Books I Like

Below are books I have read or am currently reading that I recommend. They pretty much all have to do with organic agriculture, food politics, local food, culinary arts.... I'm sure you get the idea.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
by Barbara Kingsolver

This was the book that started it all for me. I read this book the fall of 2009, as I was finishing my first year of AmeriCorps NCCC. Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors, and reading this book truly changed my life and altered the way I thought about food. The book website calls it "part memoir, part journalistic investiagtion". I would add, part anthropological study of American food culture. I also recommend checking out the website - it contains all the recipes Kingsolver includes in the book, as well as the many resources in there as well.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan

This is the book that finished what Animal, Vegetable, Miracle started, in terms of solidifying my interest in the "Good Food Movement". It's ridiculous that food should need defense - it's just food, right? - but as Pollan explains, much of what's available to us isn't actually food, but the product of food science. He traces the links between the so-called "Western Diet" and the many chronic diseases related to it - diabetes, for example. Interesting, that the more obsessed Americans become with nutrition and "healthy" food, the fatter they are becoming. But instead of just whining about it, Pollan lays down ideas for changing our diet and taking back the American food landscape.

My Life in France
by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

Can I just say that I love Julia Child? Her voice comes through so well in this book, which is an autobiography covering her tenure as America's favorite chef. The book starts with her move to Paris with her husband, Paul, where she attended the world-famous culinary school Le Cordon Bleu. She narrates her success, and the many challenges she faces along the way. If you don't know French, definitely get your hands on a pocket dictionary - she includes so many little phrases and words that you know you're missing something if you don't look it up.

Food Politics
by Marion Nestle

There is a LOT of stuff to get through in this book, but I found it fascinating, if a little hefty. Nestle traces the influences the food industry has on food policy, food culture, and nutrition in America....and explains that what is good for us is not necessarily a factor in their decisions. If this book doesn't make you feel righteously angry, I don't know what will.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture
by Shannon Hayes

I attended a workshop by the author, Shannon Hayes, at the 2010 Acres USA Conference in Indianapolis. After hearing her speak about this book, I immediately bought it, and I have not regretted that decision. The book first examines how domesticity is defined today, and how it got that way. Hayes then delves into her interviews with real-life "Radical Homemakers" across the nation - that is to say, people who "focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act" and have wrested their lives away from the consumer culture that is consuming most of our lives. It is a clarion call to those who want to reclaim their lives and live in an empowering, transformative way by increasing our self-reliance and decreasing our dependence on consumption.

The Vineyard: A Memoir
by Louisa Thomas Hargrave

This is a pretty slim volume about a family that operated one of the first vineyards on Long Island. It chronicles the history of the vineyard, and the family, from the late 1970's through the end of the century. I actually picked it up in a small used bookstore on my drive to Brightwood Vineyard and Farm. It was certainly interesting to read about the experience of opening and running a vineyard and winery - although Brightwood is much smaller by comparison, I've seen a lot of parallels. Not my favorite memoir, but a fun little read.

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry
by Kathleen Flinn

I bought this memoir for my mom in 2009 after reading a review in a travel magazine I found in a trash can in a Southeastern Georgia Boys and Girls Club. (Long story.) It was a good pick. Flinn describes her decision to leave her high-flying executive life to follow an old dream: attend Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute in Paris. Her book appealed to me as a cook, and as someone who just really, really likes a good story. A good companion for Julia Child's My Life in France (above).

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
by Ruth Reichl

Another fun memoir of a life filled with food. This book follows Ruth Reichl from childhood to the beginning of her now famed career as a food critic for the New York Times. The story meanders through Reichl's childhood, traveling from New York City to a boarding school in Montreal, from college in Michigan to working at a summer camp in France, from vacations in Tunesia to living with her new husband in the organic-conscious community of Berkley, CA. Along the way, she shares stories of memorable meals (mostly good ones, but not always), striking characters, and the adventures of a life well lived. She speaks with aplomb of her own struggles to find herself - and the answers which she finds, unsurprisingly, in her quest to satisfy through food.

 An Edible History of Humanity
by Tom Standage

Being the ever-interested student of history that I am, the description on the back of this book - about how food has shaped and transformed societies since ancient times - appealed to me greatly. And I enjoyed the first three quarters of the book immensely, as Standage wound his way through the move from hunting/gathering to agriculture, how the spice trade precipitated the discovery of the new world, the use of food as a weapon in wars over the centuries, and how new methods of canning and preservation changed our relationship with food forever. But his coverage of our current food system, his lauding of its industrialization and of GMO agriculture as a "long term answer" took me aback. He only mentions organic and local agriculture a few times, and although he appears to be trying for an unbiased approach, his use of terms like "organic fundamentalism" sets my teeth on edge. Additionally, nothing in this book is cited, which truly irritates me from an academic standpoint. Entertaining for large portions, however, and generally useful for understanding the point of view from the pro-"green revolution" standpoint.

Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
by Mark Kurlansky

This is a great read for anyone interested in a little history out there. Who knew that the humble cod has impacted our world - and specifically, the history of the United States - so much? I found this book truly fascinating. Unfortunately, as Kurlansky hauntingly describes, the Atlantic Cod that was once so prolific is now all but extinct, and it is unlikely that it will ever come back. A wonderful read, but with a bitterly sad end.

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love
by Kristin Kimball

This book was recommended to me by a WWOOF-er, but it took me nearly five months to get around to reading it. Once I did, though, boy was the payoff good. Anyone who knows even the slightest bit about farming can see that what Kimball and her then-fiance were trying to do - to start a CSA farm that would provide a complete diet to its members - was, to put it mildly, slightly insane. Yet somehow they managed, and today run a very successful farm. But the going was not easy, as Kimball explains. I love the prose here, and the descriptions of meals made with farm-fresh food, dirt still clinging to its skin, are succulent to say the least.