Today’s the Day. “Pig Tales” Is Officially Out. Here’s A Free Taste. Dig in!

9780393240245_300

TO ORDER CLICK BELOW

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBookstore

IndieBound

Powell’s

A pork chop nearly got me thrown in jail.

I was in the second row of the spectators’  gallery at a trial in Winchester, Illinois, a county seat of 1,700 citizens. Ten residents of flat, cornfield-studded, and profoundly rural Scott County had filed a nuisance suit against the owners of a massive hog farm that kept 15,000 animals crammed into a few low, warehouse-like buildings near their homes creating foul smells and infestations of flies, the plaintiffs claimed. More than seventy townsfolk had packed into Winchester’s redbrick Victorian courthouse, a grand structure that must have been built in anticipation of a prosperous future that never materialized. I had no trouble seeing where their loyalties lay. Virtually everyone sat on the plaintiffs’ side, leaving empty rows of seats behind the tables of the defendants’ lawyers. From the outset, Judge David Cherry of the Seventh Circuit Court of Illinois, a beefy middle-aged fellow, seemed nervous and a little out of sorts. In his opening remarks to jurors, he said that getting them selected in such a close-knit community had been the longest ordeal he’d ever been part of.

When he returned to the courtroom after the lunch recess, Judge Cherry was red-faced and made no attempt to hide his anger. “There has been a serious breach in security,” he said, and ordered Karen Hudson, who had come to watch the proceedings, to approach the bench. Hudson is a veteran campaigner against factory farms and the head of an organization called Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water. In a brown pantsuit and with her unnaturally blond hair sprayed neatlyn place, she looked more like a Sunday-school teacher than a zealous environmental crusader. Judge Cherry held up a pamphlet put out by her group and a paperback copy of The CAFO Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories—an anthology of articles condemning modern confinement farms such as the one owned by the defendants. The judge informed Hudson that bringing such literature into his courtroom and sharing it could be construed as jury tampering. She stammered an apology, but that only made Judge Cherry angrier. He had the sheriff arrest her immediately. The officer clapped handcuffs on the middle-aged woman and escorted her out of court. The judge then adjourned the trial and told the legal teams to meet with him in his chambers. On the way out, he said to me, “You wait here.”

A half hour later, he summoned me to his office, which was crowded with ten lawyers representing both sides in the case. He gestured to a copy of a book I had written about industrial tomato agriculture and asked if I had brought it to court. I explained that one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys had requested a couple of copies and that I had waited until the noon recess to give them to the lawyer, who placed them facedown on the table. After several more questions, Judge Cherry said that he was tempted to give me the same treatment he had given Hudson, but because my misdeeds did not rise to the level of hers, he was simply going to have me removed from his courtroom.

The trial had been open to the media, and I had sat silently taking notes during the morning’s session. I got an inkling of what may have been behind Judge Cherry’s decision when I learned that a member of the hog farmers’ legal team had seen me hand over the books and reported the incident to the judge. Ultimately, Judge Cherry declared a mistrial based on the chance that the jurors could have been influenced if they had seen Hudson’s book and pamphlets.

Based on the opening statements I had heard, I could imagine plenty of reasons why the lawyers for the pork producers wouldn’t want a journalist in the courtroom. During my three hours there, I had heard how a company run by one of the defendants had bought a small farm and, without informing any of the neighbors, erected four buildings and filled them with those 15,000 hogs. The plaintiffs’ lawyer said that the new pig factory emitted noxious odors through fans that blew dust, dander, and more than 200 gaseous chemical compounds over nearby homes. Manure, allowed to collect in vast pits under the barns and applied to fields without any treatment in quantities that made the ground too wet to plow, created a stench so bad that the neighbors, many from families who had lived on the same land for several generations, had to keep their windows closed in the summer. Within two months of the facility’s opening, investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that dead hogs had been left lying around the barns to rot, creating more stink and attracting hordes of flies that pestered area residents. The three Hispanic employees who tended the pigs spoke no English and could not read state manuals on how to legally dispose of the pigs that died  in their care, which the plaintiffs’ lawyer said could amount to one hundred a week. State and federal officials had refused to act, forcing the reluctant plaintiffs to sue.

