RSS

Tag Archives: Michael Pollan

154. Books Bought & Read, March 2017…

154. Books Bought & Read, March 2017…

March 2017 saw me pad my early-season stats with a bingo-esque 44 books bought, 26 read.

I was almost neck-and-neck in my buying:reading ratio last month until, perhaps getting a little cocky, I visited my old friend Chris at the Central Park Strand Stand for the first time in weeks, (walking away eight books heavier, mainly the colourful edition of Vonnegut novels I have decided to re-collect all of his novels in), and found a small treasure trove of food-based books during my last shift at the Housing Works charity bookstore where I am now struggling to find time to volunteer.

The reason for both of these last facts, (kitchen reading and lack of time), is that I found myself accidentally getting a new job this month. This weekend I became a fully trained tour guide for the oldest (and the best!) food tasting tour company in NYC, the wonderful Foods of New York Tours. If you want to be led around Greenwich Village and fed by me, both literally and informationally, get in touch!

Foodtour5

Until those tours, and a side project I have working at a small, plucky startup company called Apple kick in properly next month, I am reading as much as possible, from an advance copy on the science behind ‘Flavo(u)r’ (did you know foods can taste better depending on the colour or weight of the plate?) to the ever-informative Michael Pollan on how cooking makes us more human, (and apparently the Netflix series isn’t too bad, either).

I cleansed my palette with a surprisingly heavy diet of death…and comic books.

I found a two small collections of final thoughts from two perennial thought-provokers, (Oliver Sacks and Christopher Hitchens), and Neil Gaiman’s fun and fierce retelling of Norse Mythology kind of fit right in, as the gods go around killing whomsoever they want, (and often being killed themselves…for a while). It seems unfair that Neil Gaiman not only writes so wonderfully, but gets the most stunning covers: the 3D-feeling MjölnirHammer of Thor, making for a stunning image on the front of his latest collection of tales.

images-11

16601561_10154280481173837_231250390566631363_o.jpg

I was excited to finally read some James Baldwin, after seeing the wonderful documentary on him last month, and both Ted Talk books lived up to previous expectations, especially the one on architecture, but the surprise find of the month came from a sliver of a book which caught my eye due to its author, (not that Andy Kaufman, it turned out…)

images-9

‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ was a wonderfully witty, wryly romantic, hipster-nerd romcom of a tale, and if you don’t feel like buying it you could probably read it in half an hour in the bookshop.

Just don’t tell them I sent you…

Books Bought, March 2017

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Peanuts: the art of charles m.schultz (ed.Chip Kidd)

Dig If You Will The Picture: funk, sex, god and genius in the music of prince (Ben Greenman) x2

Know This: today’s most interesting and important scientific ideas, discoveries, and developments (ed.John Brockman)

X: a highly specific, defiantly incomplete history of the early 21st century (Chuck Klosterman)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

H Is For Hawk (Helen MacDonald)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

The Schooldays Of Jesus (J.M.Coetzee)

Tears We Cannot Stop (Michael Eric Dyson)

Absolutely On Music (Haruki Murakami & Seiji Ozawa)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Midlife Crisis (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Hipster (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

Not My Father’s Son (Alan Cumming)

McSweeney’s No.5

Flash Boys (Michael Lewis)

Go Tell It On The Mountains (James Baldwin)

All My Friends Are Superheroes (Andrew Kaufman)

How To Make Books (Esther K.Smith)

Make Trouble (John Waters)

Tales Of Ancient Egypt (Roger Lancelyn Green)

Universal: a guide to the cosmos (Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw)

The Global Novel: writing the world in the 21st century (Adam Kirsch)

Garlic And Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise (Ruth Reichl)

Flavor: the science of our most neglected sense (Bob Holmes)

Selected Poems (Edna St.Vincent Millay)

Revolution For Dummies: laughing through the arab spring (Bassem Youssef)

The Village: 400 years of beats and bohemians, radicals and rogues, a history of greenwich village (John Strasbaugh)

The Last Unicorn (Peter S.Beagle)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon)

The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry)

The Food And Wine Of France: eating and drinking from champagne to provence (Edward Behr)

The Beats: a graphic history (Harvey Pekar et al)

