Aga Popęda here, thinking about eating well. According to the heroine of this week’s cover story, Oregon-based researcher and author Frances Moore Lappé: “Food is personal.” She would also be the first to agree that food is political, and that our food system reflects our democracy.
As with almost every other woman on Earth, and a sizable chunk of men too, I spend way too much time figuring out how to feed myself properly. I’m over 40 now, and I still struggle, trying to leave behind the comforting diet of my youth: butter, milk and cheese, followed by the easy diet of burgers and French fries I embraced when I moved from the land of kielbasa to the land of buy-one-get-one-free and all-you-can-eat buffets. In other words, I’m always on the lookout for good dietary advice—better yet, a reliable book on nutrition with plenty of tasty recipes I can try. The problem is that the universe is full of suspect advice, self-published diet bibles and fake gurus, while we have only one life, and one liver.
Moore Lappé’s is a book that deserves recommendation because it has proven itself, enduring the test of time. The first version of Diet for the Small Planet was published in 1971, demanding a global switch to a plant-based diet to sustain the one planet we have, and assure equality, democracy and filled stomachs for all. Two million copies were sold and there’s a chance you have the book on your library shelf; there were several editions.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the original publication, and “50 years of climate change,” Moore Lappé and her daughter, Anne Lappé, are coming back with an updated version of the book, filled with new wisdom and a bunch of new recipes. The book’s main presumption still is that people don’t need to eat meat.
I know, I know. Keep reading.
I was afraid of veggies, too. Cold food makes me want to give up. “Beginning a salad” was to me “like stepping into sea water on a chilly day” and I had to brace myself “to attack the fortress of an apple” (these, by the way, are all quotes from the novel Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov). Now, I bake my apples and make sure my salads always have a warm element—quinoa, tofu, fried seeds or nuts. In other words, you don’t dislike veggies; you just don’t know how you like them prepared yet.
The new edition of the book contains some old favorite recipes but most are new—some coming from popular contemporary chefs, like Padma Lakshmi. The rule is the same though: We don’t have to feel like a victim of a supermarket, buying things only because they are being sold to us by corporations. Americans don’t have to consume so much protein; overeating is a waste.
For much more, read the interview with Moore Lappé and her daughter that’s featured as this week’s cover story in the print edition of the Weekly. I’ll limit myself to the lines from that conversation that left me both depressed and hopeful: “We’re the brightest species, yet we’ve turned food into a threat to our health. We are killing ourselves by feeding ourselves.”
It’s time for a change.