The defense attorney countered that, this being rural Illinois, manure odors, flies, and dead livestock were simply facts of farming life, “the nature of the business.” Besides, the facility now sent animals that died to a rendering plant, a legal method of disposal. Those dust-spewing ventilators kept the pigs cool and healthy. Everything his clients did, including spraying manure on the land, complied with state regulations. The confinement buildings that housed the hogs were an example of innovation in the industry, and he would introduce expert witnesses who would testify that the farm attracting the neighbors’ ire was a well-run, thoroughly modern operation. “These facilities are lawfully there,” he said.

Both lawyers were right. The pig factory with its thousands of crammed-together animals did pollute the air. Animals did sicken and die by the hundreds. Neighbors could no longer enjoy their homes and yards. But it was all perfectly lawful. That pig factory was no different from thousands of other operations across the country that produce virtually all the pork eaten in the United States today.

The chop that got me thinking about the way we raise pigs in this country came from a hog raised at Flying Pigs Farm, an idyllic stretch of pastures and forest set amid the hills of upstate New York. The pigs, hearty heritage breeds that don’t fit the cookie-cutter demands of factory pork production, roam freely, and produce the finest meat I’ve ever tasted. My chop was transcendent, deep-red in color, and well marbled with strands of delicious fat that made it tender, juicy, and sublimely “porky.” It bore no resemblance to the bland “other white meat” sold in supermarkets. It was as different as a hard, pinkish January tomato is from an heirloom pulled off the vine in a garden on a warm summer afternoon. I wanted to find out how our pork met with such a fate and learn everything I could about modern pork production. When I told my partner of my plans, she sighed, “Does this mean I’ll have to give up eating bacon?” This book is my answer to that question.

TO ORDER CLICK BELOW

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBookstore

IndieBound

Powell’s

Post to Twitter

If the Danes Can Raise Pork without Antibiotics, Why Can’t We? My Opinion Piece in the NY Times

It bugs us, too.

It bugs us, too.

President Obama didn’t need to issue a $1.2 billion National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which he did last week, to figure out how the United States could reduce the antibiotic-resistant bacteria created by the country’s agriculture industry. He could have simply spent a day with Kaj Munck, a Danish hog farmer.

Mr. Munck is a husky, loquacious man who lives about an hour south of Copenhagen. His operation looks and smells a lot like the factory pig farms I have visited in the American Midwest. The 12,000 pigs he raises each year — making his operation larger than the average American producer — live in cramped stalls with hard floors inside low-slung warehouselike structures. Mr. Munck can produce pork at prices low enough to compete in the same international markets as American pork. In fact, a large number of the popular baby back ribs served in the United States are imported from Danish farms like his.

But there is one big difference between Danish hog farms and those in the United States that does meet the eye (or nose). Since 2000, Danish farmers have raised pigs without relying on regular doses of antibiotics — while in the United States, perfectly healthy pigs and other livestock are frequently given low levels of antibiotics in their food or water to prevent disease, a practice that also enhances their growth.

Read the rest at the New York Times

 

Post to Twitter

A Little Video Where I Try to Introduce My Book, “Pig Tales.” Guess Who Steals the Show.

Here’s a little video of me introducing my book, Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat. to the sales force at W. W. Norton. The camera seems to like the piggies at Flying Pigs Farm way more than me. Oh well . . .

 

 

 CLICK HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A FREE COPY FROM GOOD READS

Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat

By Barry Estabrook

To be Published by W. W. Norton

May 4, 2015

Pre-order Now!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBookstore

IndieBound

Powell’s

Post to Twitter

Absolutely Free: The Great “Pig Tales” Giveaway

PigTales w hir es IL.indd

My publisher, W. W. Norton, and Goodreads have teamed up to give away 20 copies of my forthcoming book, Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat.

Absolutely FREE!

What a deal!

All you have to do is go to Goodreads, scroll down until you see “Win a copy of this book,” and click on the button.

The only catch is that you have to act soon. The offer ends on April 8th.

CLICK HERE

I hope visitors to this sight win big. I’m rooting for you. Oink!

 

 

Post to Twitter

Oink!!!!! Denver Post Gives a Sneak Preview of my new book “Pig Tales”

PIG TALES Cropped cover new

My new book, Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat, won’t be released until later this year, but word is already getting out. This from the Denver Post’s coverage of the Cochon 555 cook-off event that will take place on March 8 in that city:

If all this pork talk triggers a hunger to know more, be on the lookout for Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat by Barry Estabrook (W.W. Norton) . . . .

