A Book of Problems, a Book of Solutions

Today’s “That’s Not Food” Thursday is the first part of a review of two books which, for me, go together as problem and solution.

When it comes to reading, like anything else I undertake, the book becomes my exclusive pastime. Like sweet snacks in a moody moment, books are consumed, rather than savored. This greediness is partly due to the knowledge that if I approach it casually it will never happen, and partly just my all-or-nothing lifestyle, for which I blame my genes and immaturity.

At the New Year, I committed to read more, and with such fits and starts have finished three books, mainly at the expense of my sleep, but a bit from my children. Both books were recommended by my friend Sharla, the second offered as a follow-up to the the first book she recommended at a whisper on the playground a while back.

As for that first book, which I’ll call the Skinny Book in attempt to be tasteful, it wraps up in tidy form the startling, quietly unfolding catastrophe resulting from the industrialization of American food. It is concise, well-documented treatise and call to arms. It made me laugh hard, and made me sick to my stomach.

Although their answer to the problem is faulty, I have never seen a more basic statement of what is wrong with our food chain. After reading it, I banned my kids from eating meat at school (yes, it is that bad) and only weeks later all beef used in area school districts was recalled due to discovery of the conditions (similar to those outlined in this book) at a local meat packing plant. Very little mention was made with the recall that these conditions were going on for years, but the public discovery made recall pressing.

The Skinny book pretends to be a diet book, which it is of a sort, but is mainly packaged as such to sell more books and spread the word. For the same purpose, this essential data for food eaters is slathered in language not appropriate for mixed company that would gravely offend most of the people I know, who are all more righteous than me.

So, yes, the book is a big Rated R for language, which is unfortunate, because I would have given copies away to everyone I knew otherwise. As it is, I can’t even put the title in my blog at the risk of offending friends. Very unfortunate.

In sum, it’s rife with high quality research and low-quality language. There is actually a statement in the end of the book that cops to the fact that they adopted the trash-talk style because they wanted to get this information about the food chain out there and knew it was a surefire way to get published and sell books.

But as I mentioned, it’s solutions are misled, based on the false premise that the only way to address this frightening situation is to eat organic but processed vegan junk food purchased at premium prices from Whole Foods. The authors simply don’t believe clean dairy products or sanitary, un-tortured meat exist. In the industrial food chain, that is entirely true, but in an increasing way on the local level, options are beginning to abound.

Enter Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a hope-filled, educational answer to the first book. It is part memoir, part novel and part how-to, interspersed with something from the opinion column, the politics page and yummy, simple recipes. I cried at the end, and although I don’t think emotionally stable people will, I’m confident it will change your life in a positive way. I read a borrowed library copy and am anxious to get my own.

Don’t wait for my review and blathering on about it next Thursday; buy it, borrow it, get it, do it now.

I’ll write more about this book (probably a lot more) in my next Thursday post, but I want to give a qualified recommendation on the cussing book for pure content for those who rationalize watching R-rated movies because they felt “the story was so good, the language didn’t matter.” I’ve never much felt that way about movies, but I definitely feel that way about this book. For those who just can’t look past the language, and I totally respect that, just start with the advanced version: The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

If you are super offended that I even put this out there, love me still anyway.

PS. While on the subject of food rants (my Thursday indulgence), I posted a comment to my own MSG article with my response to a recent article in the NY Times. I’m not recommending you read my response unless you actually read that NY Times article, in which case I ask that you please allow me to rant endlessly on why the NY Times article is complete drivel. [Don’t ask why I get so upset about these things, I really don’t know. It is not entertaining and will probably put you in mind of Hillary-esque yelling on my part.]

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