Good Reading and Viewing

by Laura on January 3, 2010

in Favorite Finds

The globalization of our food supply, the movement to recapture the enjoyment of preparing food, a lesson in what truly is for dinner, the story of fast food in America, and an exploration of the relationship between cooking, eating, serving and sharing mealtimes. That’s what you’ll find in the pages (and on the screen), of Family Eats’ top list of books to read and movies to watch. We feel this collection of (sometimes alarming) books and movies can truly educate us on the state of our food system and our relationship with it.

Slow Food: The Case For Taste – by Carlo Petrini

How often in the course and crush of our daily lives do we afford ourselves moments to truly relish – to truly be present in – the act of preparing and eating food? For most of us, our enjoyment of food has fallen victim to the frenetic pace of our lives and to our increasingly estrange men, in a complex commercial economy, from the natural process by which food is grown and produced. Packaged, artificial, and unhealthful, fast food is on the most dramatic example of the degradation of food in our lives, and of the deeper threats to our cultural, political and environmental well-being.

Slow Food not only recalls the origins, first steps, and international expansion of the movement from the perspective of its founder, it is also a powerful expression of the organization’s goal of engendering social reform through the transformation of our attitudes about food and eating.

Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – by Michael Pollan

In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us – industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves – from the source to the final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating. Each time Pollan sits down to a meal, he deploys his unique blend of personal and investigative journalism to trace the origins of everything consumed, revealing what we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods and flavors reflects our evolutionary inheritance.

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

Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism – and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal – by Eric Schlosser

The story of fast food is the story of postwar America. Though created by a handful of mavericks, the fast food industry has triggered the homogenization of our society. Fast food has hastened the ‘malling’ of our landscape, widened the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled the juggernaut of American cultural imperialism abroad. He also uncovers the fast food chains’ efforts to reel in the youngest, most susceptible consumers even while they hone their institutionalized exploitation of teenagers and minorities. Schlosser then turns a critical eye toward the hot topic of globalization — a phenomenon launched by fast food.

Food Inc. (the movie) – Directed by Robert Kenner

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, but we also have new strains of E. coli. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer – and What You Can Do About It (the book)

Expanding on the film’s themes, the book Food, Inc. will answer those questions through a series of challenging essays by leading experts and thinkers such as: Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Robert Kenner, Peter Pringle, Marion Nestle, Anna Lappe’, Muhammad Yunus, Joel Salatin, and Gary Hirshberg. This book will encourage those inspired by the film to learn more about the issues, and act to change the world.

The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society – by Janet A. Flamming

In the book, Flamming says, that on a daily basis participation in our food culture can “bring out the best in people by prompting them to think about the common good and larger purposes.” As she takes the reader through five distinct ‘chapters,’ Flamming explores the relationship between cooking, eating, serving and sharing mealtimes, something that has been eroding in contemporary society.

Families must find ways to work together to teach and learn the values of foodwork, to create a taste for delicious and healthy food and the ritual of the daily table, and to establish food relationships with their neighbors, through gardening, purchasing food at local markets, and eating together.

Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm – by Linda Faillace, Ronnie Cummins

In the mid-1990s Linda and Larry Faillace wanted to breed sheep and make cheese on their Vermont farm. They did the research, worked hard, followed the rules, and years later built a successful, entrepreneurial business. After months of surveillance, federal agents seized their flock and destroyed the animals. This is a story about one family’s struggle against a bullying and corrupt government agency that long ago abandoned the family farmer to serve the needs of corporate agriculture.

King Corn (the movie) – Directed by Aaron Woolf – Written by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis

Behind America’s dollar hamburgers and 72-ounce sodas is a key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn. In KING CORN , recent college graduates Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis decide to grow an acre of the nation’s most powerful crop. They soon discover, America’s record harvests of corn is supported by a government subsidy system that promotes corn production beyond all market demand. As they watch their 10,000 lb harvest fill the combine’s hopper, they realize their acre of land shouldn’t be planted in corn again—if they can help it.

On occasion, we’ll add more to it. But for now, this list should keep you busy.

Note: Reviews compiled from various sources.



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