I do now 🙂
In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan (2008)
Having read all of Michael Pollan’s books on food, this is my favorite. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” A simple prescription but one at odds with virtually everything that both the food and nutrition industries are pushing.
The Third Plate
by Dan Barber (2014)
Dan Barber is a chef with two TED talks I highly recommend. The Third Place is most recent food read and it’s really excellent. Barber’s vision moves beyond merely organic food, which he contends is insufficient, to a new vision of sustainable eating to face the challenges of the 21st century.
I think my biggest takeaway was understanding the relationship between soil health, nutrition and flavor. It all starts with healthy dirt.I also understand now the origins of our extraordinarily unnatural, extractive way of farming (and it predates WWII, it turns out.)
Link to Chef’s Table, a Netflix documentary that features Dan Barber in Episode 2 (It’s essentially his book in cinematic form, though vastly simplified, of course.)
by Jonathan Safran Foer (2009)
Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, delves in to his relationship with meat eating, or more specifically, his opposition to it. I’m not advocating everyone become a vegetarian but we would do well to be a lot more thoughtful about our meat consumption. Foer touches on everything from species bias (why don’t we eat dogs, exactly?) to the problems of bycatch in shrimp harvesting (I’ve stopped eating shrimp) and the futility of modern slaughter house inspection. It’s a worthy read.
Bringing It To The Table
by Wendell Berry (2009)
Michael Pollan was a bit embarrassed when, after writing about food for years, found that he was treading on paths the Wendell Berry had been writing about gracefully and thoughtfully for many years. The poet scholar of the food movement in America, Berry’s writings require a thoughtful reader. This is deeply philosophical writing that goes beyond food to our entire economy, our sense of place and humanity’s relationship with the natural world.
As movies are often to books, these are simpler and broader than the books I recommend but there’s definitely power in the visual medium. Movies are a great way to get the attention of folks in your life who aren’t thinking about food yet. They’re also powerful reminders to all of us of the power of our food choices.
By Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser (2008)
If you need an introduction to what’s wrong with America’s food system, this is the best movie with which to start. It “…lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.”
By Stephanie Soechtig, Narrated by Katie Couric (2014)
A film that’s only the latest in our rotation of American food fetishes – first it was fat, then it was carbs and now, finally and perhaps correctly, it’s sugar. Sugar is how food companies have kept food tasting good while taking out the naturally occurring fat and carbohydrates in our food…and it’s absolutely killing us.
I actually found it pretty difficult to watch these well-intentioned but deeply mistaken parents walk through their prescriptions to solve their children’s weight problems. “Cereal is naturally low in fat and, therefore, makes excellent meal replacements.” Yikes.
1 teaspoon = 4 grams of sugar. Check your labels.
Fast Food Nation
by Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser (2006)
A fictionalized version of Eric Schlosser’s impactful book of the same name, it “centers on a CEO of a fast-food chain who follows beef’s journey from the corrals to the slaughterhouses — and your stomach” Nice cast, good movie.
by Eric Schlosser and Eva Longoria (2014)
One of the necessary components of cheap, industrial food is cheap (to the point of near slave wage) labor. This is a movie about farm labor and how exploitation underpins the fruits and veggies on your plate.