November 17, 2006

Wekend Reading: What to Eat by Marion Nestle

whatframe.jpgWhat to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices by Marion Nestle is this week's weekend reading. Nestle is a professor of nutrition at the NYU School of Public Health. I guess you could say she wrote the book on food politics. (In fact, she is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, a 2003 book that started much of the conversation around food and health that's taking place today. )

Explaining the inspiration for the new book, published this spring, she writes

What to Eat is is a book about how to make sensible food choices. Consider that today’s supermarket is ground zero for the food industry, a place where the giants of agribusiness compete for your purchases with profits—not health or nutrition—in mind. This book takes you on a guided tour of the supermarket, beginning in the produce section and continuing around the perimeter of the store to the dairy, meat, and fish counters, and then to the center aisles where you find the packaged foods, soft drinks, bottled waters, baby foods, and more. Along the way, it tells you just what you need to know about such matters as fresh and frozen, wild and farm-raised, organic and “natural,” and omega-3 and trans fats. It decodes food labels, nutrition and health claims, and portion sizes, and shows you how to balance decisions about food on the basis of freshness, taste, nutrition, and health, but also social and environmental issues and, of course, price.

I cannot begin to tell you how much fun this book has been to research and write. It turned out to be as challenging a project as any I have ever undertaken, but also a lot more entertaining. Every time I walked into a supermarket, I discovered something new and often unsuspected. The most seemingly mundane products (eggs! bottled water!) led me to discoveries I had not even imagined possible. I found something astonishing—and often quite amusing—in every section of the store. I hope that you are just as amazed and amused reading this book as I was while writing it. I also hope that you put it to immediate use. Enjoy, eat well, and change the world (for the better, of course).

Available at What to Eat.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

November 10, 2006

Weekend Reading: Green House and Beyond

Hello Folks,

It's taking a while to get writing this morning - that's what a holiday (even Veteran's Day, evidently) will do to you. But hopefully it's worth the wait. I've got three - count 'em, three - books to recommend this morning, all from The Green House exhibit at The National Building Museum.

greenHouse.jpgFirst, The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design by Alanna Stang and Christopher Hawthorne. This is the companion volume for The Green House exhibit. It shows how buildings fit with their surroundings and how we can make efficient use of our personal space. It presents sustainable design principles through the refreshing examples that appear in the exhibit itself. If you can't make it to D.C. for the exhibit, or if you went and want to take some of its ideas home with you (in a more comprehensive and durable package than the exhibit handouts), this is the book for you.

green building products.jpgLooking to put the lessons from The Green House to use? These next two books may be up your alley:

Green Building Products contains descriptions and manufacturer contact information for more than 1,400 environmentally friendly products and materials from ag-fiber panels to zero-VOC paints. All phases of residential construction are covered, from site work to flooring to renewable energy.

green remodeling.jpgDon't have the budget to rebuild from scratch? Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time by David R. Johnston and Kim Master describes simple green renovation solutions for homeowners, focusing on key aspects of the building, including foundations, framing, plumbing, windows, heating and finishes. Addressing all climates, this is a great resource for conventional homeowners, as well as for architects and remodeling contractors.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

November 3, 2006

Weekend Reading: Organic, Inc by Samuel Fromartz

"Organic, Inc. tells how an $11 billion industry arose out of an alternative food movement, bringing backwoods idealists into the age of the organic tortilla chip. A juggernaut in the otherwise sluggish food industry, organic food is now a consumer phenomenon growing at 20 percent a year. But what is organic food? Is it really better for you? Where did it come from and why so many of us buying it?"

Samuel Fromartz says he set out to answer these questions when he wrote Organic, Inc. Fromartz, a business journalist whose articles have appeared in Inc., Business Week, and The New York Times, uses the book to tell the story of how organic went from a counterculture movement to a mainstream $11 billion industry. He talks about the history of the organic farming movement, how small scale farming was unable to meet the demand for organic and had to create an industry to do it, and the uneasy co-existence between organic and industrial food culture. The book is written from the perspective of an economist, but an economic who loves food. Which in our opinion, makes it worth reading.

Buy it at Amazon.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 27, 2006

Weekend Reading: The Sonoma Diet

What's not to like about The Sonoma Diet?

Dr. Connie Gutterson has created a Mediterranean-style diet that balances nutrition-rich "power foods" like almonds, red peppers, blueberries, olive oil, tomatoes and whole grains with moderate amounts of wine and a focus on enjoying your meals. She replaces calorie tracking with a simple way of measuring your food (dividing your plate into quadrants and filling them with the appropriate amount of vegetables, lean meat and grains). And she teaches you how to prepare foods in ways that give you maximum flavor and nutritional bang for minimum calorie buck.

We've tried Weight Watchers (online, of course) and struggled to continue tracking points, especially after that initial thrill of early weight loss wears off. And we all know someone who had initial success with Atkins or South Beach, only to get grumpy from carb deprivation, and then gain the weight back and develop high cholesterol.

What we like about The Sonoma Diet approach is that it's focused on teaching healthy eating habits, and emphasizes flavor and nutritional balance. It's about foods you should eat more of, and how to combine them for better nutrition instead of a list of foods you have to do without.

