Sunday, September 12, 2010

Something to Chew on

All really good plans are either completely winged or well researched. We've chosen the third approach. Thursday we went to our local library and picked up cookbooks that seemed to line up with the kinds of meals we'd like to start serving, and whatever nutritional books we could find that weren't promising to help you loose weight in just ten days. We lugged them on home and started to read. So far I've skimmed  through The Flexitarian Table, which has gorgeous photography, and helpful links to places like Local Harvest. The author, Peter Berley, also organizes his recipes by season, which is something I love, and has his dishes grouped into meals. The idea of having meals in a cookbook is pretty radical, I think, because the essence of having a dinner versus any-old-thing-slapped-on-a-plate is that all the components go with each other. Another plus for Berkly is that, as his title implies, all of the meat/fish in his recipes have a vegetarian alternative provided right there, and quite a number of his dishes don't use that much meat anyway. Now, we are nowhere near vegetarians, but Theo and I both agree that too many of our meals rely heavily on meat to pull them through. Learning how to make delicious, filling combinations of rice, beans, vegetables, and nuts that don't leave us longing for steak is one of our many goals.
                  This position is echoed, if I may segue into another book, by Marion Nestle's What to Eat. While the title is a bit off putting, Nestle's basic philosophy is "If you eat less in quantity but more in variety you'll be healthy." Her writing style is superb, and she is open and un-defensive of her own stance on certain political, rather than economic or nutritional, decisions that must be made by the cook.
Her book is cleverly arranged like a supermarket, taking you from produce, and concepts like COOL (country of origin labels) and Organic, to dairy, meat, eggs, frozen foods, and so on.  Each section gives you things to think about – like the origins of certain foods (margarine was invented in France under Napoleon III's orders) and how they're made – and she provides explanations of the scientific mumbo-jumbo that often causes our eyes to twitch when we're shopping. It was very encouraging from an "eat healthy" perspective, since I know my family has a pretty varied diet already, and Nestle firmly believes that, apart from portion size, "it's the mix which is most beneficial and most protective"(pg. 54), not any single wonder food. The flip side of this is that there nothing in the grocery store is going to kill you as long as your overall diet is healthy. This was an interesting book to read (I'm only on page 180 of 500), and a nice follow up to Food Inc., which my dad had us watch a week ago. Between these two sources, and because, let's face it, I'm shopping with my parents money, I think I'm going to try and shop politically and then economically. After all, when it comes to eating, it's probably best to put your money where your mouth is.
       Also on the nutrition theme, my sister skimmed Feed Your Child Right and Nutrition for Dummies, and was unimpressed with either of them. She did enjoy the Redwall Cookbook however, and the wine guide in the back of Easy Menus for Dining In (though she thought that the overall effect of this book was a bit much). I haven't flipped through the latter two yet, but I'm looking forward to them. We have a week or two to read them, because half of the family is evacuating to Ocean City for a fortnight. It'll be interesting to see if we're motivated to cook when it's just us at home.

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