My February Reading List

Winter is loosening it’s short-lived grip on Minnesota, and as such my reading list has switched from doom & gloom to food.

I’ve been on a Michael Pollan kick lately. I’m on the library wait list for “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and based on how fast my priority ranking changes, I should be able to read it next fall. Alas… In the meantime, I’ve been reading some of his earlier works. “Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education” is a collection of essays based around Pollan’s forays in gardening for the first time since childhood. “A Place of My Own” likewise covers his construction of a small writing studio from the viewpoint of an amateur. Both books are part philosophical explorations as much as narratives of his actions. Pollan is a great writer, and I can’t wait to get ahold of “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which has been highly praised here and elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Having read “Nourishing Tradtions” again recently, and done more research on modern food, I’ve been curious to learn more about what exactly goes into the foods we take for granted and eat everyday. “The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children” bills itself as the “Silent Spring” for food additives. I’ve only just gotten into this book, but the author, Carol Simontacchi, lays out a comprehensive argument about how over-processed foods and chemical additives are having a negative effect on both our overall health and the development of small children. The book covers the usual suspects, MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Aspartame, etc. It seems to agree with the information the Weston A. Price Foundation supports, and as such I have high hopes for the rest of the book. More on this in a later post.

As you may know, there is a lot of disagreement regarding aspartame. Some groups feel it is a safe replacement for sugar in food products, while others think that it is a dangerous neurotoxin that should be banned. Janet Starr Hull supports the latter viewpoint in her book “Sweet Poison: How the World’s Most Popular Artifical Sweetener is Killing Us – My Story.” Again, more on this in a later post.

Spring is coming, and I’ve also got my head buried in seed catalogs. More on that later as well.

3 Responses to My February Reading List

  1. Beo says:

    I enjoyed 2nd Nature, but as an aspiring permaculturist I disagreed with his underlying theme that gardening is inherently at war with Nature.

    My cold frame hit 80 degrees yesterday-I have mache and spinach on order and will be planting this weekend!

  2. Bart says:

    I think you have to take Pollan’s perspective into account, since he was looking at things as a vegetable gardener and home landscaper rather than a horticulturist/permaculturist type. I can see both sides of the argument, with Pollan taking the side of the standard urban/suburband dweller, determined to make his or her mark on nature rather than working with it.

    I read once that raising vegetables is a bargain you make with the plant: You have agreed to take extra-special care of it and protect it from competitors and predators, and in exchange it has given up some of it’s hardiness and concentrated on creating pleasing seeds/leaves/fruits/bulbs for you. From that standpoint, there’s a certain amount of combat necessary to prevent weeds from ruining your harvest.

    I have a 5-gallon compost bucket on my porch that we have been putting kitchen scraps into all winter, and in the last few days everything unfroze and turned into a watery, decomposing mess. I emptied the bucket into the main composter needless to say, since the dog suddenly thought I’d left another food bowl out for him.

  3. Burdockboy says:

    I just had one of those “ta da and duh” moments. Pollan wrote Second Nature. I had to read that several years ago in college. When I read Omnivores Dilemma I knew the name Pollan was familiar, but I didn’t think I had read any of his work.

    I have to be careful of the compost bucket come spring time because the ravenous black bears seem to enjoy rotting vegetables. I got the crap scared out of me one night. I’ll never venture to the compost bin at night.

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