France for a Year

aa-franceAlthough I’m not a Francophile, I remembered reading Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris a few years ago and being sad to come to the last page.  One book leads to another.  And another … I recently finished three more books about people who moved to France for a year and chronicled their journeys.

French Kids Eat Everything (And Yours Can Too): How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banished Snacking and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Healthy, Happy Eaters is a book by Canadian author Karen Le Billon who decided to move to France for a year with her young family, to the village where her husband grew up.

It became apparent, rather quickly, that the Le Billon children were very unlike the French children when it came to eating habits.

Here are some things I noted while reading this book:

– The French do not reward kids with food and do not let kids play with food.

-The French do not snack.  [What about all those cafés with bulging chocolate croissants in the windows?  Those are for foreigners. If you see a native in those places, they are likely having a small espresso only.] 

-The French eat their fill at meals and eat four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, gouter—a mini-meal in the late afternoon/after school, and a late dinner).

-Tables are dressed up for the most important occasion of the day and the French eat only when seated at a table.  [I have tried to eat only when sitting down and this is VERY hard for me, since I am often on the go!]

-Kids are expected to try a variety of food at every meal until they learn to appreciate it.  At school, lunch is considered an important part of the pupils’ education.  School lunches help to teach French food culture. In France, gourmet food is not the exclusive domain of the rich. It is appreciated by all classes within society.

-The French would never think to eat alone.  Mealtimes are about eating good food and sharing community.

Le Billon was initially defensive about her daughters being forced to eat certain types of “mature” foods and being denied snacks.  She thought that the school was being really strict and worried when her young daughters reacted and became upset. In the end, she decided to heighten her expectations of her children and adopt more French food philosophy because she saw the results: French kids really do eat everything, they are not obese, and they enjoy their food and food culture.

Le Billon had a lot of practical suggestions.  I took two things away from this book, that has impacted my family positively:

1) I started weaning my kids off frequent snacking and we have tried to avoid snacking on empty calories.  I really like the idea of having four mini-meals rather than snacking several times between meals.  I have become more mindful of the clock when my kids ask about snacks. I have trained them that 4 o’clock is the cut-off time for asking for something to eat before dinner.  They may have a healthy snack at 4 p.m. (usually something with protein like cheese, nuts, or peanut butter with apple slices) and that’s it until dinner.  When the kids are hungry prior to a meal, I try to speak positively about the yummy meal that is coming and try to distract them with things other than food.

2) I’ve started working harder to help my kids eat more variety.  This is easier said than done, but I have found some tricks that have worked.  As Le Billon indicates in her book, it’s important to offer a variety of foods. I have started keeping at least four different kinds of veggies cut up and ready to go in my fridge.  I have been setting these out on the table prior to lunch.  I have one child who would previously only eat carrot sticks but has now branched out to cucumbers and sometimes other veggies.  I tell my kids that they have to eat at least four pieces of vegetables and at least two varieties.  The kids also know they have to try at least one bite of everything on the table.  One line in the book is to tell kids: “You don’t like it yet because you have not tried it enough times to like it. Don’t worry you will like it someday.”  I try to say positive things about different kids of foods and to lead by example.

I’m glad I read this book and recommend it.  French Kids Eat Everything was definitely good food for thought!

________________________

C’Est la Vie: An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris and—Voila!—Becomes Almost French! is about the nuts and bolts of moving to Paris and about the author’s attempts to reinvent herself and find happiness again after tragedy and a major life change.  This was a delightful book for the first hundred pages or so.  The American author, Susie Gershman, had traveled to Paris on business numerous times.  When her husband died and she was still in her fifties, she decided to uproot herself and move to Paris, a city that had always enamored her.

I liked the author’s gusto and sense of humor. I also enjoyed the details about what it was actually like to put skin and bones on her dreams.  She talked frankly about the nitty-gritty of moving to Paris.  First, there was the matter of trying to get a lease on an apartment.  Gershman had a lot of connections and spoke some basic, conversational French.  She nonetheless had an uphill battle trying to relocate and integrate.  Getting a lease was just the beginning.  There were many other cultural hurdles to jump and practical things to learn along the way.

As I mentioned above, the book gradually stopped being delightful.  I got tired of the author bragging and seeming to not realize she was doing it.  She indicated numerous times that she had many friends who were rich, famous, and important.  These were the kinds of people who could get reservations at the best restaurants at a moment’s notice.  It was kind of like name dropping without actually using names. Although, a handful of times, she did use actual names.

