Yesterday, I participated in a book blogger's weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish on my other blog, Buckling Bookshelves. This week's theme was the Top Ten Books That Made Me Think. The list I came up with consisted of novels and a few non-fiction memoirs. I tend to divide my books in my head and think of them as totally separate: on one side I have my "reading" books and on the other side I have my "food & cooking" books. While I didn't put any food books on my original list, I think they deserve their own list. This list is a bit shorter, so I'm calling it my The Top Five Food Books That Made Me Think + Five More I Hope Will, (but I haven't gotten around to reading yet!)
1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver -- I was working full-time at a really stressful job when I read this one and each day as it neared 5 o'clock, all I wanted to do was rush home and read the next chapter. This book introduced me to the idea of "local food," a concept that I hadn't really considered before then. It drove home the idea that locally grown is the freshest you can find and that there is tremendous value in supporting the people who produce food in and around your own community.
2. The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball -- For anyone who ever harbored a secret dream of an idyllic life on a farm, this book drives home just how hard farmers work. If you've ever scoffed at the cost of organic produce at the farmers' market, read this book and you will happily pay these hard-working people and then make extra sure none of your bounty spoils before you make something with it.
3. French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano -- I'm thankful I've never had a weight problem, but there was so much hype around this book when it was first published that I decided to read it anyway. It introduced me to the French culture of food & eating and I found it quite fascinating. Rather than encouraging "dieting" as so many American books do, this book presents a healthy (& deliciously satisfying!) way of life.
4. Real Food, by Nina Planck -- This one was a real eye-opener. Growing up, I was taught the mantra "too much fat is bad for your heart" and with a family history of heart disease, it was good that I learned about nutrition from an early age. However, this book caused a bit of a shift in my thinking. It really solidified my food philosophy that you can really eat anything in moderation as long as it's real food. I'm no dietitian, but I truly believe industrialized fake foods, processed foods, and fat substitutes (trans-fat laden margarine? no thank you!) are a thousand times worse for you than baking or cooking from scratch using butter and fresh ingredients. This book taught me that it's important to seek out quality foods that are raised or grown using traditional methods - dairy products, eggs, and meats from pastured/grass-fed/free-range animals and produce grown without toxic chemicals. They are worth the extra expense, in my opinion, and much of that thinking came from this book.
5. The Art of Eating In, by Cathy Erway -- This was a fun read that made me realize that you really can eat well by cooking at home all the time if you want. Don't get me wrong, I love a good restaurant, but following along on Cathy's journey reinforced the idea that homemade is usually better and that I have unlimited options for experimenting and trying new foods, all in my own kitchen (heaven knows I have enough cookbooks to draw inspiration from!) She also tries a few alternative means to eating out, that aren't really for me, but were interesting to read about.
And the Five on my To-Read List, that I hope will be just as eye-opening and thought-provoking:
1. Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan -- I really can't believe I haven't read this one yet!
2. French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon -- Similar to my situation with French Women Don't Get Fat, I don't actually have kids, but this idea (and again the French food culture) fascinates me.
3. An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler -- I've heard very good things about this one. It has been said to be an "elegant testimony to the value of cooking."
4. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table, by Tracie McMillan -- The title pretty much explains it. I expect this to be an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at some sectors of America's food system.
5. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Half of Its Food and What We Can Do About It), by Jonathan Bloom -- In a time of high levels of both obesity and poverty, I think this is an important topic and I'm hoping this book has a lot of food for thought.
There are many others I'd love to read, but these ones made the top of the list!