Eating for Beginners
With grace, humor, and irresistible recipes, the author of Girl Sleuth takes us on her journey as an amateur chef, amateur farmer, and amateur parent
Melanie Rehak was always a passionate cook and food lover. Since reading the likes of Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Wendell Berry, she’d tried to eat thoughtfully as well. But after the birth of her son, Jules, she wanted to know more: What mattered most, organic or local? Who were these local farmers? Was it possible to be an ethical consumer and still revel in the delights of food? And why wouldn’t Jules eat anything, organic or not?
Eating for Beginners details the year she spent discovering what how to be an eater and a parent in today’s increasingly complicated world. She joined the kitchen staff at applewood, a small restaurant owned by a young couple committed to using locally grown food, and worked on some of the farms that supplied it. Between prepping the nightly menu, milking goats, and sorting beans, Rehak gained an understanding of her own about what to eat and why. (It didn’t hurt that, along the way, even the most dedicated organic farmers admitted that their children sometimes ate McDonald's.) And as we follow her on her quest to find the pleasure in doing the right thing—and become a better cook in the bargain—we too will make our peace with food.
Writer Melanie Rehak is the mother of then 1-year-old Jules, a picky eater. She also has a head full of facts about organic food, hormone-free milk, free-range chicken, and food miles. What should she be feeding — or at least attempting to feed — her child? “If I chose chicken that was hormone-free but not free-range, was there any point?’’ she asks. “Was it really so bad to eat a hot dog once in a while?’’
If you feel a sensual rush in an open-air farmers market ("Ah, pyramids of mellow fruit") and a smidgen of moral uplift ("I'm buying local"), you will enjoy "Eating for Beginners," a fine blend of the investigative and the intimate.
Foodies have it pretty good these days. Farmers markets abound. Reality TV shows serve up every conceivable kitchen-related scenario. A bounty of new culinary books comes out each year, from gloriously illustrated cookbooks to engaging reads on where food really comes from, how it's processed and why you shouldn't be eating so much of it. Here are three that caught our eye.
Rehak, who writes Bookforum’s “Paper Palate” food books column and the blog Eating for Beginners, felt confused and guilty about her food choices after reading books by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and others. So she joined the kitchen staff at a small restaurant that served almost exclusively locally grown food, and worked on some of the farms that supplied the restaurant. She shares what she learned and how she used it to combat her young son’s fussy eating habits.
Rehak recounts her journey as an amateur chef, amateur farmer, and amateur parent.
A four-part interview series entitled "Food and the City"
Melanie Rehak poet, critic, and author of Eating for Beginner: An Education in the Pleasures of food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid reports on food from the farm, the fishing boat, the delivery truck, a Brooklyn locavore restaurant, and her own kitchen. Each week in November she shares what she's learned.
I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Every month on this program we have a show about the delights of food. We often focus on the new ideas about food, how to buy and prepare locally grown foods, how to support local organic growers, how to fit the slow food philosophy into a fast paced life. If all the new information about food leaves you a little confused at the supermarket, you are not alone.
Poet and Journalist Melanie Rehak, Steve Jenkins (The Food Life), Fairway's part-owner and cheese monger extraordinaire, and David Shea, the founder of applewood restaurant in Brooklyn, discuss, among other things, Rehak's Eating for Beginner: An Education in the Pleasures of food from Chefs, Farmers, and One Picky Kid. Their conversation will be moderated by the journalist and author Patrick Radden Keefe (Chatter, The Snakehead).