Category Archives: Good Reading for Good Eating

Hit Upside the Head

Skinny Bitch I’m not a big fan of crudeness when it comes to writing. It’s not that I have a problem with expletives–I use my own share of them occasionally as a reaction to something unexpected–but using the f-word and other obscenities in a book gets pretty vulgar.

However, I see why authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin did it in their book Skinny Bitch. They’re trying to get your attention and, as one woman said in her testimonial on the authors’ website, she felt she was hit upside the head when she read it. Obese and frustrated at the numerous ways she tried losing weight, Skinny Bitch was like a wake-up call. She actually lost 180 pounds (from an overweight of 300+ pounds) by following the authors’ advice, which is basically to go vegan.

According to their website, Rory Freedman is a former agent for Ford Models, and a self-taught know-it-all. Kim Barnouin is a former model who holds a Master’s of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition.

I do think they know what they’re talking about even though their smart-mouthed approach gets a little old. That’s why I stuck with the book instead of being turned off by statements like, “Beer is for frat boys, not skinny bitches. It makes you fat, bloated, and farty.” Or “Eat your fiber and crap like a champ.” Or “F__ excuses about not having the time or money.” (Luckily, it’s a quick read. If I can do it, you can, too.)

The authors include facts supported by research and practical plans to “stop eating crap and start looking fabulous.” It’s not about fad dieting. Rather, it incorporates the theme “you are what you eat” throughout. The chapters on meat include hardcore facts about the meat industry and factory farming as graphic as Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. The book clearly demonstrates how our food industry leaders are intertwined with our government, making it difficult for consumers to get quality, healthy food at the grocery store. The authors offer suggestions for eating well, what to avoid, and a supportive “just do it” attitude (if you can look past the accompanying f-words).

I’m still a carnivore and, even though I only eat happy meat, I have to say Skinny Bitch got me thinking about going vegan. It was more than reading (again) about the horrific conditions on factory farms. It’s about what our bodies were designed to consume. Sure, we have canine teeth but do we really need to tear apart meat anymore? Do we really need to consume dairy products (my favorite food group) after we’re weaned from mother’s milk? And how about all those food allergies? Food for thought, I guess. The only thing I can’t consider, if I were to go vegan, is fake meat. (And there are many “substitutes” listed in the resource section of Skinny Bitch for vegans.) I’m really curious why anything that looks and tastes like meat, but isn’t, would be appealing to vegans.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about our screwed up food system, or you’d like a new approach for tackling weight loss, get a copy of Skinny Bitch. And get ready for some sass.


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Although I had heard of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels, it wasn’t until Robin Mather referred to her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in The Feast Nearby that I sought her writing from my local library.

Like Robin, Barbara wrote about a year spent on a farm living as a locavore, buying only food raised in their own neighborhood or grown themselves. Some things they simply learned to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

The family’s year long experience leads them through a season of planting, pulling weeds, expanding their kitchen skills, harvesting their own animals, joining the effort to save heritage crops from extinction, and learning the time-honored rural art of unloading excess zucchini. Barbara Kingsolver’s engaging narrative is enriched by husband Steven Hopp’s in-depth reports on the science and industry of food, and daughter Camille’s youthful perspective on cooking and food culture.

Chock full of recipes and references to locavore sources, this is a great read, even if you don’t go to the extent Barbara and her family did to eat locally for a year. I learned a lot about ways to preserve and cook food, and I was inspired by this family’s enthusiasm, creativity, and persistence to live as locavores.

The Feast Nearby

I came across The Feast Nearby in Taste for Life, the free magazine I pick up when I shop at Nature’s Market. Each issue has suggested reading–“Food for Thought”–and I figured this book by food journalist and locavore Robin Mather was right up my alley.

The book is about how, within a week, Robin found herself on the threshold of a divorce and laid off from her job at the Chicago Tribune. Forced into a radical life change, she returned to her native rural Michigan where she learned to live on a limited budget while remaining true to her culinary principles of eating well and as locally as possible.