The final straw was her giddy affair with a married French man.  Of course we are told many times in the book that he is a Count.  She was so impressed by this title that she apparently didn’t care that he was 20 years her senior and married.  What mattered most was that he could take her to nice parties where she could hobnob with the upper crust.  It just seemed very shallow and was highly unattractive, especially for someone in her fifties.

I understand that Gershman wanted to be happy again but was put off by the fact that she felt she needed a married boyfriend to take her there. Originally I admired Gershman because she was independent and strong. It takes a lot of guts to try to carve out a new life, especially all alone.  But then she quickly became dependent and silly.  It left a bad taste in my mouth … not something I would expect from a French book!

________________________

Paris in Love is about romance writer, Eloisa James, and her family moving to Paris after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and successfully treated. She sold her home in the suburbs, she and her husband took sabbaticals from their professorial jobs, and she decided life was too short to not try Paris for a year.

The book is written in little vignettes.  James has a perky personality and writes with humor about how they settled into Paris, acclimated to a new culture, and tried to parent two adolescent children along the way.

I thought Paris in Love was cute and funny.  It’s a whimsical, fun, quick read.

It was a treat to read these books and live vicariously in France for a time! 

Advertisements

More Assassinations

aa-kenn lincApparently I’ve been on a U.S. presidents kick.  Just the other day I realized that I have read four books about U.S. presidents so far this year.  Three of them have been about assassinations.  A friend recommended O’Reilly’s books on Lincoln and Kennedy so I decided to give them a try.  Since I really enjoyed Candice Millard’s books about James Garfield and Teddy Roosevelt, I decided it would be good to delve into more presidential stories.

It might be an understatement to say that Millard’s writing style is very different from O’Reilly’s.  I have not seen many O’Reilly television shows but I’ve seen enough to recognize his overall style.  Although Millard’s books are factually based, they read more like literature.  O’Reilly’s books are interesting and fast-paced but read more like news reporting.

Of O’Reilly’s two books on presidential assassinations I’m not sure which one I liked better.  I felt like I knew the basic stories of both presidents but there were also a lot of historical facts and new stories I learned along the way.  

And, it definitely is uncanny to think about how many similarities the two assassinations share.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot seemed like it was a little too chronological. I thought it would have been more interesting had it not been laid out so sequentially.  Kennedy was a very complicated, flawed, gifted man. Many details of his life are compelling and his presidency occurred during a historically significant time in America’s civil rights movement.

Toward the end of the Kennedy book I felt my heart beating faster, as his life’s story came to a close.  My sympathies went out to Jackie as I read about her scooping her husband’s brains off the car.

One huge disappointment: I wish the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s perplexing assassination were explored in this book.  There are so many inconsistencies in the details of his assassination.  Killing Kennedy was definitely a just-the-facts-ma’am type of book, but I found myself wanting more.  I understand the simple truth is that we can speculate but we will likely never know the full scope of why JFK was assassinated or if there was a larger plot involved.  But it would have made the book more compelling to have the conflicting theories and controversies spelled out.

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed American Forever opens during the closing battles of the American Civil War.  I thought it was fascinating to read about the final conflicts and the beleaguered players involved, including General Lee’s humbling surrender to General Grant.

I was surprised that this book didn’t cover more of Lincoln’s life prior to his presidency. Kennedy’s book covered more details of his life prior to his presidential ascension.  Kennedy’s book also covered a lot more about his wife.  Although, I definitely think people would rather read about Jackie Kennedy than Mary Lincoln any day.  So, I get that!

Lincoln was brilliant, compassionate, and a man of integrity.  Reading about the violent and abrupt ending to his life was very sad.  I kept wondering how much better our country could have healed if Lincoln had lived.  The book definitely painted a clear picture of the tensions and desperation in our country during and after the Civil War.

The manhunt for Lincoln’s assassin in rural Maryland and Virginia, and details of the larger plot to assassinate Lincoln’s VP and Secretary of State, were also interesting.

The best quote from these two O’Reilly’s books (taken from the Kennedy book) is when O’Reilly detours from his factual reporting and waxes poetic:

“Most people live their lives as if the end were always years away. They measure their days in love, laughter, accomplishment, and loss. There are moments of sunshine and storm. There are schedules, phone calls, careers, anxieties, joys, exotic trips, favorite foods, romance, shame, and hunger. A person can be defined by clothing, the smell of his breath, the way she combs her hair, the shape of his torso, or even the company she keeps. All over the world, children love their parents and yearn for love in return. They revel in the touch of parental hands on their faces. And even on the worst of days, each person has dreams about the future-dreams that sometimes come true. Such is life. Yet life can end in less time than it takes to draw one breath.”

