A former “neighbor” of mine (she lived two doors down from my house but moved to the Lehigh Valley before I even came to the city) got in touch with me quite a while back (embarrasingly long ago, actually), asking if I might like to review the book she had just publish. Carol Hart is a freelance writer with a penchant for health and science topics. She’s also a busy woman who’s determined to slow down and eat right. And by eating “right”, she means following your taste buds. She puts forth a near-manifesto in her new book, Good Food Tastes Good: An Argument for Trusting Your Senses and Ignoring the Nutritionists.
What was so enthralling for me as I read this book is that the facts and research she’s pulled together verifies what I’ve always suspected. If I’m craving something, it’s most likely because my body instinctually knows it needs it (this “guiding light” doesn’t hold true in the case of my sweet tooth though – that thing never shuts off!). I find myself nearly frothing at the mouth at times for a particular vegetable or protein. It’s most often tomatoes and most recently it’s been soy bacon and yogurt. All of these cravings signal a depletion in my body of what those particular food items hold – folic acid, protein, salt, calcium, etc.
“…people ought to trust their instincts rather than Nutrition Facts and RDAs,” is Carol’s basic mantra, within reason. Obviously she’s not advocating living by chocolate alone (which could very well be my instinct). What she does explain – support in detail with many facts throughout the book – is that modern society has gotten much more concerned about a bunch of numbers on the side of a box than about getting a diverse selection of good and tasty food into their daily diets.
In a chapter entitled The Tyranny of Shelf Life, Carol writes, “Our food supply has changed enormously over the past 150 years with the introduction first of canned, then frozen foods, followed by processed foods with extended shelf lives, and finally by meal kits, meal substitutes and highly supplemented ‘wellness’ or ‘functional’ foods.”
“One hundred years ago, over 40% of Americans lived or worked on farms. Those not on a farm had a garden if they could, raising about 30% of their vegetables, on average, and buying the rest. Today less than 3% of U.S. workers are involved in agriculture and less than 3% of vegetables consumed domestically are homegrown. Among the many consequences of our move away from the land to the cities (and to processed foods) is our lack of knowledge about how food is produced and – just as crucial – ou lack of standards for how it should taste.”
She talks extensively throughout the book about how the barrage of conflicting information from the media and the current diet craze distort our natural instincts to eat as nature intended us to do. “Whether the studies are done well or not, they are marketing tools. Consider nutritional claims as little more than infomercials and not as proof that you should eat foods you dislike or shun those that you happen to prefer.”
“A balanced diet is not the same as a varied diet, a concept supported by good evidence as well as good sense…”
And finally, a sobering point is made. “There are big political, environmental and social issues involved in the global food exchange: the waste of fuel and resulting pollution; the economic losses to rural communities; and the loss of self-sufficiency in our communities and potentially our nation. The major East Coast cities have less than a two days’ supply of food, according to Brian Halweil, and are dependent on those semis making their six or seven-day trek across country. You don’t’ have to b e a doomsday prophet to think this is an unhealthy and unwise food policy.”
While Carol’s book is not intentionally out to prove the habits of a locavore are the way to go, by the time you’ve wrapped up the last chapter its pretty clear that local food is the freshest and most attuned to meet our body’s natural needs for diverse nutrition according to the seasons and our surrounding environment. All in all, you’ll learn a lot about food facts from reading Good Food Tastes Good.
Port Wine and Pastries: Yes, my dear readers, I am currently away from my desk/computer, hiking around the steep hills of Lisbon and rural sections of the northern Minho region of pint-sized Portugal. I can’t wait to get back and tell you all about the rich old-world culture of this unique little country oft forgotten by European travelers intent on getting to Italy and Spain. In the meantime, enjoy this post for a great food book by a local author and please have patience with my delay in responding to comments.
Obrigada e adeus (thank you and farewell)!