What I didn’t realize when I ordered the book from the library is that “rural Michigan” meant West Michigan. Robin lived only one county away from Bill and me when she wrote The Feast Nearby. I was so excited to read about her exploration for local food sources and her discovery of some of the same ones I use, such as Geukes Market (for meat processing) and Dancing Goat Creamery. (I still need to make a trip to the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, her local market, but it’s a bit of a drive for me.) And, her seasons–as well as her produce options–aligned with mine since she lived nearby.

But even if you don’t live in the Midwest, this book is a great read for locavores, or anyone who is learning to live on a limited budget while eating healthy and procuring local resources. The Feast Nearby chronicles Robin’s preparation of local food through all four seasons of one year, all on forty dollars a week. It’s loaded with recipes that accompany the seasons and tips for storing food long-term, as well as stories about her relationships with her neighbors, local farmers, and other people from whom she procures/barters for food. (As an animal lover, I also appreciated the stories about her three pets that kept her company in her little cabin by the lake.)

When I finished the book, I was hoping I could interview her for my blog but it turns out she moved to Kansas after accepting a position at Mother Earth News. I guess I’ll have to wait until I make that road trip to Kansas to meet her in person. Meanwhile, please join me in following her blog at

Mark Bittman’s Potato and Leek Soup

Bill and I wanted grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch on Day 4 of our challenge, “How to Eat Healthy on $5.00 a Day.” So I was trying to think of an easy soup to make as an accompaniment. I knew some of last summer’s leeks (one of my favorite veggies) were in the freezer.

And we had some potatoes that Bill picked up at the Fulton Street winter farmers market last weekend.

Since my favorite recipe for leek and potato soup has several ingredients, which would complicate the process and add to cost, I decided to look in my trusty Mark Bittman cookbook, How to Cook Everything. There it was: a simple recipe for  Potato and Leek Soup.

That’s what I love about Bittman. If you want to learn–or relearn–how to cook, get this book. You won’t regret it.

An avid home cook, Bittman has filled his book with easy recipes and many variations, suggestions, and techniques for simple, healthy cooking.

His book may even be a replacement for the standard cook’s “bible” in my kitchen, The Joy of Cooking.

Anyway, here’s how  you make the soup:

Saute the potatoes and leeks in olive oil until slightly tender. Add stock or water, bring to boil, and simmer 20 minutes. When I made it I used water since the goal is to reduce costs. And it was still very tasty–a great soup for vegetarians. Normally, I’d use fresh leeks from the farmers market but that’s just not an option in Michigan in February!

Need a Book to Read?

From Take Part, a website and social action network, comes a very comprehensive list of books about food compiled by Take Part’s Food, Inc. community. Thanks to my friend Julie for sharing it with me, and for loaning me a number of books that are mentioned in the blog post.

All I can say is that I’m way behind on my reading!

Here are just a few of the books cited on the list:

Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies

There’s a little project I’ve been working on during the past six months with a few good and talented friends. And because many of my blog readers suffer from food allergies–or live with people who suffer from them–I thought I’d share the fruits of our labor: I just published my first cookbook and it’s called Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies.

In the last several years that I’ve lived with Bill, who is allergic to wheat, cow dairy, and corn, I learned how many unnecessary ingredients are in processed food. I also learned how to make substitutions for the foods he can’t eat: bread, milk, butter, tortillas, most cereals, waffles, cookies, crackers, yoghurt, ice cream, cheeses from cows, breadcrumbs, semolina pasta–and even regular ketchup–just to name a few.

Adapting and creating recipes–many of which are posted on this blog–simply became a fun challenge as I cooked in the kitchen. So I thought: Why not share the recipes with people who suffer from food allergies? Then others can see how easy it is to make delicious meals without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.

If you’re interesting in buying your own copy of Nothing to Sneeze At, please visit I hope it offers hope and inspiration for those who suffer from allergies at the table!

Incremental Steps Toward Eating Responsibly

Time magazine interviewed Michael Pollan recently about his new book Food Rules.

Watch the video, in which Pollan answers readers’ questions.

Then, vote with your fork!