This morning I read a rant on Michael Ruhlman’s blog about corn syrup hidden in his fat-free half-and-half. (Ruhlman also rightly pointed out that there’s no such thing as fat-free half-and-half; one of the “halfs” refers to cream, and what’s the point without the fat?)
This led me to a New York Times editorial about misleading food labels making all kinds of claims, from boosting immunity to preventing cancer. That reminded me of this article, which described the bad-tasting results when unhealthy salt levels are reduced in processed foods.
Once again, I am reminded of Michael Pollan‘s tenet not to believe any health claims made on food packaging, even claims that the food is healthier because it’s low in fat or salt. The best way to ignore these health claims is to buy food with no packaging at all. I’m talking about whole fruits and vegetables, foods sold in bulk, meats butchered and packaged at the store. I even buy my milk products in label-less glass bottles; it comes from a local dairy farm, no corn syrup included.
Of course, this strategy isn’t possible for all foods, but it is available for more foods than you might think. And some of the packaged foods you can probably live without. So don’t buy into the bogus health claims. Don’t buy them at all.
Misleading Food Labels (Michael Ruhlman)
Snake Oil for Breakfast (New York Times)
The War on the Cheez-It (National Review Online)
First let me say that I am sorry I have kind of gone AWOL on this blog. First, I went on vacation, then I had to recover from my vacation, and I just haven’t cooked much that I felt was blog-worthy lately. But yes, I have been neglecting this space, and now that cooler weather is here, my thoughts have turned to my Christmas wishlist. This is when I start reading cookbook reviews and dreaming about what I want to find under the tree because I’m too cheap to buy it for myself.
First up, thanks to Pam at Sidewalk Shoes for alerting me to The Flavor Bible. This looks like a fantastic reference to have in the kitchen, and a great inspiration for creating my own recipes.
The name of this blog is Simply Cooking, and I’m a sucker for cookbooks that incorporate that concept of cooking simply but creating fabulous food. That’s why I’m taken with Pure Simple Cooking: Effortless Meals Every Day. Along those same lines is Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food, which combines simple cooking with one of my favorite cuisines, Italian.
A couple of food bloggers/authors I read have new books out that I’m drooling over. David Lebovitz’s new book, The Sweet Life in Paris, is a memoir with recipes, and it definitely looks drool-worthy. I’ve also long been coveting Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.
Finally, it wouldn’t be the holiday season without drooling over a big coffee-table cookbook with gorgeous photos and delicious recipes. I pick Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, which I hope will be released in time for the holidays.
What cookbooks or food writing is on your wishlist? Do you have any further suggestions for mine? Leave ‘em in the comments.
First up: Michael Pollan had a doom-and-gloom article in last Sunday’s NYT Magazine predicting the extinction of cooking. I think Pollan is a terrific and persuasive writer, and I enjoyed this article, even if I think he went a bit too far in his predictions. There are a lot of people cooking, obviously, or there wouldn’t be so many food bloggers, but I think some of his points, especially linking cooking to health, are very salient. I especially enjoyed the photographs that accompanied the article, which were like anti-food styling.
Here are some responses to the article from Michael Ruhlman and Tigers and Strawberries, which are both worth reading as well.
For the record, I didn’t take Pollan’s article as sexist. I think we have to make a distinction between the historical role that women have played as home cooks, which is factual, and the cultural role that is often assigned to women. I think Pollan was referring to the historical role when he drew the link between women entering the workforce and the decline in home cooking, and he also went on to attribute the decline to other factors beyond that obvious one. Also, I never got the sense that he was advocating a return to the kitchen by women, but rather by anyone who wants to cook. Obviously, he does a lot of the cooking in his family. So I think cries of sexism may be overblown.
Beyond Pollan, here are several other recent food articles that are well worth your perusal:
The Soul of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman (2001)
This book contains three “backstage” views on cooking in contemporary America. My favorite two pieces were the opener, describing the excruciating Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, and the closer, spent in the kitchen of French Laundry — reportedly America’s best restaurant. Both accounts were crammed with detail, enabling the reader to experience an otherwise closed-off world to most of us. Ruhlman does get a bit long-winded and, frankly, over-effusive at the end, especially for someone who gets offended when anyone calls cooking an “art.” But the otherwise fascinating writing more than makes up for that.