Books for Thought – May’s Selection

The Omnivore’s Dilemma was simultaneously terrifying and great fun to read. It follows the path of four meals, a fast-food meal from McDonald’s, an “industrial organic” meal from Whole Foods, a farm-fresh meal (he lived with a family on a multi-purpose farm for a week), and a meal that was hunted and gathered (quite literally) by the author himself.

Omnivore’s Dilemma covered a variety of relevant topics and issues concerning the American diet: US dependence on oil and corn; the politics of food; how animals are treated, including corn v. grass fed beef, chickens (free range and otherwise); and the adventures of hunting for boar and morel mushrooms.

The Secret of Lost Things was a coming of age novel about a young girl from Tasmania who moves to New York and works for an eccentric man at an eclectic book store. The great mystery running through the book involves Herman Melville, and why the book was ever published to begin with.

Secret was written along a similar vein as The Dante Club. Where Dante Club tried to make Dante and Milton interesting, Secret tried to weave a mystery around Melville. Both failed.

The New Food Lover’s Companion is a fat little volume full of more than “6,700 entries [that]describe foods, cooking techniques, herbs, spices, desserts, wines, and the ingredients for pleasurable dining.” It lists everything from Abalone to Zwieback and has an extensive appendix of ingredient equivalents and substitutions, metric conversions, a pasta index, cooking times and temperatures, and more.

Although I’m probably not going to sit down and read the book cover to cover, I have enjoyed flipping through it learning about new foods. For example, if I ever come across gravlax (a Swedish specialty of raw salmon cured in a salt-sugar-dill mixture), I will know it can be stored for up to a week in the fridge. I have also learned the difference between Persian limes (what you normally see in the store) and Key limes (grown in Florida on nasty spiky trees and not good for export).

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