Estabrook, winner of a James Beard award for magazine feature writing, delves into the world of pigs and pig farmers, looking at modern pork production, from industrial pigs to heritage breeds, like those raised at Flying Pigs Farm, which produces some of the “finest meat I’ve ever tasted,” he writes. “My chop was transcendent, deep-red in color, and well marbled with strands of delicious fat that made it tender, juicy, and sublimely ‘porky.'”

Pig Tales is now available for pre-order. CLICK HERE

Post to Twitter

WARNING: AFTER READING THIS POST, YOU WILL NEVER EAT A SHRIMP FROM THAILAND AGAIN.

No, thanks.

No, thanks.

I vowed never to touch another Thai-farmed shrimp after attending a panel discussion recently at Sea Web’s Seafood Summit in New Orleans.

Steve Trent, the executive director of the Britain’s Environmental Justice Foundation, described a multi-billion-dollar industry with a financial model that would not be viable slave labor. “It’s the most horrific situation I have seen in more than 25 years of monitoring human rights abuses around the world,” he said.

The victims, according to Trent, typically come from poorer countries near Thailand such as Burma, Cambodia, and Laos, which supply 90 percent of the 300,000 shrimp workers in Thailand. Some are lured by promises of well-paid factory jobs only to be forced aboard fishing boats where they are held as captives. Others are kidnapped by traffickers. Fishing boat owners can conveniently order slaves from criminal gangs just as they order nets, engine parts, and fuel from suppliers, although humans are not as expensive as a new net or a tank of diesel. The going price for a human being in Thai fishing ports ranges between $375 and $960–cheaper than a pure-bred dog.

Once aboard the boats and in international waters, the unpaid workers remain trapped, often for several years, according to the United States State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, in which Thailand was relegated to the lowest category among 188 countries examined. More than half of Burmese workers in one Thai fishing port reported to state department officials that they had experienced slave conditions.

Shrimp slaves are fed as little as one bowl of rice a day, are forced to work for 18-hour shifts, and often endure beatings—or worse. More than half of workers on Thai fishing boats surveyed by the United Nations reported that they had seen fellow workers murdered while at sea. Slaves too weak or too ill to work are often simply tossed overboard.

Thailand’s slavery problem was caused by rampant, uncontrolled overfishing. Catches there have dropped to 14 percent of levels a few decades ago, and most of what’s caught consists of small “trash” fish that are sold to companies that make the fishmeal fed to Thailand’s shrimp farmers. In order to profit in face of the plummeting catches, boat owners kept cutting crews’ wages until they hit zero and could cut no farther. To keep itself afloat, the industry became reliant on slavery rings for labor.

Despite its unsavory underpinnings, the Thai shrimp industry generates $6 billion in export earnings. Much of that profit comes from shrimp sold to the United States. Shrimp is the most popular seafood in this country, and we import more than 90 percent of the shrimp we consume. For most of the last decade, Thailand has been our biggest source of imported shrimp, accounting to one-fourth of the total. After the conference I visited the Shaw’s supermarket in my New England hometown. Half the bags of frozen shrimp there were imported from Thailand. I could have found them at the stores of very major supermarket chain and companies like Costco and Walmart.

Thai government officials are doing little, if anything, to combat the problem. According to the Guardian, many regulators work in cahoots with the boat owners and slavers. Trent said that there has never been slavery conviction as a result of slavery on a Thai fishing boat. “The countries that Thailand exports to are the only way to pressure Thailand to take action,” he said. “The market can provide sustainable long-term solutions to these problems.”

Which means that American consumers should refrain from buying Thai shrimp until the country cleans up its act.

Avoiding them is easy—at least in supermarkets. Regulations require that unprocessed seafood is labeled with the country of origin.

The fine print.

The fine print.

I usually play it safe by buying wild American shrimp. They cost more. But it’s a small price to pay to know that I’m not supporting slavery.

Post to Twitter

Des Moines to Upstream Counties: “We’re Tired of You Pouring Your Agricultural Shit in Our Water Supply.”

honey_wagon_590x342-SM[1]

A graphic message from the folks at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Last summer, I stood on a bridge over the flooding Middle Raccoon River in Iowa and watched thick mats of brownish foam surging downstream. They had been created by hog manure washed from fields into the river by heavy rains.

Later, when I asked him about the froth, William Stowe, Chief Executive Officer and general manager of the Des Moines Water Works, smiled ruefully and informed me that I was going to be drinking that very water in my hotel room.

Pollution from hog farms and other agricultural operations has become a steadily worsening problem for Stowe and the 500,000 customers he serves.

