Everyone has heard the quote by Michael Pollan from In Defense of Food. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” This may be the most over-quoted line in cookbooks today—but, hey, it’s sage advice. Over the past year or so, I started learning more about food production in the United States. Last July, I attended a reading by Megan Kimble at Word Bookstore in Jersey City. She read from her debut book Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food. In it, Megan uncovers what we mean by “processed”—discovering just how many foods require a surprising amount of energy and resources to get on the table. Living in the city of Tucson on a graduate-student budget, Megan ground her own wheat, joined a CSA, and witnessed the realities of meat production up close, even helping to slaughter a sheep. Some of her experiences were eye-opening (visiting a dairy farm), some changes were tedious (all that work for some chocolate?), other changes were easier to make once she learned how (making oat milk). Each chapter ends with an “Unprocess Yourself” box that will help get you started if you want to try to eat more sustainably. Unprocessed is a great starting point for anyone really, but especially for those who say they don’t have the time or money to eat more healthy, whole foods.
Here are a few other books that are required reading for newbie foodies.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I read an excerpt from this book in college, but I didn’t read the whole thing until recently. Kingsolver takes readers along as she and her family move from Arizona to a farmhouse in the Appalachian Mountains where they grow their own food. With boxed text about the food industry and commentary and recipes from Kingsolver’s college-age daughter, this book is an insightful look at a family sustaining themselves on the land, season by season.
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. Michael Pollan is considered an expert on food production and the American diet for a reason. This book is extremely readable. If you’re confused as you try to reconcile the food pyramid you learned in high school with what you find in the supermarket, this book gives straightforward guidelines on what to eat.
- The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber. The chef behind New York City’s Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns examines the farm-to-table movement. From the farmer who considers the nutrients in his carrots to the chef creating a menu based on locally available food sources—Barber recognize the need for a paradigm shift in America’s food culture and system.
What are your favorite books on food sustainability?