Good Taste

by Rona Berg

Maybe you love to read cookbooks for pleasure. Or perhaps you need to know the backstory about where your food comes from, how it’s grown, what to think about food insecurity and food waste, as well as pick up some down-home wisdom and mentorship in the kitchen. These new books will help to elevate the conversation and connect the dots between what we eat, where it comes from, and why we should care.

72 Reasons to be Vegan
Gene Stone & Kathy Freston | Workman Publishing
This handy guide by vegan activist Kathy Freston and journalist Gene Stone is extremely easy to access and, uh, digest. Rather than focus on how, the authors drill down on why a plant-based diet is good for our health and the health of the planet. They don’t spare readers from the appalling details of factory farming, but they do provide a multitude of compelling factoids, for example: “IfAmericans switched from beef to plant-based patties, the effect would be the equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road for a year.” From highlighting the obscene amount of water it takes to raise a cow (1,800 gallons for one pound of beef) compared to soy(220 gallons) to the looming threat of world hunger, 72 Reasons To BeVegan is guaranteed to give readers pause about reaching for another hamburger at the barbecue.

Pastoral Song
James Rebanks | Custom House
In this restrained, almost elegiac tale, Oxford University educated author of The Shepherd’s Life, a New York Times bestseller, tells the story of his family’s farm in England’s Lake District, where Rebanks was raised. His grandfather taught him to farm as families had for generations, when the land was alive with cattle, sheep, birdsong and wildflowers. But modernization—along with the new economics of food production—almost destroyed the spirit of the remote farming community and made it nearly impossible for farmers to survive. Rebanks went back to the land and, working with ecologists, not only restored life—and dignity—to his family’s land, he created a legacy for future generations: “I hope my children and grand children will climb trees and build dens, catch fish and roam free the way we once did. I hope they will love our flocks and our culture and cherish the wild things.” More than a memoir, Pastoral Song is a hardscrabble story of survival, connection to the land and coming home.


Planet Palm

Jocelyn C. Zuckerman | The New Press
On a reporting trip to Liberia, James Beard Award-winning journalist Jocelyn C. Zuckerman noticed that many villages had been bulldozed to accommodate an explosion of palm oil plantations, and she set out to discover why. Planet Palm, a beautifully written exposé that reads like a detective novel, is the result.In just a few decades, palm oil—derived from the oil palm plant—has snuck into approximately half of all products on U.S.grocery store shelves, ranging from toothpaste to dog food, baby formula and beyond. According to Zuckerman, “Palm oil alone now counts for one-third of total vegetable-oil consumption.” Razing vast tracts of land (and the world’s rainforests) to turn them into palm plantations releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and is incredibly dangerous to the future health of the planet. Zuckerman, a seasoned journalist, spent 12 years at Gourmet, where she wrote many stories about agriculture and the environment. Planet Palm is a fascinating weave of history, agriculture and climate change.

Cheese, Wine, and Bread
Katie Quinn | William Morrow

Everyone is talking about fermentation right now, from kombucha to kimchi, but the process itself dates back centuries, with benefits that are incalculable. Katie Quinn—cookbook author, podcast host, food journalist—attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and apprenticed to some of Europe’s top cheese, wine and bread makers to learn about the magic of the fermentation process. Quinn worked as a cheesemaker at Neal’s Yard Dairy, one of England’s oldest and arguably best. She learned to make natural wine at a family-run vineyard in northeast Italy, and met the world-famous Apollonia Poilane at an apprenticeship in Paris. Cheese, Wine, andBread is a treasure trove of fascinating fermentation tidbits, part travelogue, part cookbook, with tantalizing recipes, from BritishCheese Fondue (who knew?) to Ciam belline al Vino (Italian wine cookies), with many deliciously fermented courses in between.

Burnt Toast and Other Disasters
Cal Peternell | William Morrow Cookbooks
A rescue guide for home cooks, Burnt Toast and other Disasters is also packed with delightful bits on how to transform mediocre meals and downright disasters (burnt toast?) into success stories.  Peternell will have home cooks shaking their heads in bemused wonder as he serves up ways to “hack” packaged foods (with no less than five variations on “Hackaroni and Cheese”!).We all know that quality ingredients are key, but what about when you are really hungry, only have access to food remnants and need to doctor them up to make them taste good? With quick and easy recipes that elevate boring food and fix mistakes on the spot, this book comes in handy. Peternell will also make you laugh! Who doesn’t have a taste for that?

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