What the Fork Are You Eating?: An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate
Stephanie Sachs, MS, CNS, CDN
Tarcher Perigee 2014
A clever name defines this book, which is designed as a primer for those who need a very basic tool to navigate the standard American diet. Those savvy in the subject may come across some interesting information in the book but then again, maybe not. Much has been covered at other venues such as the Weston A. Price Foundation, the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation and the Feingold Association.
Section One, “Top Rated Terminators,” covers the dangers of artificial flavorings, colorings and preservatives. Also in this section are short descriptors for sugar, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
Under Section Two, “Pantry Rehab,” Sachs reviews food labeling, which involves spotting the “Top Terminators” from Section One and ridding your pantry and fridge of them. Next we see a chart listing which corporate giants own various organic companies, a topic enlarged upon later in the book.
In Section Three, “Supermarket Strategies,” Sachs explains produce labels, as well as delineating the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists from the Environmental Working Group, which highlight the most and least heavily sprayed produce items. She also provides a shopping guide, tips for buying local and organic, and mentions “pink slime,” BPA (bisphenol A), the “best” energy bars, and a few tips for buying beverages and bottled water.
Section Four, “Meal Rehab,” starts off with the basics of keeping a food diary, a short assessment of dietary habits, and some suggestions for breakfast—including an oatmeal cookie; yogurt with granola; smoothies made with kale; tofu; and pancakes.
After the suggested menus, a section on kitchen equipment follows, then the recipes shown in the suggested menus. All in all, analysis of the recipes shows a very high-carb, fat-avoiding, high veggie diet. It almost looks like a vegan diet in a little fish wrap.
Next is Appendix A, “Who’s Who in the Big Food World and the Good Guys They Ate”—again, a guide to corporate owners of the organic labels; followed by Appendix B, with a shopping guide and food storage suggestions. These were already discussed in the book. Appendix C covers food storage. Appendix D contains suggestions for a well-stocked pantry: soy milk, rice milk, soy yogurt, lots of seeds and seed butters, fresh and canned vegetables, and brown rice syrup, but no butter, tallow, lard or any animal fats. Appendix E lists some websites on food policy and safety, video references, Smartphone applications, organizations involved in food, etc., followed by acknowledgments, notes and index. That’s it, folks!
Although Sachs seems to champion butter: “I would like you to eat butter, not shortening or margarine,” which sounds promising, the word “butter” appears in the index only once, under “see dairy products.” And it does in fact not appear under “dairy products.” The reference on page 58 encouraging us to eat butter is not listed in the index.
And that’s about the only time we see the word “butter.” The pro-butter sentiment does not come through in the “Recipe Rehab” section in sixty pages of recipes. There is one tablespoon of butter in “Grandma Helen’s Pancakes.” And that’s it. Never another mention.
There are many references to olive oil, which appears in most recipes. This is a Mediterranean Diet plan, and reminds us of all the previous recipe books on the Mediterranean Diet. Thankfully margarine, tub spreads and vegetable oils (other than olive oil ) are not allowed. Canola is out. But butter, lard, tallow, schmaltz and other animal fats are absent. We do see a smidgen of coconut oil here and there. Butter and animal fats have a renowned place in the culinary arts, have been championed over and over by the best chefs in the world, and are used because they make food taste good!
The closest we come to “cow” is a recipe for “Cowgirl Chili.” No meats, pork, lamb, beef or other animal parts are present. “Cowgirl Chili” is made with chicken!
Throughout the recipe selection, Sachs employs quantities of currently fashionable kale. Tofu and fish feature in a few of the dishes. Curiously, some of the fish is baked without fat of any kind. But a recipe for “kale latkes” is sautéed in grapeseed oil? Oy vey!
The book’s cover is attractive, and the print size and font are easy to read. What the Fork Are You Eating? has received generally good reviews, but I would spend my dollars elsewhere for there is nothing new here that a little Googling won’t turn up. Although it’s a step in the right direction (for example, avoiding canola and other seed oils), much of this information is found free on websites such as westonaprice.org, feingold.org, ppnf.org—none of which, by the way, are mentioned in the Resources page of the book.
Too much olive oil and not enough butter, whole milk and cream make me a sad girl. This is a version of the puritanical diet, decked out in a green dress. Considering all these points, I cannot recommend the book. My thumb is “down.”
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2016