Kennedy and Lincoln both helped to hold America together during times of crisis.  It was intriguing to read about their short but influential lives, their tragic deaths, and the intense manhunts for their murderers. 

Stretching Times, Good Times

As I get older I think the extroverted/introverted parts of me have become more balanced. Kevin tells me that I’m not really an introvert; I’m just a busy mom who gets tired and wants everyone to leave her alone for a few moments.  But, really, I do enjoy alone time more lately than I ever have in the past.

This week we have had so much interaction with various groups of people that the extroverted part of me is fat and happy and the introverted part of me is ready to crawl into a hole somewhere and take a nap.

In the midst of all of this, trying to get out the door on Thursday evening, something happened that basically summarizes my Mom Life right now.  In fact, I had to stop and laugh so that I wouldn’t lose it and cry.  Basically I was rushing around trying to do all the last-minute stuff to wrap up things at home and get the kids out the door.  The last thing I had to do was type up some things for my nine-year old to review with her dad that evening, so she could prepare for a difficult Latin test the next day.  [One of my main goals this summer is to make my nine-year-old take a typing course so I don’t have to do this anymore!]

If there’s anything that can make me go from feeling smug about my relative intelligence to making me weep at my acute stupidity, it’s my desperate attempts to try and figure out Latin just enough to stay ahead of my daughter.  I have failed and will probably soon give up entirely.  I also think Latin teachers are amazing!  My hat’s off to you!

So, anyway, there I was, typing nine sets of declensions furiously, also calling out to the children to get their shoes on and head to the car.  Then I heard crying in the bathroom.  I had built in some extra time, but apparently not enough.  It turns out that my preschooler is in the middle of the worst constipation pains any kid of mine has ever had.  I felt like a birthing coach for about ten excruciating moments huddled in the small downstairs bathroom.  Meanwhile, three kids have already been in the car for a long time, waiting, and now they are calling out, wanting to get out of the car.

From Latin to Poop in Mere Minutes.  I think that will be the title of my memoir if I ever write one.

Life is stretching sometimes.  It can’t be neatly compartmentalized when kids are in different ages and stages.    

But then there was yesterday. It was a calm day.  We stayed home.  The best Saturdays are the lazy Saturdays.  I got a huge kick out of my two-year-old skating around the driveway in a super hero t-shirt and his big sister’s Barbie plastic roller blades.

IMG_8222The older girls put together an impromptu lemonade stand, which they have been doing about three times a week for a month now.  The same four people always dutifully buy lemonade from them. But today they got two new customers.  After twenty minutes or so, they get bored and decided to drink away the rest of the profits.  I’m not sure they are learning to be entrepreneurs necessarily, but they sure are enjoying themselves.

It was 70 degrees and they all decided it was warm enough to don bathing suits and break out the water guns.

They make me smile.

Life is good.

“It’s Been Busy!”

When people ask how I am, I try to avoid saying that I’m busy, even though I am, because everyone is busy it seems.

“How are you?”  “Oh!  Busy.”  That is a very boring answer, but a very true one, too.

I hate being so busy!  As an extrovert, I love having lots of things going on, and lots of people to see and things to do, but there is a difference between being healthfully busy and being consumed with that crushing, overwhelming feeling of busyness, when you know full well there is not enough margin in your life.  Unfortunately, I know that feeling too well.

aa-crazy bSo, I turned to this great little book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem, to see what the author had to say.

Many times, while reading this book, I saw some overlap with the very excellent book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which I reviewed here.

The author of Crazy Busy, DeYoung, notes that “we are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t notice the important things in life slipping away.”

Yep!  That’s what wakes me up at night, sometimes.

One of the reasons we take on so many things is pride, says DeYoung.  Pride manifests itself in people-pleasing, wanting pats-on-the-back, pity, power, perfectionism, prestige, poor planning, etc.  This brought me back to Essentialism.  We have to know what our priorities are (what is essential, to us), or else we will take on things that don’t fit within our pre-determined priorities and we will do things that ultimately hurt our relationships, hinder our primary goals, and make us stressed out for no good reason.  The author of Crazy Busy asks us to determine why we are doing what we are doing.  Ask: Am I trying to do good, or make myself look good? 

As a Christian, DeYoung addresses the guilt factor that many Christians feel in not doing “good works” for God.  We should ask what God requires of us and what He is leading us to do, taking into consideration our specific abilities and callings, as opposed to letting other people’s expectations, or guilt, determine our priorities.  We should also give other people the freedom to determine their own priorities.