For several months in 2013, levels of agricultural nitrates in the Des Moines water supply hovered at levels just below the maximum limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, even though the Water Works kept machines designed to remove the pollutants—which can cause “blue baby” disease and have been linked to cancers—operating at full capacity. Keeping the water barely potable cost ratepayers $7,000 a day.

In early 2014, Water Works wrestled to control ammonia pollution in the water supply caused by hog manure, again bumping up against safe limits. Since early December, the utility’s denitrification facilities have once again been in operation 24/7.

There are few more concrete examples of what critics of industrial agriculture call “externalizing costs.” Not only are residents of Des Moines paying to clean up the pollution caused by highly profitable factory farmers, but they face the possibility of suffering health consequences from problems that are created hundreds of miles away. Pollution from the Raccoon flows into the Mississippi, where it effects St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans and contributed to the vast, lifeless dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

This week the Water Works decided that it has taken enough shit. It filed a notice of intent to sue the Boards of Supervisors of three upstream counties under the Clean Water Act unless they stop discharging pollutants within 60 days.

Monitoring at 72 sites in the three counties showed nitrate levels nearly four times the EPA limit. Water Works claims that the counties are responsible for a system of ditches, pipes, and drainage tiles that whisk runoff from fields and confined hog operations directly into drinking water sources.

The Water Works’ notice of intent is the latest in a series of legal actions taken by Iowa citizens after their concerns were shrugged by a state government where politicians of both major parties are deeply beholden to agribusiness. In 2012, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Integrity Project and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, threatened to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency unless it forced the state Department of Natural Resources to strengthen its oversight of pollution from factory farms.

In 2013, the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a grassroots organization, sued Maschhoffs, LLC, a pork producing company that dumped thousands of gallons of manure into a creek. If successful, the suit would require the company to obtain a Clean Water Act permit that would require  it to adhere to strict regulations—and perhaps set a precedent that other big operations will have to follow.

These were important victories. That they were achieved in courts of law rather than in the statehouse says a lot about the cozy relationship between agricultural polluters and the government officials charged with policing them.

Post to Twitter

Sustainable Santa Has 2014’s 10 Top Book Gifts for Conscientious Eaters

Hoe, hoe, hoe!

Hoe, hoe, hoe!

It’s Sustainable Santa, writing. Wee Barry Estabrook is preoccupied with putting together a new book proposal, so Santa thought it was a good idea to help him out (and lighten Santa’s sleigh) by stepping into this space to dash off a few words about Santa’s favorite books of food journalism for 2014—dandy gifts for the food lovers on your list.

Santa’s image consultants insist that Santa maintains the physique of a fat, jolly, old elf, so it should come as no surprise that he takes food ve-r-r-r-r-r-y seriously. And because Santa expects to be embarking on his annual sleigh ride for many more millennia, it should also come as no surprise that he has a vested interest in the long-term sustainability of our food system.

 

TheThirdPlate_JKF[1]

The Third Plate by Dan Barber

Which brings Santa to this year’s first book. (Always fair-minded, Santa will proceed in alphabetical order.)

Aptly subtitled Field Notes on the Future of Food, Young Dan Barber’s The Third Plate makes a perfect gift for the deeply thoughtful eaters on your list, the ones who gobbled up Michael Pollan’s Onmivore’s Dilemma when it came out. In fact, Santa will go so far as to say that The Third Plate is the most important book to come out about our food system since Pollan’s seminal work.

Dan, of course, is the James-Beard-Award-Winning chef-owner of the two Blue Hill restaurants in the New York City area. His cooking is earthy, imaginative, intellectual, sometimes playful, and always interesting, yet he never lets diners forget that his culinary tours de force begin in some nearby barnyard. The same could be said of his writing.

It seems a little unfair that such a talented chef writes as well as he cooks, but those of us who are unable to make it to a Blue Hill should be delighted we have the opportunity devour Dan’s masterful prose.

 The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber, $29.95

 

 

 Sam's Book Cover

In Search of the Perfect Loaf by Samuel Fromartz

Santa freely admits to having a sweet tooth. He’s always delighted to find a few cookies left out on hearths. But each Christmas Eve after sliding down Sam Fromartz’s chimney, Santa head directly to the kitchen, where inevitably Sam has left a few fresh loaves of his just-baked bread.

