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Food, Glorious Food

February 3, 2009
Photo Courtesy of Moore Farms

Photo Courtesy of Moore Farms

I relish the art of cooking and so do most of my friends and family. Maybe partly because my mother baked actual, real-live homemade bread once a week, and dished out a hot, nutritious breakfast everyday – no Pop Tarts at our house.

That said – I could do better. I get in food ruts. In the winter I subsist on a daily bowl of oats cooked in skim milk with a handful of dried cherries, apricots and walnuts – then, come summer, Greek yogurt stands in for the oats, fresh berries for the dried fruit. Wholesome and good for you? Yes. Exciting? No.

But, there are three books helping me change all that…

What these books have in common is an emphasis on moderation, balance, the notion of quality vs. quantity, the responsibility we all have in the hierarchy of the food chain and they all make a great case for NOT dieting.

Because I live in an epicurially progressive city with some of the country’s best restaurants (in my humble opinion) and a robust local farming movement I can readily avail myself of many of the ingredients and dishes contained within these books’ lovely covers. After all, the Southeast has been at the forefront of the local farming movement for years and I live less than 10 miles from one of the biggest and best international farmer’s markets in the state.

Mireille Guiliano writes at length about food ruts and variety in French Women Don’t Get Fat – a book I’d avoided reading for years because of the title alone. To my surprise, French Women is not a diet book. It’s all about moderation and being satisfied by emphasizing variety – eating a little of everything rather than a lot of any one thing. Guiliano also stresses eating foods in their peak season – i.e. no winter tomatoes here folks. She goes on to explain that American women are sort of set up for failure when it comes to food. We’re made to feel like deprivation is the only way to lose weight – an approach she completely disagrees with. She also talks about movement – not joining a gym, stair-climbing movement – but walking the dog around the block, gardening, anything to get off the couch and away from the television. She also talks A LOT about water, and our general lack thereof, linking hunger to dehydration. Not exactly reinventing the wheel here, but true simple, sage advice – you can have the cookie (or in her case, the croissant)…just not ten. Side note – I recently heard Hilary Swank’s production company just bought the movie adaptation rights to this book – a big WTF – book, yes – movie, no.

Several years ago my best friend underwent a transformation…suddenly she just started looking healthy, I mean, really healthy and fit and with glowing skin. She said she felt awesome, better than she ever had, she’d even stopped wearing her glasses because her eyesight had significantly improved.

Was she in love? Had she won the lottery? I had to know…Nope, her secret turned out to be SuperFoods Rx by Steven G. Pratt, M.D., and Kathy Matthews. She said she’d read it and had instantly become a devotee. Well, if it could that for her, I was ready to embrace my new shinier self without delay, so I pretty much immediately bolted and bought the book.

The book’s premise isn’t that complex – add these 14 foods to your diet and watch your health improve (and perhaps lose a few inches in the process). Those foods are (drum roll, please):  beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon (wild), soy, spinach, tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts and yogurt. Even better, Super Foods provides a list of substitutes for any of these if there’s one on the list you simply cannot stomach (pun intended), or isn’t in season. How’s that for never going off track? Westin Hotels & Resorts teamed with Pratt & Matthews to create the first hotel chain menu focused on these nutrient rich foods. I’d say that’s a pretty good excuse to get to a Westin ASAP so you can stay on track (and in luxury).

The third book worth noting is Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I admit, I’ve read only excerpts to this point…but what I’ve read is compelling. He talks so passionately and profoundly about the quality of food that it’s made me look at labels much more closely for things like partially hydrogenated oils and corn syrup which find their way into the most surprising of foods – from canned tomatoes to loaves of bread – you might be VERY surprised to hear what you’re actually eating – when the ingredient list sounds like a chemistry experiment…we’d all do well to walk away and head to the produce aisle.

I’m not saying any of this is easy, or that it doesn’t require some planning and research. But, we owe it to ourselves and our families to truly know and understand what our food contains. So, here’s to eating well and arming ourselves with the knowledge of what we’re actually putting into our bodies.