Thursday, November 7, 2013

Eat, Drink, Vote Review

I try to make sure that I read, listen to, observe, etc. information from non-plant based thinkers whenever possible. Sometimes I feel like I’m drinking the vegan Kool-aid and need to check in with the mainstream nutrition research when I can. That’s not to say that I think mainstream is better (I’d say it’s not), but I want to make sure to get a less biased perspective. One of my favorite non-plant based authors is the exceptional Marion Nestle. Taken from the About page on her website “Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health (the department she chaired from 1988-2003) and Professor of Sociology at New York University. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.”

The first book I read by Nestle was “Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics”, though I've read/heard her work referenced in countless sources. I think I first heard about her through Michael Pollan, another favorite non-plant based source of information. Nestle has a new book that came out in September 2013 titled “Eat, Drink, Vote” and I was lucky to read a copy from Net Galley.

Let me start with this: I love this book. I read it quickly, it’s short and it’s fun. If I haven’t convinced you yet, let me go further. The book uses political cartoons from The Cartoonist Group syndicate to illustrate a variety of salient points about the US food system. Each page is a mix of cartoons and/or text. It’s amazing how cartoons can convey so much in such a small place. I read a lot of nutrition books and articles, and this one was unique in presentation but didn't give up anything in the way of hard knowledge.

I think it’s so important to use humor to express sensitive issues because it allows us to examine them in a way that’s not threatening, and we often have a more visceral response to images than to blocks of text. This book is a nice primer on the US food system and covers topics such as: agriculture, politics, food marketing, hunger, international relations, government intervention, obesity, nutrition research, cultural values, and more. I’m so impressed by it that I’m going to order it for my library. It’s a good example of how to use media to support scientific information, and touches on many different disciplines. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s easy to get through, will elicit a few laughs, and will quickly educate you on the most important topics in food politics.

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