Knives, Forks, and Remote Controls
Americans waste some 40 percent of our food, two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, and up to 29 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to food production and consumption. It's enough to make you change your diet. Still, there's a lot of joy in Foodville: Understanding what we grow, cook, eat, and throw out can be empowering and tasty.
"Foodie intellectual" Michael Pollan always serves up a buffet of ideas. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Penguin, 2006) has gotten people thinking about where their meals come from. Pollan followed up with In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Penguin, 2008), in which he discusses Americans' obsession with nutrition. In Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (Penguin, 2009), he outlines 64 easy-to-follow principles for eating well. And his most recent dish is Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Penguin, 2013), in which he learns about the four basic elements (fire, water, air, and earth) while cooking classic recipes.
You can find a website that addresses virtually anything edible--think bacontoday.com or spam.com--but many gourmands recommend Food52. It covers a wide spectrum of food choices, with columns like "Meatless Mondays" (see Favorite Fall Orzo Salad, left), "The New Veganism," "Heirloom Recipes," and "My Broke Kitchen" and recipe contests. Other sites worth exploring for healthy mealtime ideas are tastespotting.com and foodgawker.com.
You're standing in the produce aisle staring at baby Thai eggplant with your best "it looks great, but what do I do with it?" expression. Check out Specialty Produce (specialtyproduce.com; Apple and Android), a database of more than 1,200 produce items that offers recipes plus details on nutrition, cultivation, and seasonal availability. Another keeper is Harvest (harvest-app.com; Apple), which helps you select and learn how to store more than 120 types of produce. Whip out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch (montereybayaquarium.com; Apple and Android) to choose sustainable seafood.
So many good food-related films are available that you may be tempted to pull up a TV tray. For a look at food's cultural aspects, check out Pressure Cooker (bit.ly/pressure_cooker), a 2008 documentary about inner-city high schoolers working their way into top culinary programs. Tackling a serious theme, 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives (forksoverknives.com) links degenerative illnesses to processed food. The seven short films at lunchlovecommunity.org offer an inspiring look at the burgeoning healthy-school-lunch movement. For more ideas, read "20 Must-See Food Documentaries You Can Watch Right Now" (bit.ly/20fooddocs).