Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Health, Local Eating—Interview

Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating

An Important New Book from Lisa Jervis

By Micky Z.
Planet Green
March 16, 2010

One of the many great things about PM Press publishing my latest book, Self Defense for Radicals, is becoming part of such an excellent roster of authors. For example, Lisa Jervis, who has penned Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Health, Local Eating. Lisa is the founding editor and publisher of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, the founding board chair of Women in Media and News, a member of the advisory board of outLoud Radio, and the current finance and operations director at the Center for Media Justice. Her work has appeared in Ms., the San Francisco Chronicle, Utne, Mother Jones, the Women’s Review of Books, Bust, Salon, and more.

Here’s the lowdown on Cook Food:

“If you want to eat healthier but aren’t sure where to start, or if you’ve been reading about food politics but don’t know how to bring sustainable eating practices into your everyday life, Cook Food will give you the scoop on how, while keeping your taste buds satisfied. With a conversational, do-it-yourself vibe, a practical approach to everyday cooking on a budget, and a whole bunch of animal-free recipes, Cook Food will have you cooking up a storm, tasting the difference, thinking globally and eating locally.”

Cook Food, says Jervis, is an “attempt to provide some basic tools for people who want to be healthier and lighten the footprint of the way they eat. She says the book could be seen as “a call to action against our wasteful, unjust, destructive, unhealthy,, industrialized, corporate-dominated food system (with recipes).” Dozens of recipes…

Here’s my e-mail conversation with Lisa:

Planet Green: Are you suggesting we can eat local, unprocessed, animal-free all of the time?

Lisa Jervis: I wish! But realistically, no. Even for people who have tons of time and energy to shop, garden, and cook, and plenty of cash to buy fresh food, there are barriers. A lot of spices aren’t grown in the U.S., but I don’t think anyone should try to cook without them! And then there’s the reality that farmers markets are only in certain neighborhoods, and that fresh ingredients can be more expensive than processed food. Plus, some people’s nutritional needs require eating animal products. For me, the point is to fit a healthy, humane, and—don’t forget—pleasurable eating style comfortably into your life. And I just want to encourage people to do that and to share some tools to help make it easier.

PG: Define “healthy.”

LJ: A lot of people assume that when it comes to food, “healthy” means “low-fat” or “low-calorie.” That’s a symptom of our culture’s extreme fatphobia and the persistence of the medical establishment in wrongly insisting that being fat is automatically unhealthy. I completely reject that. Natural, unprocessed, unrefined fats are totally healthy. To me, the key to whether a food is healthy is how processed it is. The less processed, the more healthy. Things that you wash, chop, cook, and eat directly after they come out of the ground, as oppose to things that pass through a factory and end up in a bag or a box before you eat them.

PG:Define “processed.”

LJ: There are two kinds of processing, really. Anytime you make something ready to eat (like by peeling it or cooking it), technically you are processing it. But when I’m talking about processed foods to avoid, I’m talking about industrial processing, which transforms a raw ingredient into something else entirely, either by removing some edible part of it (as in white flour), chemically treating it (as with many supermarket vegetable oils, which are treated with a chemical called hexane in order to extract the oil), or chemically or mechanically isolating one element of it and tossing everything else—or turning the other elements into some other food additive. Corn syrup, corn starch, and corn oil are in that last category.

PG: Okay, let’s say some Planet Green readers get your book, like what you say, and want to make some changes. Where can they start?

LJ: It was really important to me to make the book accessible for people who don’t cook at all at the same time that experienced cooks can still find something in it for them. For people who want to change their eating habits, I suggest starting with the recipes. For those totally new to the kitchen, I’ve included some tips on stocking the pantry and what equipment you need; I’ve also laid out some methods and principles that a lot of cookbooks leave out. People who are totally comfortable in the kitchen but are newer to food politics might want to start in the resource section. And folks could also skip any more reading entirely, pick a recipe, and make yourself some dinner.

Two More Reasons to Buy Cook Food Now

  • Lisa has packed in 15 pages of valuable resources
  • You can connect with other Cook Food readers on Facebook

Back to Lisa Jervis’s Author Page | Back to Mickey Z.’s Author Page