There was a very insightful and interesting chapter on parenting in this book.  Basically, the author states that we need to stop freaking out about our kids.  “Parenting has become more complicated than it needs to be,” the author states.  “It’s harder to ruin kids than we think and harder to stamp them for success than we’d like.”  Kids nowadays are hovered over by parents in ways that previous generations wouldn’t even recognize.   He cites some interesting studies indicating that identical twins separated at birth and adopted into different families, and raised differently (but both in a caring family), turned out very similarly, despite their different upbringings.  In Ellen Galinsky’s “Ask the Children” survey, “kids rarely wished for more time with their parents, but, much to the parents’ surprise, they wished their parents were less tired and less stressed.”

“Could it be that we have made parenting too complicated?” the author asks.  “Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents?  Kids will remember our character before they remember our exact rules regarding television and Twinkies.”

The author also points out that child rearing is hardly the main theme of Scripture.  God doesn’t provide for many specific instructions about the parent-child relationship, except that parents teach their children about God, discipline them, be thankful for them, and not exasperate them.  Filling in the details depends on the family, the culture, the Spirit’s wisdom, and a whole lot of trial and error.

We can’t avoid being busy with our children, but “we can avoid freaking out about them quite so much!”

The author also had some good things to say about keeping technology from taking over our lives (and souls) and making sure we are maintaining proper rhythms of rest (“Sabbath”) and building margin into our lives.

At the end of the book, DeYoung notes that, as Christians, we are actually supposed to be busy people.  We are supposed to be working, serving, bearing one another’s burdens, etc.  But “the busyness that’s bad is not the busyness of work, but the busyness that works hard at the wrong things.”

So, it’s okay for me to be busy, even very busy during certain phases of life, but this book reminded me to make sure I am busy for the right reasons.  Again, Essentialism.  What a concept!

This book was funny—I laughed out loud several times in every chapter, it seems—easy to read, and insightful.  I would highly recommend it.

Fantasy Diversion

aa-harryMy fourth grader is putting me to shame and whizzing through Harry Potter, leaving me in the dust.  I had good intentions of keeping up with her.  She was halfway through book four as I finished book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The problem with her being ahead of me is that she doesn’t know about spoiler alerts. So I have already learned a few things about books three and four, even though I’m still stuck at the conclusion of book two.  But I don’t want to say anything because she is so cute when it comes to her infatuation with the Harry Potter characters and plot twists.  I enjoy our conversations.

This second book in the series further develops the world of Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts School. Harry is a great character, never pompous because of his special abilities, smart, responsible, good-hearted, and likable. The two books I’ve read so far clip along at an interesting pace.  My one complaint is that this second book is pretty similar to the first book: a poor unloved orphan escapes to another world and saves the day.  I was hoping for a little more deviation from the first book.  [It’s also been a while since I read the first book, so it’s true that I could have forgotten some of the differences.]

We are watching the Harry Potter movies together, after reading the books, too, which is always fun.

______________________

A mom-friend told me that the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series is “the next Harry Potter” when it comes to modern kids’ literary cult followings.  I don’t know about that, but I decided to aaa-miss ppick up the first book in the series because I was looking for some fiction to mix in with all the non-fiction I’ve been reading.

Don’t tell my daughter (ha!) but I found the opening chapters of Miss Peregrine’s Home to be much more intriguing than Harry Potter.  Maybe it was the reference to a mysterious immigrant grandfather escaping the holocaust that piqued my interest.  Maybe it was the violent killing of a relative by some unknown, otherworldly creature, that hooked me.  I’m not sure.  I will say that the hero of this story is at times an unsympathetic, spoiled-rich-boy character.  A friend described him as “whiny” and I would have to agree with that.

I thought this book was a fun little diversion, however, and was well-written and interesting enough to keep me engaged.  I also liked that this fantasy book had enough elements of realism to make it seem almost, not quite, but almost plausible that this kind of thing could happen.  The book kept me guessing.  I just might have to pick up the second one sometime.

Imperfect Families, Truth, and Sadness

aa-schaefferI have appreciated reading three Edith Schaeffer books in the past year or so.  Schaeffer especially loves creativity and articulately writes about the intersection of faith and creativity, as Creator God is the author and instigator of all things beautiful and magnificent in this world, and because He created us in His image, we can emulate Him in this area.

