Thinking all about food

State Fair sign advertising Fried Chicken Skin, Fried Cake Balls and more

I wrote this post in the spring during a bit of a cooking drought, but it seems I forgot to post it. In the spring, the reason I was posting so little (and cooking so little) was because I’d gone back to school part time and my evenings were filled with programming instead. This fall my excuse is less singular, and the truth is that I’ve had a lot less to say about food and cooking at the moment. I’ve done a lot of thinking, but not come to any hard and fast conclusions.

I can’t help but think about food for a good portion of the day. That’s probably because most of my reading and entertainment has to do with food. If you haven’t noticed the “We’re reading” feature in the right column of this site, you can follow some of the things I’ve been reading there. This year, I’ve shared much more than I’ve posted because frankly there are some great people posting more interesting things than I’ve had to share lately.

If you think about food as much as I do, you realize how many different things there are to think about. Why do we eat the things we eat? What is the best way to eat them? What is healthy? What is ethical? What will taste amazing? What is the most cost-effective? Are there things we shouldn’t eat? Why? What do other people eat? When is it better to let someone else do the work? When is it better to make things from scratch? I could go on…

In the search for answers to these questions, I’ve found some pretty interesting resources. Hopefully you’ll find value in these, as I have:

Ted Talks and lectures

If you’re not familiar with TED talks, they are 20 minute talks that really stretch my brain to think about things in a different way. Their tag line is “Ideas worth spreading,” which I’ve found to be very accurate.

They constantly post new talks on every subject imaginable, but for our purposes here, I’d like to point you to their food talks. I’ve only made my way through a handful so far. These are some great ones to get started with:

What I love about TED talks is that the speakers are usually impeccably prepared and since they only have 20 minutes (or less!), they need to be able to get their ideas across clearly and quickly. If you enjoy these, I encourage you to look at other topics, I want to watch them all.

Less succinct, but no less compelling, I recently watched this lecture about how our bodies digest sugar and learned some things that surprised me. If you have any interest in biology and nutrition, and an hour and a half to spare, check out Dr. Robert Lustig’s talk, Sugar: The Bitter Truth.

That said, there are multiple sides to any argument, and no one source should be taken as “truth.”

Books

Whataburger and fries
I’ve read quite a few books this year about my favorite topic. These are the ones that have stuck with me the most. Because of Michael Pollan, I’ve developed a keen interest in mushroom foraging (look forward to a post about this coming soon) and natural surroundings. Eric Schlosser has made me think a lot about voting with my food dollars and how the choices we all make impact the global economy and social well-being of the earth’s citizens. Jonathan Safran Foer has helped me realize how much we don’t know about the food we eat every day, and converted me into less of a meat eater than I’ve been for much of my life. But despite reading these, it doesn’t completely wipe away my ability to eat a big burger and fries – I’m just trying to find better ways to indulge in that occasional craving.

Television Series and Documentaries

Bizarre Food: Chicken-Fried Bacon

The following films and shows have influenced my thinking in the past year greatly. Food Inc. touches on many of the same ideas as the three books above. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution touches a bit closer to home, discussing the food that schools serve children in the U.S. and in the general lack of understanding about nutrition that much of our country suffers from. Bizarre Foods follows a foodie who travels around the world looking for the weirdest things to consume. Sometimes they are tasty and sometimes they are not – but it really makes you think about what “normal” food is, and why that might be. No Reservations follows another foodie around the world as he experiences other cultural and culinary traditions.

Full disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means if you buy something based on my recommendation here, I get a small commission. That said, I’d rather you just take any of those items out of the library and read them.


About this author:  I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...


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