Grub: Slang. Food.
Book Review: "Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen”
by Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry
(Tarcher / Penguin Books, 2006)
Andrea Blum, Special to Beyond Organic
April 12, 2006
After reading Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry’s new food policy cookbook Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, you might consider waiting for strawberry season.
A strawberry can be eaten in the dead of winter – a bit firm and tasteless, and genetically designed to be shipped from Chile with a winter coat of pesticide residue, or you can buy it fresh in the summer –flavorful, and perhaps organic from your local farmer.
Most people take the first choice which, on the surface, is easier and even cheaper. Buying in-season and organically, however, you support a local economy, eat something grown without chemicals in the soil, and in the end, bite into something healthy (organic strawberries have 30-50 percent more antioxidants then their non-organic counterparts).
“Grub” makes you consider a lot of things like this, including throwing dinner parties that celebrate the local strawberry. That’s grub’s latest definition: food that’s local, sustainable, socially equitable and communal — dinner parties included.
Traveling around the country toting their new book, the Lappé and Terry hope to inspire like-minded food lovers to connect with grub-minded projects — a school lunch program here or an inter-city garden there. They also want to dispel any myths that sometime go along with overused and buzz-kill words like organic and sustainable.
In one startling example, we read about Dennis Avery, a notorious industry-funded anti-organic lobbyist who, in a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters many years ago, claimed that organic farmers’ use of animal manure would contaminate produce with dangerous e-coli bacteria. Avery, the same man wrote “What’s Wrong with Global Warming” for Readers Digest, was able to infect the collective consciousness of millions of prime time television viewers with fear – in fact, some time later, a friend once told me that eating organic vegetables could make her sick, “They use cow poo in the soil,” she said.
Lappé counters that organic farmers who use manure to fertilize the soil must wait 120 days before harvesting crops. The E.coli pathogen naturally disappears from the soil within 30-60 days. What Avery didn’t tell Barbara Walters and the viewers that evening was that non-organic (“conventional”) farming uses manure too, but without the 120-day harvest delay required under USDA organic regulations.
Industrial farms, Lappé writes, can also use chicken feces and sewage sludge on their fields. So who’s making who sick?
While the first half of the book travels through America’s food and health policies and dissects industry standards, the second half is a cookbook inspired and written by Bryant Terry, a chef and food justice activist who borrowed ideas from his childhood and ancestral traditions to make a series of autobiographical menus.
Terry and Lappé couple the recipes with soundtrack, film ideas, and themes to create multidimensional, trans-sensory dinner courses. While eating ginger cornbread muffins, you might listen to the Neville Brothers, Mahalia Jackson, and Ray Charles.
The two authors weave their contributions to help readers create a Grub lifestyle — from advising on accoutrements and stock items for the kitchen to cookbooks (including Diet for a Small Planet by Francis Moore Lappe, Anna’s mother) to a cheat sheet for a progressive cocktail party and ways to enlighten skeptical friends. Terry’s menus are like directions in a travel guide, only the ingredients lead to a celebration instead of a monument.
Supper clubs with intention, otherwise known as grub parties, are the goal. The pair already hosted six of their own. Now the idea is catching on around the country.
With news that car seats have transformed to fit obese babies less than three years old and hospitals beds widened for patients who can’t fit on them, books like Grub help frame the argument to change America’s diet in the same vein as the films Super Size Me and The Future of Food. It’s all about conscious choices when you eat whether it’s choosing a Chilean sea bass* or a strawberry.
* Note – Chilean Sea Bass, known as Patagonian toothfish, is neither from Chile nor a sea bass. Its fishery is on the verge of collapse from over-fishing by poachers in the remote waters near Antarctica. Definitely not considered grub.
Click here to purchase Grub