Food for Thought
by Lauri Boone, RD
I love books about food—love them. I probably have more than 40 cookbooks in my kitchen and a few dozen “foodie” books lining my office shelves, including everything from Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan to Eric Schlosser and Barbara Kingsolver. You name the book and there is a good chance that I have read it—or at least have it on my “to read” list. Now coming from a dietitian, you might not find my love of foodie books terribly surprising. But truth be told, I wasn’t always interested in reading books on food. And, well, I never considered myself much of a food expert—a “real food” expert, that is.
Last year when I taught an Eating Close to the Source workshop for breathe’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution program, students were surprised to hear me tell them that my education did not really teach me much about food (and certainly not much about eating close to the source). I cannot speak for other dietitians, but aside from a one semester food lab that included cheese tastings, ice cream making, and lots of cooking and meal preparation, my education and internship emphasized nutrition, not food (and yes, there is a difference). From reviewing research and learning the nutrient content of various foods and “food products” to formulating meal plans and implementing medical nutrition therapy, I had a fantastic nutrition education. But in looking back, I hadn’t learned a whole lot about food. Real food. And agriculture. I wish that I had had the opportunity as a dietetics student and intern to leave the classroom and hospital and venture out onto the university’s sprawling pastures to get a first-hand look at where our food comes from. But I didn’t. And I wouldn’t until years later.
My passion for food developed slowly but surely in the years following graduation as I began stumbling upon books about food. Early on, I had picked up a copy of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, thinking that I would be reading a book about the pitfalls of fast food on health and obesity, not realizing that I was in for a true education on the wide-reaching impacts of fast food that ventured way beyond health. Then there was Greg Crister’s Fat Land and Morgan Spurlock’s Don’t Eat this Book, a follow up to his blockbuster documentary, Super Size Me. Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie Deconstructed made its way into my hands at some point, along with several books by Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan, of course.
Over the years, I found myself drawn to these books because they taught me about food and the food and agricultural industries in a way that had never been presented to me before. These books got me thinking for the first time about where my food came from and the implications of the food choices I made—not just from a nutrition or health standpoint. And the more I read and learned, the more changes I began making for myself and my family. I began buying more local food (not just organic), cooking more made-from-scratch meals at home, taking cooking classes (I finally learned how to put my pasta maker to use!), visiting farms, frequenting local wineries, and joining groups like Slow Food USA. It was clear that a transformation was taking place in my own life that I wanted to share with others.
It is safe to say that the best food education I have received—outside of actually visiting farms, meeting growers, and getting my hands dirty—has come from reading books on food and being able to discuss them with others. Working as a dietitian at breathe, a wonderfully unique place where good food and nutrition come effortlessly together, provided the perfect opportunity to launch a foodie book club and bring a wonderful genre of books to others. After all, the established and budding foodies who come to breathe® (and perhaps you are among them?) have a passion for food unlike any I have seen in my short career. And I love it! The foodie book club has been a way for us to start and keep a conversation about food going. It provides us the chance to talk about the implications of the food we eat on our health, the earth, and the economy; have open discussions about the welfare of animals and factory farming; weigh in on the debates over raw vs. pasteurized milk, organic vs. local foods, and eating meat or not eating meat; and discuss how our families and schools are feeding our children, among so many other topics. The book club has really allowed us to have open and honest conversations about food, and to perhaps look at food in a new way.
Now it is your turn to ignite your spark and passion for food and be part of the conversation! We will be launching our 2011 Foodie Book Club series next month at breathe. Our first discussion group will be held on Monday, March 14th from 7:30-8:30pm to discuss Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals while enjoying food prepared in breathe’s kitchen. I hope you will join us!
Lauri Boone, RD is a dietitian at breathe. She will be facilitating breathe’s bi-monthly Foodie Book Club, which kicks off on Monday, March 14th from 7:30-8:30pm. Enjoy food from breathe’s kitchen while you discuss The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Contact breathe® at 585-248-9070 to register and join the club!