Sam happens to be a journalist, and a very good one at that. But he is also one of the very best bread bakers in the land. His baguettes beat out those of all the professionals in a bake-off in his home town, Washington, DC, and when Alice Waters hosted a benefit in the capitol, she insisted that Sam make the bread.

In his book, In Search of a Perfect Loaf, Sam mixes practical advice and age-old wisdom and leavens combination with interesting characters and irresistible writing. What arises is an absolute must-have book for the bread baker on your list (Santa guarantees he or she will love it—and love you all the more for being so thoughtful). But it is also a page-turning read for anyone with a vicarious curiosity about how this miracle food is made.

In interest of full disclosure, Sam has edited Wee Barry’s work and supported his reporting through the Food and Environmental Reporting Network.

In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey, by Samuel Fromartz, $26.95

Chain

The Chain by Ted Genoways

Santa, back again for Wee Barry Estabrook who is supposed to be toiling away on a new book proposal but seems to be wasting a lot of time on social media instead.

As you know, Santa tends a small herd of domestic ruminants himself, so he has a soft spot for all livestock. After reading The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food, Ted Genoways’ scathing investigative report on factory pig farming, Santa will be stuffing several large, dirty lumps of coal in his bag to be put into the stockings of the executives at Hormel Foods and other corporate pork producers.

From the dismal working conditions inside slaughterhouses to the rundown Midwestern “barrios” that house immigrant workers, Ted takes on Big Pig with investigative vigor and muckraking gusto not seen since Little Upton Sinclair lashed out at the same industry in The Jungle. Santa’s been around a long time. It saddens him to see how little has changed.

Give this eye-opener to all of the meat lovers on your list as well as those who shun animal products.

The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food, by Ted Genoways, $26.99

 Labor and the Local

Labor and the Locavore by Margaret Gray

As the CEO of a worldwide company that gives its products (toys) away for free, Santa is well aware of how bottom-line realities can put pressure on worker wages and benefits. Nonetheless, Santa makes sure his elves make at least minimum wage, have full medical coverage, receive overtime, and have generous vacation schedules. He expects all farmers to follow his example.

Alas, Labor and the Locavore, Maggie Gray’s investigation of the growers who supply pretty products to New York City’s farmers’ markets, shows that those Carhartt-clad neo-agrarians under the pop-up tents hide the reality that unseen migrant laborers do the real work. The men and women who tend and pick urbanites’ upscale fruits and veggies live anything but upscale lives, without benefits, overtime, medical insurance—or even a guarantee that they will make minimum wage. Naughty, naughty.

Give this book to all farmers’ market shoppers on your list and ask them to share what they learn with their favorite vendors.

Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic, by Margaret Gray, $29.95

 American Catch

American Catch by Paul Greenberg

Santa considers himself fortunate. With much of the Bering Sea and Alaska lying within his foodshed, Santa has ready access to plenty of pollock, Arctic char, wild salmon and other local seafood.

But as Paul Greenberg points out in American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood, Santa is the exception among Americans. Despite controlling more ocean than any other country, the United States imports in excess of 85 percent of its seafood. And at the same time as the country is bringing in all those fish from who-knows-where, it is exporting fully one-third of the fish that come from its waters. Alaska alone produces enough fish to feed the nation. How did this come about? Why don’t Americans give their seafood the respect it deserves? Why, oh why, does the definition of “locavore” stop at the high-tide mark? What’s the catch? The American catch.

Paul, who has to be one of the most amiable narrators taking on serious food issues today, uses this paradox as a stepping off point for a lively exploration of America’s complex relationship with the marine resources at its doorstep, from the oyster beds of the Northeast, to the salmon runs of Alaska. He encounters lots of problems and threats along the way, but ends on a hopeful note, which Santa might sum up as, “Yes, America, there is a way to have your seafood and eat it too.”

Give this book to anyone who loves to catch fish, dines on seafood, or enjoys the coastal waters of the United States.

American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood, by Paul Greenberg, $ 26.95

 Beef Cover

Defending Beef  by Nicolette Hahn Niman

When Santa stamps back into the house after his annual rounds, he looks forward to sitting down at the dinner table with Mrs. Claus for a beautiful standing rib roast accompanied by her unbeatable Yorkshire pudding.

So Santa’s been feeling a little conflicted lately, trying to justify his love of good beef in the face of all the human health and environmental horrors that have been attributed to cattle production over the last several years.