What is a Family? is a book about what the Christian family means and what it should be.  I read it to discuss with a friend and we thought it was a good book to introduce concepts of how Christian families should operate and work.  The book is full of tidbits of wisdom.  Schaeffer opines about how the family is the formation center for human relationships, a shelter in times of storm, a place for moral instruction, a place to build a museum of memories, and so on.   These are all good principles to bring to mind.

Of course, the problem with a book like this is, although these are good principles, no one should be boxed in.  I don’t think cookie-cutter families are the point, or even something that is desirable.  So, I think this book is a good reference for general insights, and not an exact prescription.

Also, Schaeffer put forth strong opinions a few times, about things I don’t think are clear in scripture, and this was a little off-putting.  One example pertained to working moms and a story about her being available for her children.  Schaeffer wrote about how her kids would come home from school and she would be making fresh orange rolls and give them a ball of dough to play with.

This seems idyllic and desirable—and I think being available for your kids is very important—but, I’m sure there are a lot of stressed out, frenzied stay-at-home moms and also there are working moms who are able to find balance who are really good moms, even if they are not always home to greet kids with fresh dough to play with after school.  I don’t think orange dough balls are all that important, although the story was sweet (no pun intended).  Other than that, I thought the book, overall, was a good read.

___________________________________

So, then, I asked my friend who was discussing these Edith Schaeffer books with me, if she would read a book written by her son, Frank Schaeffer.  I knew that Frank Schaeffer strongly disagreed with his parents on matters of faith.  I wanted to get inside his head and see what he was thinking.  My friend was a good sport about it, and agreed to read it with me.

After reading Sex, Mom, and God, I have conflicting feelings about it.

Frank gives an intimate portrayal of some of the less-proud moments in the Schaeffer family.  If even a portion of what he says is true, yes, there was dysfunction.  But, it’s a sinful world and no one is perfect, and that doesn’t rock my life too much.  I believe that even sinful people (because all people are sinful) can speak truth and have theological insight.  I don’t think the Schaeffers ever claimed to be perfect.  I was, however, disturbed to read about Frank’s claim that his dad physically abused his mom (“hit” her).  Edith herself indicates that Francis had a periodic anger problem in her book What is a Family?

If this was truly the case, then Francis should have stepped down from Christian ministry to focus on his personal issues and make sure things were right in his family, before proceeding in ministry.

I think there is a problem any time there are Christian Superstars.  We should not put people on pedestals.  People are flawed.  Only Christ is perfect.  He deserves our worship, not humans who appear to have special insight.

The biggest thing that grabbed me when reading this book is the fact that Frank is bitter about his odd, missionary family, who often abandoned him for what they insisted was God’s work.  He just wanted to be a normal kid.  He wondered why his mom didn’t pursue her first love, ballet.  She was so creative and loved art so much.  Why couldn’t she stop worrying so much about her missionary obligations?  Why couldn’t she spend more time with him, instead of leaving so often to follow his dad around the world?  Why did they have to witness to heathen Italians at the beach instead of just enjoying their holiday?  Why couldn’t they be average?  This book, more than anything, is the mourning of lost normalcy.  

It seems the Schaeffers instilled in their son a lot of phrases and terminology about Jesus—which he later grew to resent and think was illogical and weird—but not a heartfelt love of what the bible is ultimately about: redemption and hope for imperfect people.  The bible is a love story about God saving mankind and wanting a relationship with them.  Frank grew up with a lot of knowledge about the minor things but not a transformative knowledge about the important things.

As a woman, I was also interested in reading how Schaeffer believes the God of the bible is anti-woman.  I thought his understanding of Old Testament stories were distorted, and I’m sure you would get other views of those stories and verses from true bible scholars, which Frank is not.  If anything Jesus was an early feminist because he had a high view of women and interacted with them like intellectual equals.  The Apostle Paul states in Galations that “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  So, in my mind, gender distinctions are not the point of the bible and women are not demeaned in the bible.  But, that’s a topic that could be a whole blog post, or book, all by itself.

Just because the Schaeffers were imperfect people doesn’t mean they didn’t have truthful things to say.  But it is truly tragic that the Schaeffers witnessed to the whole world but lost their own son.  

That’s what the book left me feeling the most: sadness.

Label-Reading, Mindless Consuming, and Real Food

To be honest, I get tired of all the conflicting advice about diet and nutrition.  At what point do you believe so-and-so over other people?  And it seems there is always “new” evidence coming out that contradicts what we believed yesterday.  In Defense of Food, however, just seems to emanate with common sense.

