Summer Reading Round-up

I started a job in November that requires me to commute into DC, 30+ minutes on the train each way. At first I was upset that the amount of time I would spend commuting every day would double, but then I realized:

  1. Riding a train is about 9,000 times less stressful than driving in rush hour.
  2. I suddenly have an extra hour each day to read (or half-hour if I decide to try to doze in the mornings)!

I’ve written several book reviews for you guys here, but not every book deserves a full write-up, or lends itself to one. But I thought it might be nice to share what I’ve read and think would be worthwhile for you to check out at your library.

I’ll start with Cooked, by Michael Pollan. This book was plenty interesting but didn’t present anything particularly mind-blowing. However, I found myself inspired to branch out in the kitchen. I enjoyed following Pollan through his journey of cooking, centered around the four elements of Fire (barbeque), Water (braising), Air (bread-baking), and Earth (fermentation).

Air and Earth were by far my favorite sections. As far as Air goes, before I read this book I also “read” Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish and Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. I learned a lot technique-wise from Ken (especially the idea of baking inside a Dutch oven, which Pollan also advocated), but it’s the whole-grain recipes I’m interested in. I renewed Peter’s book so many times that I maxed out and was finally forced to return it. After I started reading 52 Loaves by William Alexander on the train this morning (after finishing The $64 Tomato yesterday), I put Peter’s book back on hold. Now that the seasons are changing and I can turn on the oven again, I hope to bring you some bread posts soon!

As for the Earth section, well, I love fermentation. I actually went to college with the plan of becoming a microbiologist so I could research bacteria all day (originally inspired by this episode of Reading Rainbow). Today I am quasi-obsessed with the nutritional aspect of these little single-celled organisms, and how they contribute to our health. Bring on the bacteria!

 Scott and I already brew our own beer occaisionally (I hope to have a post on this soon too!) and I’ve made yogurt before, but this inspired me to think seriously about fermenting vegetables. So I checked out The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, and I can’t wait to give some kraut a try. I also have a few beer brewing books at home that Scott bought that I’ll get around to eventually.

Whew! All that just evolved from just one book!

I finally succumbed to the recommendation on Amazon that I read Extra Virginity by Tom Mueller this summer, about the history of olive oil and the politics and economics behind the market today. It was quite interesting, but on a deeper level, a little depressing. Basically, you may never know what you are truly getting when you buy food and there is so much you have to take at face value. But now I know about quality olive oil and where I can buy the real stuff (Hint: it ain’t at your grocery store).

That book was recommended to me based on my rating of Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland, which was insightful and shocking, especially as someone who grew up in Florida and recognized nearly all of the towns mentioned yet had no idea what was going on there. I can’t say I never ate a commodity tomato again, but it definitely was an impetus for planting my own garden to grow my own, for choosing farmers market tomatoes in the summer, and choosing canned over fresh in the winter.

And finally! My friend Beth recommended I check out Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. It is not, as I (sort of) hoped, about foraging in the suburbs for edibles, but about how to choose the healthiest varieties of produce at the supermarket, farmers market, or for planting in your home garden. It was filled with fascinating information and things you might not have expected (white peaches are more nutritious than yellow; cherry tomatoes have more antioxidants than full-size ones; if you let white potaoes refrigerate overnight after cooking you will significantly reduce their sugar content). I might consider buying this one just as a good reference to have, or I’d love to see someone compile all the main points into an infographic!

Do you ever find yourself inspired by books to read yet more books?


One comment

  1. […] may recall a few months ago I said I was going to bake some whole-grain bread soon. Well, I finally did it! And I’ll say, […]

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