Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Eats Reading

I happened upon two food-related books in the last week "The Dinner Diaries" by Betsy Block and "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. They are very different in their focus, but both got me thinking about food and eating.

Block writes about overhauling her family's diet to be more sustainable and healthy and Wizenberg writes about her love of cooking and how food is steeped in memories and stories. The two books compliment each other, while as Block tires to cook with millet and eats an 18th century meal of pease porridge, Wizenberg goes through pounds of butter and cups of heavy buttermilk to get a cake batter just right. While Wizenberg's book has more passion for the pure enjoyment of eating, Block's book offers some good guidelines for eating locally (CSA's), sustainably (less meat and dairy), organic and in-season foods (whenever reasonably possible), fair-trade (especially coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar), choosing seafood that is not over-fished or full of heavy metals, and replacing refined white flour with whole grains (think spelt, quinoa, flaxseed, bulgar, millet, wild rice and barley).

Block's book is heavy with debate and conflict (Husband doesn't eat tomatoes! Raw fish eggs are not safe for children to eat! Son swaps healthy food for junk at school!) and she tends to flit from topic to topic and uses a road map that only she is aware of. Her kids are fussy eaters, and that I can relate to, so she is often frustrated when it comes to family mealtimes. Despite her sometimes over zealous approach to improving her family's health, she searches out good/safe/healthy alternatives that anyone can incorporate into their lifestyles one step at a time.

The Orangette blog writer offers her recipes in the spirit of simply sharing darn good food. She adores french food and writes endlessly about cake (!). Her recipes are intertwined with stories of growing up in Oklahoma, travels to Paris and living in Seattle. She rounds it out with soups, breads and salads along with stories about her family, friends and childhood. Her recipes include Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears, Shaved Fennel Salad with Mushrooms and Parmesan, Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean, and lots more. I enjoyed her argument of the merits of "white" chocolate, which sadly fell out of fashion after the 80's and the story of how she ordered a macaroon cake for her birthday one year that was as big as her head. The second half of the book was a bit "fluffy" and I don't mean the cake batter, though the recipes are just as good. But hey, I am not complaining - I just settled down with a whole grain, honey-sweetened, peanut butter cookie and some fair trade Mexico Kulaktic coffee slow brewed in a french press. Yum!

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