The author, Pollan, begins with the question, “What should you eat?”  The answer to that is, “We should eat food.”  It saa-defense of foodounds simple, right?  But many of the things we eat in the 21st Century would be unrecognizable to our ancestors who lived a handful of generations back.  So many food items have been completely stripped of their nutrients, reinvented in a laboratory, with food scientists/ experts deciding what nutrients to add back in, and then loaded up with all kinds of preservatives and many artificial ingredients.

Why is it that, if I buy a pie at the local grocery store, it has 37 ingredients?  But if I make one at home it has only seven ingredients, and that’s if you count water as an ingredient.  (Plus, my pie will taste infinitely better!)  Bread and tortillas are other examples of a ridiculous amounts of additives being added to food to give it a long shelf life.

It is a little frightening to think of how much Americans rely on highly-processed food.  We want food that is fast and quickly satisfies our appetite urges and fills us up, with giving little thought to what is in the food.  I am as guilty as anyone.  For many years, I thought I was eating a healthy, balanced diet but never actually read any of the labels on the food I was eating.  This book has made me become a label-reader.  It was truly eye-opening and a little discouraging to walk through a grocery store aisle after reading this book and see how much our food has been engineered and processed.  Additionally, processed food does not fill us up or satisfy us as much as whole grain, unprocessed food.  So it naturally lends itself to overeating and obesity.

The author points out that eating should be simple.  Food shouldn’t have to advertize that it is “healthy.”  In fact, food that screams its health benefits on the packaging should be especially suspect.  We should use common sense when it comes to food.   According to the author, “Science and scientism has resulted in anxiety and confusion over even the most basic questions about food and health.”  The authority over how we eat, which had long rested with tradition and habit, has recently been ceded over to science.  

Scientists study variables they can isolate. They break down components of food and study them separately, ignoring complex interactions in the food as a whole. Nutritionist science is an oversimplification. Even the simplest food is complex to analyze. So nutrition scientists do the only thing they can do and separate and study those isolated nutrients. This is reductionist science because the whole may be different than the sum of its parts.  Food nutrients are complex.  Our bodies are also complex and process foods differently from person to person.  Nutritionist science erroneously thinks of food strictly in terms of its chemical constituents.

Pollan also addressed how natural fats are good for our bodies and the popular low-fat campaign, in recent past, has directly coincided with widespread weight gain.  The low-fat campaign is a primary example of scientism interfering with common sense food consumption.

The author posits that we should eat food and not food products. Ask, “Would my great-grandmother recognize it as food?”  Frito Lays claim to be healthy for your heart. The American Heart Association also puts its seal of approval on Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs, for a fee.  Why do we buy into this?

Pollan suggests that we should shop the peripheries of the shopping market for healthier items and stay away from the center aisles. We should look for food items that have five ingredients or fewer, with sugar not being in the first few ingredients.  Getting out of the grocery store as much as possible and going to farmers markets or starting a garden, is highly recommended.

We don’t need “experts” to tell us what is healthy. Rather than making our diets this complicated, calorie-counting, strict daily regimen, Pollan’s advice can help us be more intentional about food, but also less stressed about it.

I’m not saying that I’m ready to completely abandon my processed food habits, but I am making huge strides and I know where I want to go with our eating habits.  I still do buy store bought tortillas because, hey, I don’t have time to make my own all the time (although homemade tortillas are much tastier!).

Changing habits takes time.  Whether you can implement some of these Real Food ideas immediately or not, this book will give you a lot to think about and perhaps keep you from being a mindless consumer, like I was for many years.  

______________________________

I first heard of In Defense of Food on Lisa Leake’s blog, one of my new favorite healthy eating blogs.  Leake read Pollan’s book and was impacted by it and decided to go cold turkey and stop eating processed food for 100 days to see how it went.  Halfway through her experiment she donated all her processed food, realizing she would never go back.

After trying out some of her recipes Leake posted online, and being super impressed with how easy and aa-real foodtasty they were, I decided to get her cook book.

Really, 100 Days of Real Food is more than a cook book.  It’s a great reference book on menu planning, shopping, reading food labels, and how to change your eating habits to start eating healthier foods.  Leake does a great job conveying her message.  She is sensitive to budget issues and is convinced that it’s possible to eat healthy food on a budget.  She writes about this at length on her blog.

Leake also understands that busy families can’t spend hours every day in the kitchen and she has lots of tricks for making quick meals or freezing items for breakfast, snacks, and kids’ lunches.

Her book is great and all her recipes so far have been either good or excellent.  I highly recommend Leak’s book and blog.