In The Land Of Invented Languages: adventures in linguistic creativity, madness, and genius (Arika Okrent)

Home And Away: writing the beautiful game (Karl Ove Knausgaard & Fredrik Ekelund)

An Abbreviated Life (Ariel Leve)

Bluebeard (Kurt Vonnegut)

Mother Night (Kurt Vonnegut)

Sirens Of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)

David Boring (Daniel Clowes)

The Last Interview (Lou Reed)

The New York Stories (John O’Hara)

You, Too, Could Write A Poem (David Orr)

111 Shops In New York That You Must Not Miss: unique finds and local treasures (Susan Lusk & Mark Gabor)

 

Books Read, March 2017 (Recommended books in bold)

Moving To Higher Ground: how jazz can change your life (Wynton Marsalis)

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: century – 1969 (Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill)

Why We Work (Barry Schwartz)

Patience (Daniel Clowes)

The Art Of Stillness: adventures in going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

Gratitude (Oliver Sacks)

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman)

Peanuts: the art of charles m.schultz (ed.Chip Kidd)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

Museum Legs: fatigue and hope in the face of art (Amy Whitaker)

Bat-Manga! the secret history of batman in japan (ed.Chip Kidd)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Midlife Crisis (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Hipster (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Future Of Architecture In 100 Buildings (Mark Kushner)

All My Friends Are Superheroes (Andrew Kaufman)

Islam: a short history (Karen Armstrong)

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Cooked: a natural history of transformation (Michael Pollan)

A Grief Observed (C.S.Lewis)

Make Trouble (John Waters)

The Global Novel: writing the world in the 21st century (Adam Kirsch)

Flavor: the science of our most neglected sense (Bob Holmes)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon)

Garlic And Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise (Ruth Reichl)

The Beats: a graphic history (Harvey Pekar et al)

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 4, 2017 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

109. ‘The Disappearing Spoon,’ Sam Kean…

109. ‘The Disappearing Spoon,’ Sam Kean…

The Disappearing Spoon: and other true tales from the periodic table,’ Sam Kean

More non-fiction fun and games with this highly readable book on the history of the periodic table, the elements, science, and stuff! Science never having been my strong point, I need well-written, interesting stories to get me interested in chemistry, physics and biology, and this book sure delivered!

ipod_25

Having battery problems?

“In 1911 a Dutch-German scientist was cooling mercury with liquid -452ºF when the system lost all electrical resistance and became an ideal conductor. This would be sort of like cooling an iPod down to hundreds of degrees below zero and finding that the battery remained fully charged no matter how long or loud you played music, until infinity…”

Now that’s the kind of analogy I can understand!

Ever wondered where the periodic table actually came from? The stories of the personalities behind the scientific discoveries are often as interesting as the science itself:

“Like his Russian contemporary Dostoevsky – who wrote his entire novel The Gambler in three weeks to pay off desperate gambling debts – [Dmitri] Mendelev threw together his first table to meet a textbook publisher’s deadline…”

I had first learned about Nobel Prize winner Fritz Haber, in Michael Pollan’s highly influential ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ Haber had revolutionised farming by discovering how to produce fertiliser, and Wikipedia credits his discoveries as being  directly responsible for “the food production for half the world’s current population.” And yet only here do I learn:

“Humiliated at the huge reparations Germany had to pay the Allies, Haber spent six futile years trying to extract dissolved gold from the oceans, so that he could pay the reparations himself…”

original_BullionVaultmain

There’s gold in them thar…seas?…

Not all of the trivia and knowledge is science based: it is a wonderfully scattered trove of information, for example:

“Until well past 1900 Russia used a misaligned calendar that Julius Caesar’s astrologers had invented, leaving it weeks behind Europe and its modern Gregorian calendar. That lag explains why the ‘October Revolution’ that brought Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 actually occurred in November…”

Who knew!

