Book and a Beer

the omnivore's dilemmaThere are few things better than a beautiful San Diego night and a cold pint of local ale.  Last night Meg, Adam and I went to the Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, CA to attend their first "Book and a Beer" Club.  Appropriately, the first book up for discussion was the Omnivore’s Dilemma.  I say "appropriately" because Stone Brewing Company and World Bistro practices many of the concepts highlighted in Michael Pollen’s book.  They buy locally, organically and represent the best of the slow food movement whenever possible.  This was Greg Koch’s, vision when he co-founded the company, and I would like to use this blog posting to highlight some of the interesting people I met and the perspectives I gained.

Greg Koch and the vision of Stone
Greg spoke about how far the company has come but also about how far he still needs to go before he will satisfied with the ethical food quality served at his restaurant.   This is an evolving process that takes time and lots of research.  Stone has a great menu filled with tons of the freshest ingredients from the area.  Almost any dish can be made vegetarian, and regardless of your choice,  you can be assured that a great deal of thought has gone into the creation and preparation of your meal.  One thing I learned… if you’re a farmer that raises grass-fed beef organically and in CA, you may want to give Greg a call…because he’s looking for it.  Did I mention the ice cold locally brewed beer?  It’s the best!

Barry Logan and La Milpa Organica
Other interesting topics and points discussed last night came from Barry Logan, owner and operator of La Milpa Organica, and his son Nick.  La Milpa Organica is an organic farm located in Escondido that supplies fresh, local, organic produce to Stone Brewing Company and other businesses in the area.  To learn more about the farm, check out the excellent write-up here.  Both Barry and Nick believe in "powering down" which is a simple concept to encourage us to minimize our use of energy and cut it out where it is not necessary.  This may sound a bit daunting…but it is really easy.  How?  We can all start by driving a little bit less less, buying a lot more local, eating more whole (unprocessed), and turning off the lights when we leave the room. 

Above and beyond everything they spoke about, there were two things Barry and Nick said last night really struck a chord with me.  The first was "Know your farmer, know your food" and the second was "Old food from far away".  Both of these highlight how we have lost touch with where our food comes from.   Can we really be sure of the contents making up our food and the process by which it reached us if we don’t know where it came from?   Knowing and trusting the person that grows the food you eat removes the ethical and safety questions that are arising on a daily basis.   The key is that this food that hasn’t been shipped across the country (or planet), it’s fresh, ripe and in season.   Barry and Nick remind us to ask not "How long will this food last," but "How long before I can eat it?"

David Bronner and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
David Bronner from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps also attended the discussion last night.  David is a dedicated vegan that is a strong proponent of organics and fair-trade.  He spoke about Michael Pollen’s first book "The Botony of Desire" and how genetically modified organisms are infiltrating our food system.  He also discussed the notion of "beyond organic," meaning there are different types of organic foods.  The "organic" food you buy at the supermarket was probably produced on a large commercial farm that could be some distance away.  While they don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, they still use a great deal of petroleum to facilitate shipping and refrigeration.   The notion of "beyond organic" takes the definition of healthy organic beyond the avoidance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and encourages us to pay attention to where the food is produced.   Food produced locally does not have unnecessary energy calories caused by refrigeration or food "miles."

Eric, Meg & Adam’s Take

After the discussion ended, the three of us grabbed a table, a few more Stone IPAs and had a delicious local, organic dinner.  Overall, I’d say the first Book and a Beer group was a rousing success and given the large number of people that showed up for it (at least 40), we should make sure to get there early for the next one.  Cheers!


Book suggestions

There is an abundance of books on the market that deal with food, dieting and staying healthy.  The people at have come up with a selection of books that attempt to explain where our food is coming from (just a hint: it is not the grocery store). ;)  One of them is the Omnivore’s Dilemma, which has been reviewed here before.  Another is Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.  I have not read this book yet, but I hear good reviews from it.  I have placed the movie in my Blockbuster Queue (I know, that’s cheating a little).  Grist gives some recommendations on a few other books like The Way We Eat by Peter Singer and Organic, Inc by Samuel Fromartz.  I figure with spring and summer fast approaching, it’s time to start looking for some good books to read at the beach or the park.  You can get to the article via this link.

He and his book have been profiled on wannaveg in the past.  Here is an interview that Mackenzie Carpenter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had with him.  I encourage everyone that is interested in their health or where their food comes from to read this book.  It will make you think about how your food got to you table…

Michael Pollan’s most recent book, "The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals," appeared on almost every top-ten-best-book list of 2006 and has been nominated for a National Book Award. Monday he’ll be in Pittsburgh, appearing at the Carnegie Music Hall for the Drue Heinz Lecture series.

In "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," Mr. Pollan takes us on a journey through our nation’s food supply to ask: What should we be eating at the dawn of the 21st Century? And how will the food we eat impact our survival as a species? To answer that question, he explores the origins of four meals: organic; fast food; sustainably grown from a small Virginia farm; and a hunter-scavenger repast with ingredients Mr. Pollan shot or foraged himself. It’s a compelling story of where food comes from, and why it matters.

Mr. Pollan is a Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley. He is also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine.

Last week, we spoke with Mr. Pollan from his home in Berkeley.

Q: What are you going to talk about at the Drue Heinz Lectures?

A: I’m going to be talking about the journey that culminated in the book, and what’s happened since. I’m going to talk about what I mean by the omnivore’s dilemma, that term, and just how Americans came to be so confused by what is really a very simple matter — one that most creatures have no trouble deciding — which is what they should eat. How did the food system become so complicated? How did we become so confused, and how we might begin to untie that knot of confusion?

And I want to take the listener on a journey through the different food chains I’ve been exploring.

Continue reading at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette


Omnivore’s Dilemma

If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.  For those of us that enjoy food and eating, it’s a must read.  The author, Michael Pollen, is creative, witty and not a vegetarian (but he is a supporter).  His book forces us to look at how messed up our food system is….and how it can be fixed.  I have a copy if someone would like to borrow it! :)

From The Washington Post’s Book World/
Most of us are at a great distance from our food. I don’t mean that we live "twelve miles from a lemon," as English wit Sydney Smith said about a home in Yorkshire. I mean that our food bears little resemblance to its natural substance. Hamburger never mooed; spaghetti grows on the pasta tree; baby carrots come from a pink and blue nursery. Still, we worry about our meals — from calories to carbs, from heart-healthy to brain food. And we prefer our food to be "natural," as long as natural doesn’t involve real.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan writes about how our food is grown — what it is, in fact, that we are eating. The book is really three in one: The first section discusses industrial farming; the second, organic food, both as big business and on a relatively small farm; and the third, what it is like to hunt and gather food for oneself. And each section culminates in a meal — a cheeseburger and fries from McDonald’s; roast chicken, vegetables and a salad from Whole Foods; and grilled chicken, corn and a chocolate soufflé (made with fresh eggs) from a sustainable farm; and, finally, mushrooms and pork, foraged from the wild.

The first section is a wake-up call for anyone who has ever been hungry. In the United States, Pollan makes clear, we’re mostly fed by two things: corn and oil. We may not sit down to bowls of yummy petroleum, but almost everything we eat has used enormous amounts of fossil fuels to get to our tables. Oil products are part of the fertilizers that feed plants, the pesticides that keep insects away from them, the fuels used by the trains and trucks that transport them across the country, and the packaging in which they’re wrapped. We’re addicted to oil, and we really like to eat.

continue at Washington Post

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