Book Review: Real Food (and more)

 Now I know that my mom really meant well on our family’s liver dinner night after reading Nina Planck’s guide to why she eats lard, raw milk, and organ meats in Real Food: what to eat and why. An intelligent gathering of research on good eating, this book emphasizes traditional foods: whole foods, animal fats, and grass-fed meat and dairy. Having been raised on margarine, I was fascinated by the chapters on fats, real and industrial, that include a short history of the butter substitute. Most illuminating are the changes in what fats Americans have been eating since the turn of the last century and how they have affected our health. One chart illustrates that the top three fats consumed in the U.S. in 1990 were soybean, canola, and cottonseed oils, all of which were nonexistent in traditional diets. The top three fats consumed in 1890 were lard, beef fat, and chicken fat. Planck points out that as Americans decreased their intake of animal fats, heart disease and other modern health problems increased. One reason I find Real Food interesting is that it briefly records the history of major changes in the American diet and their subsequent effects on health.

Most compelling is Planck’s explanation of the nutritional differences between pastured and grain-fed beef. Because of the proliferation of corn and soy in animal feed, Americans are eating less Omega-3 fatty acids and more Omega-6 fatty acids in their diets. Planck attributes this historic imbalance to a wealth of relatively recent health issues that include inflammation, obesity, insulin resistance, and depression. Michael Pollan addresses the same issue in Continue reading “Book Review: Real Food (and more)”

La Semaine de la Bande Dessinée/The Week of the French Graphic Novel

Do you thrill to the adventures of Tintin, intrepid boy reporter, and his fearless dog Snowy? Have you laughed out loud at the antics of Astérix and his merry band of Gauls? Or found yourself absorbed by Marjane Satrapi’s recollections of her girlhood in revolutionary Iran in her graphic memoir Persepolis?

Whether you knew it or not, you were reading bandes dessinées (literally translated as “drawn strips”), or BDs. Bandes dessinées are stories drawn and written by French and Franco-Belgian cartoonists, what we in the United States call “comics” or, more recently, “graphic novels.” Unlike American comics, however, BDs have enjoyed a more exalted cultural status in France and Belgium, where they have long been regarded as “the ninth art.”

From August 13 to 17, the Alliance Française de Seattle will celebrate this genre with a series of free events around the city known as La Semaine de la Bande Dessinée. This year’s featured guest is Parisian cartoonist David B., author of the award-winning graphic memoir, Epileptic. David B. will be at The Seattle Public Library on Saturday, August 16 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. to talk about his life and work. You can find more information about other events in the series on the Alliance’s website.

If you can’t make it to these events, and you’d like to learn more about bandes dessinées, Continue reading “La Semaine de la Bande Dessinée/The Week of the French Graphic Novel”

Author Crush: Tom Robbins

I am not sure when I first started reading Tom Robbins, but I’m guessing it was some time in the ’80s, and I know it was when I picked up at a used bookstore a copy of his early work, Still Life with Woodpecker. The title intrigued me, and then the plot itself, such as it is.  Redheads, pyramids, alien conspiracies, and the philosophy of life. This was mind-bogglingly weird, and I wanted more. Here are a few of my favorite Robbins novels.

 Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.  Born with enormous thumbs, Sissy Hankshaw puts them to good use by becoming a hitchhiker, traveling to New York to model for a gay feminine products tycoon who sends her along to the Rubber Hose Ranch, where she meets the transcendent Bonanza Jellybean.

Jitterbug Perfume.  Exiled by his subjects when his first gray hair comes in, King Alobar seeks immortality and finds it through his reincarnated mate Kudra, the Greek god Pan, and the smell of beets. 

Skinny Legs and All.  Trailed by several sentient inanimate objects, Ellen Cherry Charles travels to New York in an aluminum roast turkey to bring art and transcendence to Middle East politics.

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.  Switters, a pacifist CIA agent who embraces all his self-contraditions, must travel to a Moroccan nunnery to rid himself of a curse that keeps his feet off the ground.

Suburban sleuths

Not all private detectives smoke pipes, carry arms and drive little red sports cars. Some suburban moms and dads solve murders before and after carpooling in vans and oversize station wagons. Authors Jeffrey Cohen, Susan Isaacs, Valerie Wolzien and Jon Katz are four authors have created suburban sleuths. 

Jeffrey Cohen writes humorous mysteries set in New Jersey. For Whom the Minivan Rolls, A Farewell to Legs and As Dog Is My Witness feature stay-at-home dad Aaron Tucker. Prolific author Susan Isaacs author of the early classic Compromising Positions writes about the murder of a wealthy periodontist in suburban Long Island. Valerie Wolzien is the author of mystery stories starring Susan Henshaw, housewife and amateur sleuth whose first appears in Murder at the PTA Luncheon.  Jon Katz wrote a number of witty suburban mysteries in the 1990s including Death by Station Wagon and The Last Housewife.

In these last few weeks of summer, go ahead and sit back, relax and let a suburban sleuth take over. ~ Susan F.

Summer Reads: Readers from Lake City, Magnolia and Montlake share their suggestions

There is much inspiration to be found, together with a few journeys down the rabbit hole, in the latest installment of our ongong series that highlights what Seattlites are reading this Summer. We’d love to hear what you’re reading, too! Sign up for the Adult Summer Reading Program and share your recommendations with other book lovers around town.

Lake City readers suggest:

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

An enchanting novel about a woman who moves to New York from Tasmania after her mother’s death.  While working at a book store, she becomes friends with oddly enchanting characters and learns about Herman Melville.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

The story of Paul Farmer, a doctor who runs a clinic in Haiti and is involved in worldwide efforts Continue reading “Summer Reads: Readers from Lake City, Magnolia and Montlake share their suggestions”