Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Food Rules and Food of a Younger Land

My wife picked up the new eater's manual published by Michael Pollan titled, FOOD RULES. It is a simple and easy to follow, almost organized in proverbial short pages, perspective on how to follow the wisdom discerned in his previous book In Defense of Food. Since I so enjoyed reading In Defense of Food last year - I knew I'd likely enjoy FOOD RULES, and I did. The book is an easy read - though it's proverbial wisdom needs to be lived out to be worth any real value. Thankfully I am married to a conscientious and attentive woman who, by the normal choices of our relationship, takes care of all food decisions (when, where, how we eat). While I enjoyed the book and think it's wisdom is clear - I am equally thankful to have the opportunity to live into it's wisdom with a caring spouse and good kids. We have the book on our dining room table for conversation and practical insight. Let's hope it makes a difference.

I also audio-read this book a few days ago: The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food--Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal by Mark Kurlansky. Essentially, after the Depression in the 1920's - the New Deal put into motion all kinds of new and creative jobs for Americans. Numerous persons or send out on writing projects across the United States for various reasons. One set of projects involved a host of authors/writers who scoured the U.S. to get stories about how and what and when people eat. The book served as a fascinating perspective on the diversity not just of food eaten - but also the celebrations and events that were so characteristic of meals and events in the 1930's. I learned much about crawfish and unique forms of canning - and even learned about food types and festivals in the Northwest cultures of Native American Indians in America. The book covered a wide diversity - in fact, diversity and breadth and scope were at the core of the total variety that was/is offered in the book. When I flew into New Orleans a few weeks ago, I noted to my wife how every city in America has become something like the same city. You drive down the main roads and it is the same few chain pharmacies, fast food restaurants, big box stores - and it feels like you have not even left home. We ship goods and resources (perishable foods) in all seasons from all parts of the globe using refrigeration/heating/salination systems that make it possible to do so - but, in the process, we've "neutralized" or "sterilized" or "genericized" the diversities of our cultural fabric - even from less than 100 years ago. And I wonder what all we have lost. Certainly we have gained much - no doubt - but it seems to me we have lost so much, too.

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