Monday, July 27, 2009

Keep Reading!

One of the compelling, if not enjoyable features of the Amazon.com web catalog, is its ability to show what other books and media its customers are purchasing in addition to the title with which you began your search--thereby supplying a handy way to discover items of related interest.

An Amazon query on the campus common book selection, In Defense of Food, reveals the following selection of titles, among many others.

Ettlinger, S. (2008). Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats. Plume.
Kingsolver, B., Kingsolver, C., & Hopp, S. L. (2008). Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Harper Perennial.
Menzel, P. (2007). Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (illustrated edition.). Material World.
Nestle, M. (2007b). Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, Revised and Expanded Edition (2nd ed.). University of California Press.
Patel, R. (2008). Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Melville House.
Petrini, C. (2007). Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair. Rizzoli Ex Libris.
Planck, N. (2007). Real Food: What to Eat and Why. Bloomsbury USA.
Roberts, P. (2009). The End of Food (Reprint.). Mariner Books.
Schlosser, E. (2005). Fast Food Nation. Harper Perennial.
Shiva, V. (2000). Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply (Soft Cover.). South End Press.
Simon, M. (2006). Appetite for Profit: How the food industry undermines our health and how to fight back (1st ed.). Nation Books.
Wansink, B. (2007). Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Bantam.
Wilson, C., & Schlosser, E. (2007). Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food. Sandpiper.
Woolf, A. (2008). King Corn. DVD, DOCURAMA.

Speak with your librarians for assistance locating these and any other related titles.

With thanks to Bob S for this blog post.

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Children of the Corn Belt

As "corny" as it may seem, we really should spend some time thinking about corn.

As a child, a corn field could frighten me. Once it surpassed "knee high by the Fourth of July" and my diminutive height, the rustle of the stalks and the greenish cast of the field would set my imagination on high alert--running wild with thoughts of that lurking beyond the first row. (Weirdly, as an adult, though, I enjoy Shyamalan's movie, "Signs" for how brilliantly he captures that eeriness of a stand of corn).

These musings aside, the transformation from successful grass to commodity crop generates another kind of awe and proves to be an interesting history--and one that is well-documented within library collections. Among these collections are the titles listed below. Speak with your librarians for assistance locating these and related titles. Additional search terms, for use in library catalogs and journal indexes, include: maize, teosinte, and zea mays.

Title: Handbook of Maize: Its Biology / edited by Jeff L. Bennetzen, Sarah C. Hake.
Publisher: New York: Springer, 2009.
Description: ix, 587 p.: ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.

Title: Corn: Origin, History, Technology, and Production /editors, C. Wayne Smith, Javier Betran, E.C.A. Runge.
Publisher: Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, c2004.
Description: xi, 949 p., [8] p. of plates: ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.

Author: Fussell, Betty Harper.
Title: The Story of Corn / Betty Fussell.
Publisher: New York: Knopf, 1992.
Description: 356 p.: ill. ; 25 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. [335]-344) and index.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Obamas' first harvest: It's yielded pounds of produce, and good will from activists, but will the White House garden change food policy?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

UW Madison Gardens and Housing "Keeping it Local"


"A new local food initiative on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is starting very close to home. For the first time this summer, UW Housing's Dining and Culinary Services is sourcing some of its produce from a small plot in Allen Centennial Gardens on campus. Diners at Frank's Place - the dining facility in Holt Commons - have been enjoying fresh greens, radishes and onions grown just a few hundred feet away, and some of the lettuce in the Babcock Dairy Store's sandwiches and salads may have had a shorter trip to the store than the patron eating it."

You can read more about this initiative in the full story by Jill Sakai of University Communications. This is a story with some close ties to In Defense of Food and Go Big Read. Monica Theis, a Food Science instructor who "assumed responsibility for the garden four years ago," is participating in a Center for Biology Education faculty book group that has been hard at work developing and sharing approaches to using the book in courses. Monica is a great contributor to the planning that's underway to assure rich discussions of the book throughout the year. Housing is a co-sponsor of Pollan's visit, and it's great to see how agile they are in implementing some of the principles in the book in our dining halls.

Finally, there couldn't be a more beautiful setting than Allen Centennial Gardens. I would love to brighten up our sites with some supplemental photos if any amateur photographers would like to take photos, and the full story has some beautiful, captioned photos.

