Category Archives: Food Issues

My Beef with Meat

My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet–Plus 140 New Engine 2 Recipes, by Rip Esselstyn.  Grand Central Life & Style, 2013.

Rip Esselstyn’s second book–following The Engine 2 Diet–is clear, concise, down-to-earth, at times humorous, and will surely answer most questions people have about why we should be eating whole plants instead of animal products and processed food. This is a quick, go-to guide for such topics as protein, calcium, iron, what’s wrong with paleo, why grass-fed is no better than grain-fed, why oils should be avoided, and numerous other topics. Although mostly about health, the book also comments on animal suffering and the environment. And the recipe section!! I can hardly wait to try some of them. I was fortunate to hear the author live earlier this month at a local bookstore, and was impressed with his command of issues and facts, his friendly style, and the enthusiasm he conveyed. He’s an excellent ambassador for a healthier America.

The Ethics of What We Eat

The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason.  Rodale, 2006.

At least three times a day, we all make choices that have profound ethical consequences: what we eat.  After interviewing three actual families about the foods they choose and why, authors Singer and Mason track down producers of these commonly-eaten foods and examine the means of production.  Noting that “no other human activity has had as great an impact on our planet as agriculture,” they show how animals, our land, and oceans are treated in that process.  The book is not a vegetarian polemic, although both authors are vegetarians.  Rather it provides a  balanced investigation of hidden factors in food production, and asks readers to make the kindest choices they possibly can.  It is, however, strong in its condemnation of factory-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy products: “Since factory farming inflicts a vast quantity of unjustifiable suffering on animals, persuading others to boycott it should be a high priority of anyone concerned about animals.” Continue reading The Ethics of What We Eat

The World Until Yesterday

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond.  Viking, 2012.

The old notion that pre-literate Stone Age people are “noble savages” has been demolished by current research, cited in detail in Steven Pinker’s excellent Better Angels of Our Nature, and given further weight by this latest from Diamond. Unlike Pinker, however, Diamond has actually spent time living among such societies over a period of years, mostly in New Guinea, so he has personal experience to draw on. A person’s chance of dying of homicide is much greater in a traditional society because without centralized governments, people have great difficulty stopping the cycles of revenge killings that arise from a murder, for example. Other reasons not to romanticize these societies include the dangers of wild animals and infectious diseases. Yet they have other aspects that we might like to re-introduce or strengthen in our own lives. Continue reading The World Until Yesterday

No Happy Cows

No Happy Cows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Food Revolution, by John Robbins.  Conari Press, 2012.

This collection of Robbins’ most popular blog posts from Huffington Post, plus some new material, ranges widely on food-related topics. He cuts straight through food industry hype to explain clearly the issues about, for example, the anti-soy campaign (conclusion: soy is healthful if eaten in moderation), the role of factory farms in the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens (one of these pathogens, MRSA, now causes more U.S. deaths annually than AIDS), and child slavery used in the production of chocolate (insist on organic chocolate). Plus many other food nightmares, and what you can do. The book’s title comes from the California Milk Board’s deceptive advertising campaign to portray their cows as living comfortable lives, when the bleak opposite is true. Anyone who reads the book will be a much more educated consumer, and it is hoped that knowing about abuses will motivate consumers to avoid them.

Vegan For the Holidays

Vegan For the Holidays: Celebration Feasts for Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, by Zel Allen.  (Book Publishing Co., 2012).

Zel Allen is known to many vegans as the co-publisher, along with her husband Reuben, of Vegetarians in Paradise Internet magazine and author of a previous cookbook The Nut Gourmet. After four years of creating and testing holiday recipes, she has now released her latest offering, and what a gift to vegan cooks it is!
Reading her acknowledgments, I was impressed with Zel’s tenacity–she remarks that she kept working on one recipe even after it failed four times.  Reading her recipes, I was impressed with her skill in putting together unusual combinations of tastes while still keeping within the framework of the dishes traditionally associated with these holidays.  Continue reading Vegan For the Holidays

The Green Foodprint

Everything you could want to know about the environmental impact of your food choices is gathered here in a well-organized and reader-friendly format. You can dip into it anywhere and learn something. Each topic ends with “What You Can Do” suggestions, so the book is not an intellectual exercise so much as a guidebook for step-by-step action.  The author has a passion for the truth, and doesn’t try to hide unpleasant facts; for example, that the “free-range” label on eggs often does not mean that the hens ever walk on a natural landscape or experience less crowding than their more typically-raised sisters. Continue reading The Green Foodprint

On a Dollar a Day

On a Dollar a Day: One Couple’s Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America, by Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard.  Hyperion,  2010.

 I always enjoy reading about people who care enough to look closely at their values and how well they are incorporating those values into their everyday lives.  This likable California couple takes a close and compassionate look at one of the most powerful aspects of how we live: our food choices.  These two are vegans, so they’re already eating in a way that will require the least resources, but they want to go further, in order to better understand what poor people face. Continue reading On a Dollar a Day

The Engine 2 Diet

The Engine 2 Diet, by Rip Esselstyn.  Wellness Central, 2009.  Watch video and learn more: engine2diet.com.

In case there is any lingering doubt that veganism is for guys—and not only average guys, but tough athletic guys–here’s a book to dispel it.  Esselstyn, an All-American swimmer and long-time professional triathlete, became a firefighter over ten years ago.  To help his fellow firefighters reduce their life-threatening high cholesterol and overweight, he developed his Engine 2 Diet plan, based on research about plant-based diets done by his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. and Dr. Colin Campbell (who contributes a foreword to the book).  The E2 Diet, which excludes not only all animal products but refined flours, refined sugars, and oils, achieved remarkable results in the firehouse, and subsequently received national media attention.  The plan is endorsed by the likes of Lance Armstrong, who sought out the author for dietary advice. Continue reading The Engine 2 Diet

How to Eat Like A Vegetarian Even If You Never Want to Be One

How to Eat Like A Vegetarian Even If You Never Want to Be One, by Carol J. Adams and Patti Breitman.   Lantern Books, 2008.

If you’re looking for a book to help yourself or others who are new to preparing whole plant foods, if you’re puzzled about what to do with tofu or kale, pick this up.  The authors adopt a friendly, laid-back tone to meet readers right where they are in their eating habits, and exert no pressure to make sweeping dietary changes.   “We aren’t inviting you to go for a PhD in vegan cuisine,” they write, “we’re inviting you out to the playground!”  The book does contain recipes, but is mostly about putting together simple foods in simple ways.  Every time I’ve shared information from it, the response has been enthusiastic.  Many people want to eat more healthfully, but don’t want to commit to being vegetarian.  They lack the time or interest to learn about unfamiliar foods.  This will get them started down that path, and they’ll learn the ethical reasons as well as health considerations. Continue reading How to Eat Like A Vegetarian Even If You Never Want to Be One

Vice Cream: Gourmet Vegan Desserts

Vice Cream: Gourmet Vegan Desserts, by Jeff Rogers.  Ten Speed/Celestial Arts, 2004.

I’m writing this in the hottest part of the summer, and wish I could serve you some of Rogers’ delicious vegan ice creams.  I’ve tried two so far: Black Forest (flavored with cocoa and fresh cherries) and Carrot Cake (based on carrot juice, walnuts, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg).  Both of these inspired enthusiasm bordering on ecstasy in the people I served, and other concoctions in the book sound equally wonderful.  The recipes rely on cashews as the creaminess component, rather than on soy or coconut as other vegan ice creams do.  A few raw recipes are included also.  This little book is still in print (as of mid-2010) and would be a fabulous addition to your cookbook shelf.