This was an amazing book. Pollen takes the reader on a food adventure that is thought provoking, disturbing and quietly challenges they way we all loo...moreThis was an amazing book. Pollen takes the reader on a food adventure that is thought provoking, disturbing and quietly challenges they way we all look at the meal in front of us - all without being obnoxious or righteous.
The book begins simply enough in an Iowa cornfield as Pollen breaks down the history of corn and the future of this simple grain. He deftly weaves this into how we eat this product and what it’s doing to us and agriculture. From Iowa we travel with him as he visits his steer (#534) in the Colorado fields and in the feedlot of Kansas (Nebraska?).
The middle portion of the books moves into sustainable agriculture at its finest as he spends a week at Polyface farm. As a person familiar with farms, Polyface was amazing. Pollen starts the week on his stomach in a field examining the soil, he helps to move the cows from pasture to pasture, he assists in moving the chicken pens and describes they symbiotic relationship between the chickens and the cows. He talks about the rabbit and chicken house and the symbiotic relationship that exists there, he describes the cow barn in the spring and how the pigs turn 3 feet of cow muck, hay and fermented corn into black compost. And Pollen contrasts and compares “conventional farming” with this picture of “sustainable farming”.
In the third segement, Pollen has moved to California and examines what it means morally and ethically to be a vegetarian (giving up meat for a month). He has also decided to make a meal completely from those items he has grown, foraged and hunted himself.
This book is presented in such a down to earth matter that the reader can’t help but start to question how their food arrived on the table. Pollen doesn’t pontificate. He doesn’t raise his fist and pump it toward the sky and tell us we are all Bad People for Eating Meat. He doesn’t bombard us with anthropormophisism or silly sentiment. He took himself on a quest, shown us what he found, and I appreciated that more than anything.
Has this changed how I view my eating habits? You bet it has. Even more surprising, it changed the husbands. (less)
This was a very quick and interesting read - I finished it in a couple of days. Judith Jones is the editor who brought the world Anne Frank’s Diary an...moreThis was a very quick and interesting read - I finished it in a couple of days. Judith Jones is the editor who brought the world Anne Frank’s Diary and Mastering the Art of French Cooking and many other well known cookbooks in the 1950s, 60's and 70's. She was there to ride the wave of French cooking and good home cooking in general and eventually international cooking in America at a time when jello molds and cream of mushroom casserole’s were a standard.
Jones doesn't dwell too long on any one particular chef or author, but keeps the story lively by keeping to the highlights. We are introduced to her passion for French food (or perhaps I should say good food) as a young woman in France in the late 40's early 50's, how she came to be an editor for Knopf and her quest to cook well.
While I enjoyed the book, a couple items did manage to irritate me: at times I found the tone a bit condescending - if you didn’t aspire to cook French, then you really aren't a true cook. If you are from the Midwest, you really just don't know how to cook - after all, Midwesterners only eat out of cans and apparently this was proven on a trip to rural Iowa and Minnesota. Well excuuuusseee us Midwesterners for not living in NYC. Her writing style, while enjoyable to follow, often had small holes where some item of information was left wanting and would either be provided later or not at all.
Other than that, I found the book to be a neat look at the history of the cookbook, how influential a small group of people (Judith Jones, Alfred Knopf, Julia Child, Mariann Cunningham, James Beard and others) were in shaping the course of appetites in America. This book also dovetails very nicely with My Life in France by Julia Child, as the histories overlap.(less)
I've been working my way through an HP Lovecraft book and needed something a bit different. I finished this in a day.
Premice of the book is Ruth acce...moreI've been working my way through an HP Lovecraft book and needed something a bit different. I finished this in a day.
Premice of the book is Ruth accepts a job with the NY Times as a restaurant critic. Her and her family leave LA and head back to her hometown. However, unlike LA, the restaurant scene in NY is on the watch for her and she discovers she must go out in disguse when reviewing and rating a restaurant. We follow Ruth as she invents Chloe, Brenda, Molly and others. I liked this book better than her first two books, but I couldn't really tell you why. Something just clicked in her writing this time. My only complaint was the stories were not in cronological order, which I would have prefered rather than the bouncing around she did. (less)
I loved this book and read it in two days. It's not so much about her life before she met Paul and moved to Paris, as it is about her adventures once...moreI loved this book and read it in two days. It's not so much about her life before she met Paul and moved to Paris, as it is about her adventures once she arrived in Paris and the subsequent years.
I think this is a good lead in to the book: My 10th Muse. (less)
Warning: This book is not for the faint of heart or stomach. Contents contain raunchy language, diatribes against perceived and actual sins committed,...moreWarning: This book is not for the faint of heart or stomach. Contents contain raunchy language, diatribes against perceived and actual sins committed, admissions of the darkest kind, confessions enough to make a chef blush, and talk about lots and lots of food - some of it even illegal.
The book is laid out in an essay format, each chapter receiving it's own particular topic. Each topic flows in a somewhat linear fashion, but not infrequently is the reader bounced back to the past, to days when Bourdain was a line cook, or running Les Halles, or globetrotting for A Cooks Tour or No Reservations. The reader is also treated to flash forwards, to insights and tidbits on how life changing it can be to suddenly have a daughter.
One chapter may be a rant against McDonalds and the brilliance of marketing the corporations have latched onto in using children to part parents from their money. The next chapter may be a look at Bourdains "Hero's" (Jamie Oliver) and "Villain's (St. Alice). He may pontificate on how it was a huge disservice to all kids (and thus future adults) when administrations took away home ec in schools. The next chapter may be talking about Korean hot-pot, eating sushi in Japan, or Thai food.
Yet somehow it all flows together.
My complaints with the book lie in the continual confessions of his past life. Yes, yes, the reader understands that you are recovering druggie in the first 5 chapters. By chapter 10, the reader doesn't need to be reminded of it yet again. Then Bourdain goes on to describe a weekend of debauchery on some rich island in the Caribbean or some such place and oh, how awful it was. Cry me a river. The shock value has grown numb. The writing style, the wit and the acid tongue can carry the story alone with out the continual pulpit confessions.
A few references may not entirely make sense if you haven't read at least one of his other books (A Cooks Tour, Kitchen Confidential, The Nasty Bits, No Reservations), or are otherwise familiar with his history at Food Network and the Travel Channel. And, in case you think I am...exaggerating a bit, about any of what I've written above, please go read the warning again.
Recommended if you want to hear about the food industry as it is, not how it's presented through the Food Network. (less)
More of a how-to and a dictionary of cooking terms than a sit-down-and-read book. Tho the Husband did read it from cover to cover in one sitting. A go...moreMore of a how-to and a dictionary of cooking terms than a sit-down-and-read book. Tho the Husband did read it from cover to cover in one sitting. A good reference for the kitchen. (less)