Leave it to Nicolette Hahn Niman—lawyer, environmentalist, rancher, mother, and (Santa isn’t kidding) practicing vegetarian—to lay out a vigorous, intellectually robust argument in favor of beef. With one huge caveat: Meat has to be raised the right way. From an environmental point of view, Nicolette argues, there is a huge difference between grass-fed, pastured cattle and those that consume a diet based on corn (and a host of chemicals) in massive feedlots.

At the same time, Nicolette presents a convincing case that sugars and simple carbohydrates, not cows, might be the real culprits behind the national epidemic of obesity and cardiovascular disease.

For the committed carnivores on your list as well as the environmentalists and vegetarians who aren’t adverse to a little food for thought.

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production, by Nicolette Hahn Niman

Meat racket 

The Meat Racket by Christopher Leonard

By the powers vested in me as the one and only Santa, I hereby declare 2014 to have been the year of sustainable meat books. Christopher Leonard set the pace early in the year with the publication of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business.

Like Ted Genoways in The Chain, Christopher looks at meat production through the lens on a single company, in this case Tyson, which grew from a one-man, one-truck operation in tiny Springdale, Ark., in the early 1930s, to a vertically integrated chicken, pork, and beef colossus, one of a handful of corporations that control most of the meat Americans eat today. Collectively, these corporations damage the environment and destroy the economic and social fabric of rural communities, all in the name of cheap food—which isn’t all that cheap anymore. The most abused victims group are the folks who raise corporate animals despite the ever-present prospect of bankruptcy. They are called “contract farmers.” Back in Santa’s younger days, people who toiled under the conditions Christopher describes were simply called serfs.

The Meat Racket is a great gift for meat lovers with a taste for business books or anyone curious about how livestock production in America became controlled by a heartless oligarchy.

The Meat Racket: The Secret takeover of Americas Food Business, by Christopher Leonard, $28.00

 Delicious

Delicious! By Ruth Reichl

During long winter nights, Santa loves to immerse himself in a deftly-plotted novel full of vivid characters. He also enjoys evocative writing about his favorite topic—food.

He all but wolfed down Delicious!, the bestselling debut novel by Ruth Reichl, the author of popular food-related memoirs and the former editor of Gourmet magazine. Santa views Ruth’s novel as her personal twist on a genre made popular by Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada, but with gravy-stained aprons instead of designer clothes. It’s the story about the trials of a young woman who comes to New York to work at a quirky food magazine. No one writes about food as well as Ruth, and few authors tell as good a story.

Wee Barry Estabrook, who worked for Ruth for several years, wanted to make sure that Santa told readers of this review that he had no hard feelings about being the real life model for Richard, the creative director character, who the narrator describes as “the most attractive man I’d ever met. His olive skin, emerald eyes, and chiseled cheekbones gave him the languid, unshaven arrogance of a model . . .” Santa is not so sure.

For fiction lovers and food lovers and lovers of Ruth’s memoirs—especially those who might be looking forward to some relaxing beach time in the not-too-distant future.

Delicious! A Novel, By Ruth Reichl, $27.00

 

 American Spirit

American Spirit by James Rodewald

Santa is never averse to sitting back in his big, comfy chair with a noggin of something to warm his insides (it gets damn cold up here). And he supports any trend that adds cheer to the season. So he has been a big booster of the craft distilling movement that has sprung up in the wake of the craft brewing upsurge a couple of decades back.

Alas, Santa has been disappointed at some of the naughty boys (most are boys) in the “artisanal” booze business. Far too many of them are not distillers at all. Instead they buy tanker truckloads of generic whiskey or neutral spirits from huge, industrial distilling corporations, pour the hooch into quaint bottles and slap on labels with olde-fashioned typefaces that mislead consumers into thinking that they are buying lovingly made, local tipple.

In American Spirit James Rodewald, former spirits editor at the late lamented Gourmet magazine (a tough job, but somebody had to do it), separates the phonies from the real McCoys through firsthand visits to and vivid profiles of more than twenty still masters across the country who are fully transparent about how their products are created. No “craftwashing” here, to use Rodewald’s expression. They are a merry bunch, all great raconteurs, who, even though their trade is now legal, maintain the swashbuckling attitude of bygone bootleggers. Santa raises a glass to each and every one of them.

Ideal for anyone on your list who loves honest liquors and well-made cocktails—and a must for any small-batch whiskey aficionados.

