Food and Books and Class, Oh my!

Where have I been?!  It’s been a month since my last post, and that’s pretty bad for what had become a weekly blog.  At any rate, I’ve been so busy teaching this past month that I haven’t had the energy for much else in terms of writing.  Having said that, I have been eating pretty well!  I’m about 70% back on the Eat Clean diet (I don’t know that I’ll ever be 100%), and it feels good.  I’ve been working out regularly for a while now in some form, whether it was yoga or aerobics, but recently I’ve started jogging.  I’m certainly no runner, but I jog/walk about a mile every other day.  I don’t love it, but it really is a total-body workout and I’m seeing results!  I’m not really sure how much of that I’ll keep up as it gets colder (Any advice? Treadmill?), but I think it’s getting me through a plateau in terms of losing weight.

But enough about working out.  Back to books.  And food.  And books about food.

If you’ve read my About page or know me in real life, you’ll know that I teach college writing classes at American University.  Every spring we faculty have the opportunity to teach a themed course, and last semester I decided to do one on food.  I was already really interested in food and food culture, but the class kicked that interest up about 20 notches.  I’m teaching the same class next semester, and since I just had to submit a book order yesterday, I thought I’d share some of the most inspiring food books I’ve found with you.  Here is a list of the food texts I’m using next term, along with a few extras I find inspiring.

OmnivoresDilemma_fullDuh.  Michael Pollan is one of the most influential food writers of our time.  In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he exposes what really happens behind the scenes in our food industry.  And let me tell you: it ain’t pretty.  I first read this a couple of years ago, and when I finished it, I didn’t want to eat anything.  (It’s the “Food, Inc. effect,” really.)  But once I got over that, I realized his goal here is to make us think critically about what happens to our food behind the scenes before it gets to our grocery carts.

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Continuing along the Michael Pollan route, this is the second of his books I read.  I’m not using it for class because, while it does still examine the food industry, it’s more of a practical guide to what to eat.  There’s a companion book to this called Food Rules, which provides just that – a list of rules for how to evaluate your sustenance.  I do see this as a logical follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and when I have students interested in Pollan I recommend this, but since the point of my class isn’t to indoctrinate my students into Pollan’s way of eating, I hold back and just use one text.

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This is an interesting little wrench in the works.  I just discovered this book recently and decided to add it to my food class.  Just when you think Michael Pollan’s word is gospel, Jayson Lusk comes along to challenge his views and provide us with a counterbalance to his arguments.  I’m hoping this book will complicate things for my students concerning the organic, slow food movements.

my-life-in-france

Ah, Julia.  Would Americans know how to enjoy food without you?  Julia Child is such a major culinary influence in America, it’s hard to ignore her.  This book doesn’t examine her influence in America, but rather what influenced her to become that influence.  It’s a delightful book that shows an approach to and appreciation for food that I think we’ve lost.  Maybe we can get it back, though.  Just maybe.

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The textbook.  The big, wordy textbook.  This is certainly not a book to pick up if you want a quick, breezy trip through food culture.  But it is a book to pick up if you want to read about the history of food and food culture, the complexities of food culture in an increasingly global society, and the effects of things like gender, the workforce, and industry on what we eat.  I used this book last year, and it contains a fantastic variety of essays on culinary culture.  I was really impressed by how well my students handled the pieces – I’m looking forward to using it again!
Fast_Food_Nation

I’m not teaching this one, and in fact I haven’t finished reading it, but I had to include it in the list.  It’s about food, but it’s really more about the fast food industry.  And that can be just as scary.  If you think money is the root of all evil, you’re right.  At least in terms of fast food.

So there you have it.  THE list.  And it’s ever-growing.  Have you read any of these books?  Read anything else about the food industry or food culture in America?  Share, share, share!

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