Piled Peaches & Cream

Who would have thought that the lyrics of Oliver! could arouse so much controversy and angst a mere 50-some years later in 2009. Can we really sing with a clear mind & heart:

Food, glorious food!
What is there more handsome?
Gulped, swallowed or chewed --
Still worth a king’s ransom.
What is it we dream about?
What brings on a sigh?
Piled peaches and cream, about
Six feet high!

Today, in the midst of an obesity and diabetes epidemic, experts warn that the US spends $147 billion to treat obesity and $116 billion to treat diabetes— that doesn’t even include hundreds of billions on cardiovascular disease and various cancers. And all these diseases are linked to our “Western diet”. Some argue that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years is simply due to the growth in our rate of obesity. There must have been a lot of cream on those peaches! Want to know more about why this happened and find out what you can do about it? Then dig in to these books -- all on the shelves of the Mercer County Library. You won’t consume any wasted calories as you consume:

The end of overeating: taking control of the insatiable American appetite by David A. Kessler.

Kessler takes a look at Cinnabon and Big Macs and finds that our sophisticated marketing system and the entire modern industrial food production apparatus are lined up to overload our bodies with sugar, fat, and salt. We are literally trained to eat too much, to lose control over our food intake. He calls it “conditioned hypereating”. But, Kesler offers ways to decondition yourself too!

Food matters: a guide to conscious eating with more than 75 recipes by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman, the "Minimalist" food columnist for the NY Times and author of How to Cook Everything, presents an environmentally responsible eating plan -- it’s better for the planet, the animals, the plants, better for your waistline, and delicious! Piled peaches without the cream.

Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall with Gary McAvoy and Gail Hudson

Renowned primate scientist Jane Goodall turns her attention from monkeys to man, examining human eating behavior and the modern food industry and the factory farming model. She recommends that we shop organic and make a smaller footprint on the planet. The system can be changed by grassroots efforts and we, the consumers, can make a difference.

Against the grain: how agriculture has hijacked civilization by Richard Manning.

This book is all about being down on the farm – and I mean “down” on the farm. The author argues that over the course of history, the growth of our current grain- growing agricultural system is a major cause of disease, imperialism, colonialism, and slavery. Our wheat, corn and rice growing practices do not create sustainable environments nor healthy populations. Are green markets, local food, and organic farming the answer?

The unsettling of America: culture & agriculture by Wendell Berry.

Wendell Berry, farmer and poet, asks us to heal ourselves before we can heal the environment. Originally published over 25 years ago, The Unsettling of America exhorts us to create meaningful work and personal relationships. Our ecological problems can’t be solved by technology alone – it is also a question of character, values and culture.

Food, inc.: Mendel to Monsanto--the promises and perils of the biotech harvest by Peter Pringle.

Pringle investigates the production of what he calls Frankenfoods – foods based on genetic engineering without adequate testing and often heavily reliant on chemical pesticides. Beware the loss of genetic diversity in the food chain.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Schosser finds that the American fast food industry has destroyed both our waistlines and our landscape. Spreading from Southern California to the rest of the nation, he depicts a system cruel to animals (in both how we raise cattle and in how we slaughter them), riddled with failures in food safety practices, and marked by enormous concentration of power over the food supply in just a handful of corporations and slaughterhouses. Think twice before you eat one of the three weekly hamburgers consumed by the typical American. Should we Ban the Burger and Shake the Shake?

Fat land: how Americans became the fattest people in the world by Greg Critser.

Parents don’t monitor children’s eating, fast food companies hard sell us, fad diet gurus seduce us, schools drop PE programs and install soda machines, and now Americans are the 2nd heaviest people on the planet (only folks on small South Sea Islands out-weigh us). What can we do? Critser doesn’t just critique, he has some suggestions for change too.

The Way We Eat, Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

The unintended negative consequences of our agribusiness industrial complex are discussed through the experiences of three families with different food eating styles. Singer, a philosopher of ethics, presents us with dietary ethics which if embraced by consumers, would improve both the planet and our health.

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Although you could sum up Pollan’s manifesto in “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”, read the entire book for its penetrating clarity and skewering of what he calls the ideology of nutritionalism – the bogus theory that you can basically eat any food “product” that has been engineered with some vitamins and nutriments – and yet not suffer any loss in quality, pleasure, and weight control.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Author Barbara Kingsolver, husband and two daughters move to the country and grow their own food, dropping off the agribusiness grid. An account full of charm, humor, and insight into how we are what we eat.

Omnivore’s Dilemma – A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollen

What should I eat and how did it get on my plate? In examining this simple question, The Omnivore’s Dilemma won the James Beard Foundation Award for writing on Food (2007) and a New York Times Best Book of the Year (2006) --among other prizes. Taste this book and you will never think about food the same again. No food chain goes unexamined – from organic and locally grown to highly processed and industrialized. The way we eat now matters to both our body and to the health of our planet.

- Karen S.


  1. Great post! i need some of these books double quick.


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