Not just a fun or light reading kind of book. And not one on military issues, which tend to take me even longer to finish.
It's one of those books that changes your thinking, and possibly your life over time, or at least has that potential.
The book was Cooked by Michael Pollan.
I've been meaning to blog about it since the day I started it, then in the middle, then when I finished it last Sunday. Then I read this line in the book I'm currently reading, The Feast Nearby, "It's good to let people know they've roused you to thought, I think."
While I don't imagine that Michael will read my blog, I agree with the sentiment.
In Cooked, Pollan covers a range of issues from the demise of the home cooked family dinner, the rise of processed foods, the historical, social and biological impacts of our food, cooking methods and the modern food industry.
Some of these things I'd known, but not really given considerable thought to.
Growing up, my mom cooked almost every night and we ate dinner as a family. We talked about our day and my parents usually quizzed us on all kinds of things. That trivia became a fun game and for me, at least, I think it helped fuel my love of learning.
Apparently, Americans spend roughly half the time on food preparation now as we did in the 1960s. But, food shows and celebrity chefs are as popular as ever. The New York Times also addressed this in 2009.
I've never been a dedicated home cook. I've gone through phases when I experimented more with cooking and developed a few standby dishes that I can make without looking at the recipe.
But, from what I'm hearing and reading, convincingly in Cooked, is that preparing my own meals, and that doesn't count mac and cheese from a box or a frozen pizza, has significant benefits to my health and overall well being.
I've been telling M that I want to cook more, he actually does a lot of cooking, so at least I'm eating home cooked meals with good ingredients, but I want to do more of it myself. I want to learn my food, be comfortable in the kitchen and have the skills to nourish myself.
So many of our ingredients have also been reduced to things that barely resemble what they once were, specifically in flours and we've become to addicted to sugar that our foods are engineered to be sweeter.
These are some of the things I think I always knew, but didn't realize how significantly the modern food industry had changed our diets, and how that is causing major health problems for us, according to Pollan.
Now that I'm living in an agriculture state, i'm also more aware of the affect on farmers Pollan reinforced those issues in Cooked.
All of that said, I am vowing to make some changes.
+ I vow to cook more. That can be those simple recipes I perfected years ago, but I'm hoping to learn new recipes and develop the ability to just throw things together into something edible. My sister recommended Simply in Season, a cookbook focused on using produce that's in season, which is something I'm also going to try to do better. My goal is to cook, myself, at least twice a week. Since M cooks a lot too, that should put us at cooking most nights of the week, or start making more of what we eat to have leftovers.
+I vow to grow/raise more of my own food. The chickens have already started us down that path and I think they might be my gateway animal to more. We're planning to grow our flock this spring and possibly add some larger animals this summer if we get the land planned out and fences up. We grew tomatoes and peppers last year and I'm planning to expand my crops too. We've got herbs started inside and i've been researching cold frames and other options to start some of crops earlier outside without losing them to the cold.
+ I vow to know more about where my food comes from, or at the very least try to know. I'm trying to buy more ingredients that are more pure and more nutritious, like flour with actual wheat in it that hasn't been stripped of everything that's good for me and replace with additives. It's more expensive for sure, but I'm going to work to change the way I purchase my food.
+ I vow to support my local farmers. I'm looking into a CSA from a local farmer I see at the market every Saturday during the summer. Or to just purchase more of my produce and meat directly from local farmers instead of the supermarket if I can. Again, it might be more expensive, but the more I read and the more I understand how complex my own personal food situation is, the more I want to know what I'm eating.
+ I vow to bake bread and look for locally made breads, cheeses, milk and other goodies. Th bread likely won't be a regular thing, but I want to at least try. The cheese and milk might be a challenge, but I'm willing to give it a try and see what happens. I don't drink a lot of milk anymore, other than almond milk, and I don't eat much cheese, other than those included in recipes, so it might be feasible and affordable to give this one an honest effort.
+ I vow to lower my intake of processed foods and junk. I probably won't kick my soda habit or my sometimes need for chips or sweets, but I can choose those more deliberately and probably more sparingly as I go back to basics and expand my natural food intake. I'm learning to like more vegetables and finding ways to make even things I don't particularly care for more tasty.
I can't promise I'll get all of this done, but I'm not looking at it as short term goals, I'm taking more of a lifestyle shift approach. It will take time, effort and possibly cost more in the beginning at least, but if the longterm benefits of eating foods that are actually good for me are real, than it's worth some extra cost.
What do you think? How do you try to incorporate fresh and local ingredients into your diet? Do you cook? What are your favorite meals?
I considered a giveaway by rafflecopter, but think that this topic deserves fuller conversation and since I know you lovely readers are incredibly smart and thoughtful, I figured I'd do something different.