Summer Reading and Summer Sippin'

Summer Reading

This summer, I seem to have had the "eyes being bigger than my stomach" syndrome when it comes to checking out food related books at the library. I recently finished Mika Brzezinkisi's book, Obsessed and ever since, I can't seem to get enough. Ok, I'll admit, I have become prone to skimming, but it's just 'cuz I'm so excited to take it all in... all at once! The list of books I want to read is long, and ever growing, and likely not accomplishable in the short time we have left this summer, but I thought today I could summarize some of the goodies I've come across so far. Some I've read, some I've skimmed, and all of them I hope to come back to.

SMG's Summer Reading Shortlist : 
To Read and Be Read
-Obsessed: America's Food Addiction -- And My Own (Mika Brzezinski)
I just finished this one a week or two ago, which I already mentioned, but trust me, this one is worth mentioning again. It's a super quick read, chock full of valuable information about our nation's obsession with food. And overwhelming, the wrong kinds of foods at that. We are facing nothing short of an epidemic in this country and it's time we take some action for the health and safety of future generations to come - that is, if we want there to be future generations. Mika (with the help of many prestigious experts - some famous and some common), covers everything from fad diets to the obesity epidemic to the possibility of being addicted to junk food or sugar. If you're feeling uncertain about the quality of your relationship with food, this book will be a great eye opener - for the good and the bad.
-Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Michael Pollan)
My mom picked this one up at good old Costco not long after we were lucky enough to see him speak at Elmhurst College. Feeling inspired, I got a good 50 pages through, and then had to take a break. The concept overall fascinates me, but I think it's going to be one of those books that I read in bits and pieces. His concept is simple. Cooking goes way back. And it may just be the one thing that makes us the more "civilized" social species of the bunch. Using the earth, it wind and the discovery of fire, we discovered the main techniques that establish cooking. (And no, we're not talking about the band.) It's not about putting women back in the kitchen. It's about putting YOU back in the kitchen. Yes, you. You don't have to be (or even want to be) a housewife (or even a female) to realize that if we cook our own food (as opposed to a corporation cooking it for us), our health and food relationships will instantly be nurtured. And no, microwaving a pizza in your pizza oven does not count as cooking. Sorry. If we all got back to the basics, (i.e. having a hand in all of the food that goes into our mouths), my what a world it could be.
-Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People (Linda Civitello)
This was actually one of my textbooks from this summer. I have a feeling it will be helpful having read this book in it's entirety prior to coming back to Pollan's Cooked (above), as there seems to be a lot of discussion of the historical evolution of food and culture throughout book texts. I usually struggle to read non-fiction or historical books, however Linda makes it a breeze. It's fascinating to discover where some of what we consider to be "staples" today, came from and how they became of cultural significance.
-Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (Mark Bittman)
This is another one I got through part of but haven't quite finished yet. However, Mark's philosophy pretty closely mirrors where I'm at with my personal relationship to food as of late. What you put in your mouth and it's affects, matters. Oftentimes more than just to you (to your environment and the other living organisms in your environment). Sometimes I have difficulty understanding why people don't get this concept. But Mark does a great job of making it easy to "digest". And there's even recipes! Any book that ends in recipes is a friend of mine.
-Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters (Gordon M. Shepherd)
I haven't touched this one yet - but my gosh - that title alone...! I have a feeling the science heavy nature might make it a trying read - but how intriguing. Whenever any kind of scientist (in this case a neuroscientist), dips their toes into the culinary world - I find it makes for quite the surprising combo. I can't wait to dive right in!
-Gluten Free Girl and the Chef  and Gluten Free Girl Everyday (Shauna James)
As I attempt to expand my gluten free product offerings this summer at the farmers market, I'm always looking for resources to expand my knowledge and understanding of gluten free cooking and baking. GF girl has certainly widened my eyes. The more I learn, the more easily I can create better goods for the rest of you - and Shauna's cook books have given me an understanding of a gluten free lifestyle that I hope has made me an even more conscious and careful baker. Her "Everyday" cookbook I found most helpful with it's detailed product explanations and recommendations on substitutions. Her "whole wheat" flour mix is now something I stock regularly in my pantry (and which I have also been having fun experimenting with).
-Bake and Destroy : Good Food for Bad Vegans (Natalie Slater)
Ok, so this is more than anything a book I am excited for, though haven't quite gotten my mittens on yet. I have been a B&D fan for a while now and Natalie's site has been an incredible resource for me, introducing me to many of the authors of cookbooks which are now my go-to for inspiration as a mostly vegan baker. And to have the opportunity to have Natalie's originals as a mostly vegan herself - all in one real-life book and not just on a screen? Well it's this girl's old fashioned dream come true.

Summer Sippin'

Another thing I wanted to mention (ok you caught me - brag about), is an event I attended yesterday at Mindy's Hot Chocolate. You all know Mindy Segal, right? Well if you don't, you're missing out. Start obsessing over her. Like, now. I was lucky enough to get invited to a coffee lab hosted at her restaurant by the heads of the beverage program there, with some help from their friends over at Mandarine Napoleon. One of my good friends, Alex McDaniel, is what I like to call, the "coffee chemist" at Mindy's, and boy is he right at home not only at this restaurant, but also in an event like this. I've never meet someone with more passion or plain old knowledge about coffee. Pair with that a bar manager who is just as passionate about his cocktails, and it's a match made in chocolate dipped heaven. And while we're going with this analogy, we'll say the Mandarine Napoleon is like the "cherry" on top. Except in this land of caffeinated mixology, appropriately citrus flavored. Profiling three of their specialty cocktails (all featuring MN) - guests, decked out in black aprons, got to put their mad scientist hats on and join the two Alex's down the rabbit hole of specialty, coffee laced cocktails. Using a cold press coffee immensely alters it's taste profile, just as cooking or baking at different temperatures will drastically alter your results. My favorite thing we mixed was a cocktail solution of muddled blackberries (although any farm fresh berries will do), a balsamic reduction, Mandarine Napoleon, Pimm's and Gin that was mixed, shaken and strained over an unfiltered jumbo coffee ice cube. It's one of those drinks that gets better with time, with the coffee intensity staying perfectly matched to the cocktail throughout as it slowly melts. My only complaint would be that we didn't go home with pre-filled recipe cards. I was so fascinated, that I didn't write the demonstrated recipes down fast enough...! However, I understand a magician can't give away all his tricks.

Sweet Links

Lastly, as is my new practice, I wanted to take a quick minute before closing to share a few links to some of the fascinating food for thought I've come across this week so far. I know it's only Monday, so what am I talking about? Well, you'll be surprised - it might only be a few links, but Monday did not disappoint.

Happy Herbivore shared on facebook this link to the profile on Bill Clinton's choice to go vegan.

The NYTimes features a burger grown from cow muscle. Someday, hamburgers just may grow on trees. Jk.

What "sweet" food for thought did you discover this week?

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