American Spirit: An Exploration of the Craft Distilling Revolution, By James Rodewald, $24.95

 Fat Surprise

The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz

“Fat-is-good/carbs-are-bad” has become a nonfiction genre in and of itself in recent years, a direct reaction to the “fat is evil” doctrine that has become the establishment’s dietary mantra over the last few decades. The Big Fat Surprise is the first book in the genre that merits serious attention.

Santa has been around long enough to know that all entrenched wisdom should be viewed with a measure of skepticism. Nina brings that and more to the subject.

What pleased Santa the most is the depth and soundness of the research behind Nina’s claim that fat is not the poison it’s been made out to be. She takes readers back to the earliest studies demonizing fat, and shows how government, university, and NGO types (many with serious conflicts of interest) launched career-destroying ad hominem attacks on anyone who questioned their anti-fat contentions. Despite all but being blackballed by academia, a few researchers managed to publish work that refutes the blanket condemnation of dietary fat. Fat, in fact, may be good for us. It’s a bold claim. But Santa has yet to see a serious, scientific refutation of the assertions in The Big Fat Surprise.

Give to anyone on your lists who has followed conventional low-fat diets without losing weight—or anyone who is interested in nutrition and not afraid to question the status quo.

That’s it for book suggestions from Sustainable Santa this year. Happy holidays to all, and to all a good read.

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, by Nina Teicholz, $27.99

Post to Twitter

Book 10: Sustainable Santa Has a Book Suggestion for Every Conscientious Eater on Your Holiday List

Fat Surprise

The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz

“Fat-is-good/carbs-are-bad” has become a nonfiction genre in and of itself in recent years, a direct reaction to the “fat is evil” doctrine that has become the establishment’s dietary mantra over the last few decades. The Big Fat Surprise is the first book in the genre that merits serious attention.

Santa has been around long enough to know that all entrenched wisdom should be viewed with a measure of skepticism. Nina brings that and more to the subject.

What pleased Santa the most is the depth and soundness of the research behind Nina’s claim that fat is not the poison it’s been made out to be. She takes readers back to the earliest studies demonizing fat, and shows how government, university, and NGO types (many with serious conflicts of interest) launched career-destroying ad hominem attacks on anyone who questioned their anti-fat contentions. Despite all but being blackballed by academia, a few researchers managed to publish work that refutes the blanket condemnation of dietary fat. Fat, in fact, may be good for us. It’s a bold claim. But Santa has yet to see a serious, scientific refutation of the assertions in The Big Fat Surprise.

Give to anyone on your lists who has followed conventional low-fat diets without losing weight—or anyone who is interested in nutrition and not afraid to question the status quo.

That’s it for book suggestions from Sustainable Santa this year. Happy holidays to all, and to all a good read.

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, by Nina Teicholz, $27.99

Previous Book Suggestion

Post to Twitter

Book 9: Sustainable Santa Has a Book Suggestion for Every Conscientious Eater on Your Holiday List

American Spirit

American Spirit by James Rodewald

Santa is never averse to sitting back in his big, comfy chair with a noggin of something to warm his insides (it gets damn cold up here). And he supports any trend that adds cheer to the season. So he has been a big booster of the craft distilling movement that has sprung up in the wake of the craft brewing upsurge a couple of decades back. Alas, Santa has been disappointed at some of the naughty boys (most are boys) in the “artisanal” booze business. Far too many of them are not distillers at all. Instead they buy tanker truckloads of generic whiskey or neutral spirits from huge, industrial distilling corporations, pour the hooch into quaint bottles and slap on labels with olde-fashioned typefaces that mislead consumers into thinking that they are buying lovingly made, local tipple. In American Spirit James Rodewald, former spirits editor at the late lamented Gourmet magazine (a tough job, but somebody had to do it), separates the phonies from the real McCoys through firsthand visits to and vivid profiles of more than twenty still masters across the country who are fully transparent about how their products are created. No “craftwashing” here, to use Rodewald’s expression. They are a merry bunch, all great raconteurs, who, even though their trade is now legal, maintain the swashbuckling attitude of bygone bootleggers. Santa raises a glass to each and every one of them. Ideal for anyone on your list who loves honest liquors and well-made cocktails—and a must for any small-batch whiskey aficionados. Hold on! What’s this? One final book in Santa’s bag. Back tomorrow.

American Spirit: An Exploration of the Craft Distilling Revolution, By James Rodewald, $24.95

Previous Book Suggestion

Post to Twitter