Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.

FullSizeRenderEveryone 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

 

Kettlebells: A Love Story

photo 1When I first moved to New York City, I was feeling slow and sluggish.  Although the city itself was energizing and living in Greenwich Village provided me with new things to explore daily, I was exhausted from the previous months of commuting. While commuting I would trudge through the hell that is Port Authority, board a crowded, smelly bus, and then drive home to my parents’ house where I would scarf down dinner and plant myself on the couch or in bed only to wake up and do it all over again. When I moved, I had the freedom of a shorter commute and more time after work.  My friend introduced to me the NYC-studio of Dasha Libin Anderson and her class Kettlebell Kickboxing. The first class I was so scared I would pass out or puke.  But I didn’t. Anderson’s class combines martial arts and kettlebells with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  I was hooked after the first class for two reasons: 1. Kettlebells are so versatile. 2. I felt energized and empowered.  The way that Anderson’s body looks–sculpted and strong–was something I was looking for and wasn’t finding on the treadmill or elliptical.  I started seeing a lot of progress not only in the tone of my muscles but also in my pant size and on the scale. But more importantly, I wanted to train harder to improve myself physically and mentally. I had fallen in love with kettlebells and the way training with them made me feel.  Moving to Jersey City, I wasn’t able to attend classes every week at Anderson’s studio, but I purchased her DVD set (Kettlebell Kickboxing The Body Series 11 DVD Set & Nutrition Guide) to work out with kettlebells at home.  The DVDs are just as engaging because Anderson mixes up every move to engage multiple muscle groups and challenge your flexibility, mobility, strength, and endurance. The moment I heard that Anderson was writing a book, I had to get my hands on it.  The 325-page book is your definitive guide to kettlebells, but more than that Anderson encourages you “to be confident to take action and opportunities because our strong, agile, healthy, and fit bodies can move and bend and lift and push and pull and live.” If you’re looking for a fitness program that shows you the moves to sculpt your body, gives you exercises to do and a plan to follow, and provides empowering advice to maximize your results–this is it.

I also recently received a book by Lauren Brooks called Kettlebells for Women. Although I don’t know Brooks, have never trained with her, or viewed her DVDs, I wanted to give this book a chance too.  Kettlebells really are the perfect tool for women to use because the kettlebell swing engages the posterior chain (your booty) rather than your arms.  You won’t bulk up from using kettlebells, but you will tone a variety of muscle groups depending on the moves you do.  And even as you become more advanced there are a myriad of moves to conquer.  And you’ll always have the kettlebell swing as a foundational move that produces results.  I guarantee you, with proper training you’ll master moves you never thought possible like the Turkish get-up and a deck squat. Both books acknowledge the history behind kettlebell training especially their use in Russia and Europe.  Both books provide a program for weight-loss, strength, and conditioning. The moves are shown through step-by-step photographs with descriptions, tips, and important information about proper form and safety.  Below I’m going to list 5 Reasons to Read for each book, because I think they are both great resources for your kettlebell training. Keep Reading…

Editorial: Lena Dunham and NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL

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Lena Dunham’s collection of essays are unabashedly personal.  While being unique to Dunham and her own brand of special, her thoughts on love and sex, body image, and being a young woman inspired introspection and memories for me, but maybe not in the typical self-help fashion.  Not That Kind of Girl is not a self-help book–it’s a memoir of Lena’s life so far, a glimpse into her mind and all the never-ending thoughts, embarrassing situations, and hurdles as she has experienced them. Lena is talked about, judged, and maybe even idolized.  So here I’m pondering some of the things said about Not That Kind of Girl and Lena Dunham and Girls and telling you to read this book.

Five things being said about Not That Kind of Girl:

1. “One suspects that Ms. Dunham did not quite know what she wanted this book to be. It reads like a memoir, divided by sections titled ‘Love and Sex,’ ‘Body,’ ‘Friendship,’ ‘Work’ and ‘Big Picture,’ but it is packaged like a self-help book…Yet what she offers instead is a scattered gathering of sad anecdotes.” Jessica Kashmer-Jacobs, The Wall Street Journal

Deep ponderings: While some of the essays seem to be torn from a page in Lena’s diary (or a napkin where she jotted down “What’s in My Bag”) what the WSJ cites as “sad anecdotes”, (“Igor: Or My Internet Boyfriend Died and So Can Yours”) seems completely understandable to the children who grew up with AIM. Dunham begins that essay with, “The computers just show up one day.  We come in from recess, and there they are…” and later “In fifth grade we all get screen names…It takes me a a little while to wrap my head around the idea of anonymity.  Of people I can’t see who can’t see me.  Of being seen without being seen at all.” The beauty of Dunham’s writing is its familiarity and then the shock of the incongruous and perverse things she says, thinks, and does.

2. “Lena Dunham’s new book is out, titled “Not That Kind of Girl.” Honey, for a $3.7 million advance, I’d be whatever kind of girl you want!” Bette Midler @BetteMidler

Deep ponderings: “Did you ever know that you’re my hero? And everything I would like to be? I can fly higher than an eagle.  Because you are the wind beneath my wings.” Okay, Bette, you said it.  She got a crazy advance.  And maybe in writing this memoir, Dunham fell into the familiar traps of celebrity memoir–cutesy lists, a theme, illustrations–but when you strip it down, the majority of the essays are well-written, engaging, and agenda-free.

3. “Where once misery memoirs were the vogue in the publishing world, now it is books by young women writing about what is usually described as ‘all their flaws’, which means everything that happens in their vaginas, from masturbation to menstruation, from sex to cystitis. Clit lit, I guess.” Hadley Freedman, The Guardian 

Deep ponderings: Woah, there! Clit lit?! Freedman goes on to say “Some commentators have argued that clit lit it [sic] is helpful to teenage girls because it teaches them that bad sex is par for the course. But the other side of the coin is that this genre suggests the only truly interesting thing about a woman is her most intimate personal life.” It seems to me that your sexual history is inextricably linked to the person you are–your orientation, the sex you engage in, and your past sexual encounters may not define a person but they stick with you. Reducing this memoir to clit lit is shortsighted and looks at only a sliver of what Dunham has presented for us.  At the same time, critics (and readers) seem unable to explicate the Dunham of this memoir from the celebrity or from the fictional character of Hannah.

4.”You can say a lot of things about Lena Dunham: just don’t say she doesn’t know what time it is or what room she’s in.” Lena Dunham, Stylist

Deep ponderings: An alternative to reading this book is reading alllllll the stuff on the internet about or by Dunham.  Here are some favorites: Buzzfeed, More Buzzfeed, HuffPo, The New Yorker.

5.”But in order to enjoy Not That Kind of Girl, we must dissolve the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ critical barrier around Dunham. She did not come first, and she will not be last, but she has earned the right to be listened to, to be judged on the quality of her writing, even when what we read sounds familiar. If we continue to view her solely through the prism of her fame, to interpret her every blink as a bellwether of modern feminism, Lena Dunham will become, paradoxically, impossible to hear.” Sloane Crosley, New York Times

Deep ponderings: That’s what I’m trying to say!

The deets:
Random House
265 pages
September 2014
Order Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”

Next up: NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL

Buzz feeling unsure about Lena.

Buzz feeling unsure about Lena.

Wondering what’s up next? We’re reading Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. It seems like everyone has something to say about Girls creator Dunham and Skyline Book Reviews is no exception. But we’ll save our thoughts until after we finish Dunham’s collection of personal essays. (Note: Buzz’s expression is not indicative of our opinion of the book).