Since I basically majored in Reading and Writing in college, it comes as no surprise that I enjoy a good book. But between my job, much-needed gym time, Boyfriend/family, sleep, and the countless hours I use to peruse food blogs and watch Iron Chef (Fine. And the Real Housewives. So what?), I don’t often get a lot of free time to lounge around with a new book (Last week’s guide book doesn’t count. I can always make time to read about vacation).
Fortunately, the time I spent on the train, in the airport, and on the plane to NOLA last week provided a perfect excuse for me to borrow a few books from the library (Plus Boyfriend just left the state for three weeks, so I have some time on my hands. Not that I’m bitter. No, no. Where would you get that idea?). I managed to restrict myself to four books, two of which I insisted upon packing in my suitcase:
Boyfriend: Why are you packing two books?
Me: Because I need something to read on the plane.
Boyfriend: Kate, we’re going for four days. And we’re not checking bags. I think one is enough.
Me: Yes, but one is non-fiction and one is a novel and what if I feel like reading a novel sometimes but then reading the non-fiction at others and then I’ll regret not having both and…and…
I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation – suffice it to say that it started to sound very Rory Gilmore-ish and both books made it into the suitcase, which did fit in the overhead bin, thankyouverymuch.
Unfortunately, by Sunday’s return trip, it turned out that Boyfriend was right. I’ll let that sink in for a minute, because I’m stubborn and don’t admit that I’m wrong very often. Boyfriend. Was. Right.
I started with the non-fiction one, and the reason I’m even sharing this story (since I don’t ordinarily share stories in which I am proven incorrect) is that the book was about (you guessed it) food. More specifically, Real Food: What to Eat and Why is about eating like author Nina Planck and her family did on their farm in Virginia – fresh fruit and vegetables, raw milk, pastured chickens and eggs, grass-fed beef, etc. It’s blunt, it’s to-the-point, and it’s completely and totally enthralling in an ohmigod-what-have-I-been-putting-into-my-body kind of way.
The book begins with Nina’s own food journey – omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, and back again – and why her family’s farm-fresh approach to consuming food in its most natural state, regardless of the fat, calories, or carbs it contained, is the healthiest way to live. She then breaks the food pyramid down into chapters (Real Meat, Real Fruits and Vegetables, Real Milk, Butter, and Cheese, and so forth) and explains why our bodies thrive on the foods that we’ve eaten for millions of years…not the over-processed, commercialized, and “low-fat” varieties that have become so popular of late.
Possibly the most helpful part of the book, for me, was the short list of bullet points she develops to sum up the ideas of each subsection. Didn’t quite understand that extended blurb on where the magical 300 milligram-per-day limit on cholesterol came from? Too grossed-out to read that passage on the shortcomings of grain-fed beef and industrial chicken farms? Never fear, Nina has condensed it into a few points that provide the underlying principles of the chapter – if not its in-depth justification.
Now, I won’t lie to you, I use Splenda in my coffee, and I don’t exclusively buy organic anything, but after reading Nina’s book, I’m definitely sitting here reconsidering my outlook on my diet. Maybe the two squares of dark chocolate I ate after lunch, unable to squelch a sweet tooth, are preferable to those two teaspoons of chemical-laden Splenda every morning. Maybe an organic apple is worth the additional cost if it saves my body from the pesticides. Maybe these “natural foodies” are onto something…
The great thing about Nina’s book is also that it lacks the preachiness of many health nuts – she understands and acknowledges that we all don’t live on a farm or have access to raw milk, but she gives valid points for switching from, say, vegetable oil to coconut oil, or which vegetables to buy organic if you can’t buy them all that way. So while I don’t think I’ll be relocating to a farm anytime soon, it certainly does make me consider a little more closely what I put into my mouth – and the price I’m willing to pay for it.
Even if you don’t think it’ll change the way you look at store-bought chicken and you could care less about the pesticides modern, commercial farms use, it’s worth a read just for the history lesson. Anyone know what Crisco and candles have in common? How about the basis for the mandating of pasteurization, or the reason why the makers of margarine were, at one time, legally required to dye it pink? Nina Planck does, and now, for better or worse, so do I.
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