Image of Monica Theis by Bryce Richter, University Communications
Sarah McDaniel

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Reductionist?

Pollan carefully criticizes science throughout In Defense of Food. Primarily his criticism is of reductionism. Pollan points out that reductionism has led us to investigate the parts rather than the whole. We look at nutrients rather than whole foods when interested in the mechanics of health. I believe this is an important observation and one that probably ought to help us recognize that we must view eating as a complex system. It would probably be unwise, however, to view this important observation as a reason for a wholesale retreat from reductionism. Certainly, most of the arguments in favor of a whole foods diet and rejecting a processed diet in this text are based on reductionist claims. It is very difficult to investigate a mechanism without reductionist methodology. Perhaps Pollan is just suggesting we recognize the limits of reductionist methodology. It is important, however, to recognize the limits of correlations as well. It is impossible to compare the health of people who eat western foods with those that do not, because those people differ in many other ways as well. Even studies of those who ate a non-western diet and then adopted a western diet, are also studying a people who have adopted a western way of life as well. I do not doubt myself that diet is a key component in this correlation, but we must recognize the limits of the inquiry. Perhaps the best inquiries consider parts in context and draw on the strengths of several ways of knowing to answer questions. Pollan has done just this in, In Defense of Food. Thus, I am left with the impression that interdisciplinary collaboration rather than interdisciplinary criticism will have the most profound impact on the way we come to address the problems we face today.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Madison Farmworks will garden for you -- or with you - Isthmus | The Daily Page

The Poor Get Diabetes, the Rich Get Local and Organic

From the "War on Poverty" to new farmers' markets, a food expert tackles America's dangerous dietary split. An excerpt from Mark Winne's new book, Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty.

http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/72417/

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Friday, July 10, 2009

"I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act."*

The Wisconsin Book Festival, in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Foundation, has announced that Wendell Berry will join the festival as one of its featured speakers. While the specific date and venue for his presentation have yet to be posted, do mark your calendars for the festival, October 7-11, 2009.

Michael Pollan draws inspiration from Berry, citing him in several passages from In Defense of Food. Texts cited include "The Pleasures of Eating" in What Are People For?: Essays* and The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture.

Many of Wendell Berry's essays, novels and poetry can be found in campus library collections. Speak with your librarians for assistance.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Soon to be a Common Experience!

I was delighted to observe two women on my evening bus, one with title in hand, discussing In Defense of Food. Seeing as I was seated nearby, I was able to catch snatches from their conversation--that being an animated appraisal of Pollan's adage to 'not eat anything one's great-grandmother would not recognize as food' (Section III, Chapter Two). This suggestion from the text led them to share memories of family meals and food products available, then and now.

Of course, it resonates with me, too. Pastured as I was between my parents' rural homestead and my grandparents' farm, I was an equal opportunity diner drifting between whichever house was offering the best meal. My grandmother's tour de force, though, was noon-lunch, and I was easily on hand. Given the enormous garden she cultivated, this noon-lunch always featured an abundance of whole foods. And, presentation mattered, with each course and side requiring its dedicated dishware and service. Flowers, too, with a heady fragrance (lilacs and peonies) festooned the table...

I now pause in my narrative and rambling nostalgia, to ask this blog readership...what are your food memories?

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

Raj Patel's book and related blog. Patel has worked for the UN, World Bank and WTO, and currently works a researcher for the Land Action Network and policy analyst for Food First. His thoughts on food, hunger, and globalization have appeared in a number of US and international news sources, including the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian.
http://stuffedandstarved.org/drupal/frontpage

Listen to an interview with Patel on Democracy Now from April 2008.
http://www.democracynow.org/2008/4/16/stuffed_and_starved_as_food_riots

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Food Web, Meet Interweb: The Networked Future of Farms

By Alexis Madrigal, Wired

Silicon Valley thinks the internet can transform anything from car sales to anonymous sex, but the way Americans grow and buy food is rooted in ancient, offline systems.

Now, a Bay Area startup has launched a service to make it easier and cheaper for restaurants to buy food from small, local farms. With a suite of mobile apps for use in restaurants and on farms, FarmsReach wants to create an online food marketplace that would directly connect farms with restaurants.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/food-web-meet-interweb/

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