Over the weekend, I started listening to Michael Pollen’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” while I was on a long drive. Audiobooks, which I pervasively still call “books on tape,” even though I haven’t owned a tape in over a decade nor the device necessary to play one, are a great way to both pass the time and make it … well, more interesting.
This is a book that has been on my to-read book for nearly a decade.
“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was released about six months after I started blogging, at a time when food blogs were criticized for being boring, pointless navel grazing and when the national perspective on food was just beginning to show hints that it might be shifting. We were talking more about where our food came from, and thinking more about it too. This book helped that along by challenging readers to think about their food. Meanwhile, Morgan Spurloch’s 2004 documentary “Super Size Me” was also challenging Americans to think more, taking a close — and personal and unscientific — look at what happens if you live on a fast food diet.
But I never read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Somewhere in the busyness of life, raising one child and then two, working and building my career, I just never got to it … until now.
A few chapters in, and I am enthralled by the storytelling that exposes American food behind the plate. And though, as a nearly 10 year old book, some of it is outdated (Yoplait, for instance, dropped the high fructose corn syrup from their yogurt a few years ago), the premise of it still stands: we live in a culture that became woefully and decidedly ignorant about where our food comes from, what’s in it and what it means for our bodies … and that’s hurt us.
No one really thinks a burger with a black bun is … natural … right?
It’s giving me much to think about. I am fortunate to live in a state where farming remains a big industry, and farmers markets are everywhere selling nearly everything you’d need to eat well from meats grown on family farms to breads crafted with grains grown north of me and processed in state by a small processor. But it’s not like this everywhere. And moreover, while local produce and meat makes up a lot of our meals, there is still much that I buy that isn’t from the farmers market.
While I am not sure what this means yet, I do know that listening to this book inspired me to get in the kitchen early Monday to create something hearty and healthy for the kids and I to pack for lunch this week.
This warm salad combines shredded Brussels sprouts, sweet shallots and carrot and potato, all roasted together simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once it’s all browned to perfection, it’s tossed with balsamic vinegar and roasted a little more.
The result is a sultry salad perfect for those of us who look forward to the cool days when Brussels sprouts are ripe and plentiful.
I ate this for lunch served on a bed of pea shoots, but it’s also delicious over couscous (that’s how the kids took it to school) or quinoa or even on lettuce. Sprinkle it with some pepitas, if you have them, for a little crunch. It’s delicious.
So, tell me … have you read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” ever? Did it change how you thought about food — or how you ate?
- 4 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
- 3 shallots, halved and sliced
- 1 potato, cut into ¼-inch chunks
- 1 carrot, cut into ¼-inch chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Spread the Brussels sprouts, shallots and cubed potatoes and carrots on a nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Slide the pan into the preheated oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once, until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and stir well. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.
- Enjoy immediately.