Also, Dorothy apparently “…wore silver, not ruby, slipper” in the original novel of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

On the changes in customs and tastes, (not to mention prices) over the years:

“…the minor Emperor Napoleon III reserved a prize set of aluminium cutlery for special guests at banquets. (Less favoured guests used gold knives and forks…)”

But ultimately, it was science which I learned from this highly readable, extremely educational book – this paragraph, taken from the start of the final chapter, sums up what kind of wonders I took away with me:

“As we know, 90 percent of particles in the universe are hydrogen, and the other 10 percent are helium. Everything else, including six million billion billion kilos of earth, is a cosmic rounding error…”

“Hurricane Season 2010″ by Maximilian Reuter, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

“Hurricane Season 2010″ by Maximilian Reuter, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 22, 2014 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

86. ‘Don’t Eat This Book,’ Morgan Spurlock…

86. ‘Don’t Eat This Book,’ Morgan Spurlock…
Don’t Eat This Book: fast food and the super-sizing of america,Morgan Spurlock
.
Recently, I have noticed my reading habits leaning more towards non-fiction than imaginary worlds and characters: I used to aim for a one real, one not alternating policy, but there is so much fascinating, well-written scientific, philosophical and educational writing out there, I often find myself reaching for those, possibly a sign of growing up and wanting to learn as much as possible about the world around me.
.
It is also possibly an attempt to fill the gaps left by my education: I gave up on science long before mandatory tests at age 16, and was never allowed to study computers, technology or food sciences, making them all topics I naturally seek out in printed form.
.
I have often felt that food and health, subjects which were more or less entirely absent from my schooling, are surely the most important thing you can teach a teenager, and I am now playing catch-up. Devouring (a fitting term) everything I can find by Michael Pollan is just the start of it: recently I chomped my way through the excellent, extended, paper-based version of Morgan Spurlock‘s award-winning movie ‘Supersize Me,’
.
.
(For the full movie, see here).
.
Here are some things I learned from this day’s reading, some of the most important and indeed habit-changing things I feel you should know, too.
.
“…according to the Department of Transportation, there are now, for the first time in history, more cars than drivers in America…”
.
“We eat a tremendous amount of meat in this country [the USA]. The USDA says we eat 1 million animals an hour…”
.
Photo by jelleprins via Flickr

Photo by jelleprins via Flickr

.
“You want to hear something really disgusting? The cattle industry buys millions of dead cats and dogs from animal shelters every year, then feeds them to the cattle who end up in your burger…”
.
.
“For a while, McDonald’s was even working with the giant chemical company Monsanto, former producer of the herbicide Agent Orange, to produce chemically modified spuds that had the pesticides progammed right into them…NewLeafs were actually registered as a pesticide with the EPA.
.
Let me repeat that:
.
NewLeaf potatoes were actually registered as a pesticide with the EPA! And we were eating them!…”
.
Photo

Photo by Foodiggity

.
“[Mark] Fenton [former editor of Walking magazine] told me that fewer than half of all Americans get any form of exercise at all. Not even walking…”
.
“…studies have shown that out of a typical gym period, only six minutes are spent being physically active…”
.
“Did you know that in Chinese culture, you don’t pay the doctor when you’re sick? It’s his job to keep you well. If you’re sick, he ain’t doing his job, and he don’t get paid. If he comes around and makes you well again, then you start paying him…”
.
Appendix 3 gave a terrifying list of all of the companies which come under the corporate umbrella of Philip Morris, the cigarette manufacturer, (which nowadays goes by “the vague, innocent-sounding name” of Altria): Maxwell House, Starbucks, Kool Aid, Capri Sun, Taco Bell, Kraft, Oreo, Planters nuts, Toblerone, Nabisco, Jell-O, Shredded Wheat, Daim, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, (Noooo!), Ritz, and literally dozens of others.
Depressed yet? Me too….

.

Finally, a single paragraph which (hopefully) has changed forever the way I choose my snacks:

“…consumers often perceive an item that sounds higher quality as better for them, even if no mention is made of health or nutrition. That’s why you see restaurants breathlessly shilling ‘applewood smoked bacon,’ even though it has the same amount of fat as plain old bacon. Kimberley Egan, a partner at the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco, which has done menu development for McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, rattles off words that give ‘quality’ clues: ‘slow-roasted,’ ‘tender,’ ‘grilled,’ spicy,’ ‘fresh-cut’…”
.
Excuse me while I go snack on some fresh-cut, tender bananas…
.
Photo by Rick Harris via wikipedia commons

Photo by Rick Harris via wikipedia commons

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 14, 2013 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,