And the sample menus (e.g. scrambled eggs and wheat toast for breakfast, salad Nicoise for lunch and Tandoori chicken with roasted eggplant salad for lunch) sound not only do-able, but downright yummy.

Sign us up, and pour us another glass of Zinfandel.

Buy The Sonoma Diet and its companion volume, The Sonoma Diet Cookbook.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 13, 2006

Weekend Reading: Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen

"What is GRUB?" ask Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry, authors of a new book which bears that name. They then proceed to answer the question dictionary definition style:

1. grub is healthy, local, sustainable food for all 2. grub is food that supports community, justice, and sustainability 3. grub should be universal

Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen is the first collaboration between Lappe, co-author (with her mother Francis Moore Lappe) of Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet and Terry, a chef and food justice activist. Designed to offer readers compelling reasons to eat food that is organic, local and "fair," it combines education around the differences between "fake" food filling supermarkets and locally produced organics with recipes and suggestions for healthier eating and living. The book includes 24 simple, seasonally-themed menus designed to inspire readers to think about their food and have fun with it.

Check out the book's website for recipes, ideas, and Lappe's own blog.

Buy Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 6, 2006

Weekend Reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma

OmnivoresDilemma.jpgIs it just me, or is everyone talking about The Omnivore's Dilemma?

Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling book The Botany of Desire, uses the book to look at four different answers to the question "What should we have for dinner?" He traces the origins of four meals - McDonalds; Whole Foods; a small, self-sustaining Virginia farm; and a "hunter-gatherer" expedition - from field to dinner plate. In the process, he looks at the causes of what he calls our "national eating disorder," and offers up some solutions.

Read the intro and first chapter of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Buy the book.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 29, 2006

Weekend Reading: Chew on This - Fast Food Nation for the Grade School Set

chew-on-this.jpgWhile parents are campaigning against junk food, Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser offers kids a digestible (though hardly palatable) look at the fast food industry in his new book Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know about Fast Food.

Written with co-author Charles Wilson, the book adapts the lessons of Fast Food Nation for a kid-friendly look at the history of the fast food industry. The book looks at the nutritional content of a fast food meal, follows the 37-day life of a pre-McNugget chicken, and reveals how the fast food industry has studied child behavior and tailored its advertising and packaging (hello, Happy Meal toys) to attract a child audience. It also includes great information about the links between obesity, french fries and that Super Size Coke.

Buy it for your kids; read it as a family.

Availble at Chew on This.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 27, 2006

The Complete Organic Pregnancy

Got an email this morning from Deirdre Dolan, author of The Complete Organic Pregnancy, which came out yesterday. She and her co-author Lexi Zissu, both journalists, were inspired to write the book when they both got pregnant. They'll be talking about it tomorrow on The Today Show. Set your Tivos. Deirdre and Lexi are also doing a blog on Yahoo about the topic.

Deirdre said she'd put a copy of the book in the mail to us. We'll keep you posted and let you know what we think.

Available on Amazon.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 22, 2006

Weekend Reading: The Company We Keep

We had a great conversation yesterday afternoon with John Abrams, co-founder and president of South Mountain Company, an employee-owned design/build firm on Martha's Vineyard. John is also author of The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community and Place, which has been on our bedside table - and talk of the office for most of the summer. In it, John describes South Mountain's transition to employee ownership, and the things the company has learned along the way. He's a builder, and a thoughtful one, so the ideas translate into the eight "cornerstones" on which South Mountain has been built:

- cultivating workplace democracy
- challenging the gospel of growth
- balancing multiple bottom lines
- commiting to the business of place
- celebrating the spirit of craft
- advancing "people conservation"
- practicing community entrepreneurism
- thinking like cathedral builders

Our conversation with John touched on each of these, as well the challenges of building "ownership" in nonprofit organizations. We also talked about the state of green building, and ways to remove obstacles to making building more energy-efficient and sustainable. After John left, we kept talking for hours about ways to take the lessons he's learned at South Mountain, and bring them into our own lives and work.

As someone who does not have any affinity for business books, I can't say enough about how this book reads like a story, like sitting around the woodstove in one of John's well-insulated houses and listening to him talk about what he's learning as he goes. It's approachable and inspiring for any of us who like to think about how to make our workplace - and the world around us - a better place.

At The Company We Keep

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 5, 2006

Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Today's Environmental Problems

What we like about this book is the format of 25 case studies and numerous examples and followup to a theory proposed and studied - not just proposed. Though a bit out of date, the book is still one of our favorites and does a good job outlining the different efforts underway in the green movement.

Lerner, research director of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute, continues exploring the themes he introduced in The Earth Summit (Common Knowledge, 1991) and Beyond the Earth Summit (Common Knowledge, 1992). He presents 25 case studies on sustainable development in the United States, showcasing the efforts of "eco-pioneers" in diverse settings from inner cities to rural communities to grow food, build houses, treat wastes, and generate power in sustainable ways. The result is a nice compilation of practical examples of sustainable development that makes us believe that we can solve our environmental problems.

At Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Today's Environmental Problems

Blogpire Productions at Permalink social bookmarking

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